Jason Rafferty

Interlude 23B – Grandstand (Summus Proelium)

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Okay, this certainly hadn’t gone the way Setrea expected it to. Yes, she had known that simply injecting her stolen knock-out drug into the obviously evil boy without waiting for his sister to talk him down would be controversial. But she certainly hadn’t expected it to make the overall situation worse. Why wouldn’t his zombies fall down when he wasn’t around to actively control them? Wasn’t that how it worked with everything else? Why would his suddenly be completely different?

All those thoughts and more ran through her mind while Broadway was kneeling in front of her brother’s body, shaking him almost violently while shouting for him to wake up. But Setrea already knew that wouldn’t do any good. The drug she had injected him with was too potent. That was the point, after all. He was supposed to stay asleep. And now… well, now they had an even bigger problem than before. If there was no way to wake him up and make him shut off the zombies, this place was going to turn into a massacre.

Pack had turned away from the window, looking straight at Grandstand herself. “We have to do something. Paintball’s team is getting as many of those people out as they can, but they can’t really stop those monsters for very long. If they can all teleport and just keep running under Jason’s ‘kill everything in sight’ orders, this… this could be really bad.” She paused briefly before adding, a bit pointedly, “That is, if you’re not just about to run away.” 

“It’s my fault those things are still a problem,” Setrea shot back immediately. “I might not have the rock solid moral standing that a thief from La Casa has, but I’m not about to walk away from a bunch of innocent people being slaughtered, either. We all have our lines.” 

“I don’t really care what your line is,” Broadway put in abruptly, looking up from the boy as she finally gave up on waking him.  “All I care about is stopping those things before my brother ends up being responsible for a fucking massacre.” 

“What about those gems attached to him?” Setrea asked pointedly, staring at the four-inch-wide ruby in the middle of his chest, as well as the smaller black, two blue, two green, and one amber-colored stones under his throat and against his shoulders, hips, and over his navel, respectively. “What if those are keeping the zombies going or… something?” 

“I tried to take them off,” Broadway started. “But they wouldn’t bu–” She was cut off abruptly, as the red stone began to glow. In the same moment, the boy’s hand snapped up to close around her throat tightly. Recoiling and choking a bit, Broadway blurted a weak, “Stop! What–thought–thought you said he’d–” She abruptly teleported to one side, before slumping over to hold her own throat. “Thought you said he’d be unconscious for hours!” 

Before Grandstand could reply, she felt something fly through the air at her from behind. Several somethings, in fact. Spinning that way, she ducked and twisted, forcing two of the objects to miss her, though the third hit her arm and stayed there. It was an amber stone, like the one attached to Jason’s stomach. It stayed locked against her arm, even as she went to grab it. Yanking hard accomplished nothing aside from pulling painfully on her own skin. 

“Oh, he is,” a voice spoke up. A figure stood there, near the hole they had all climbed up through. She was clearly female, in her mid-teens and wearing what looked like a long red raincoat and a black cloth mask that left her mouth and chin exposed, along with dark goggles. She raised a hand to point at them, and Grandstand could see five different rings there, one on each finger. The ring on her thumb had a yellow/amber stone on it, the one on her index finger was blue, then red, then green, and finally a black one sat on her pinkie. It was the red one that glowed then, which was matched by another glow from the red stone on Jason’s chest. 

“But that doesn’t mean he’s useless,” the girl half-snarled. With that, her hand snapped to one side, and Jason abruptly lunged to his feet before throwing himself at Pack. The La Casa Touched was taken by surprise, falling sideways with the boy on top of her. Her lizard-animals rushed to intercede, but were cut off as the fire-zombie from downstairs abruptly appeared in a rush of flames and ash, forcing them to recoil. 

Grandstand, for her part, immediately focused on Manifesting Alistae in order to push everyone’s attention away from her so she could deal with this little girl quickly and decisively. Yet, even as she tried that, the woman felt a sudden rush of intense pain in her head that made her double over with a yelp. The amber stone that had attached itself to her arm and refused to be removed was glowing. 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t try that if I was you.” There was obvious amusement in the girl’s voice. She showed her hand, where the matching ring was also gleaming brightly. “Try to use your powers without my permission, and bad things happen. That’s what my yellow stones do. It’s pretty fun, huh? I mean, for me. Who really cares about you, honestly?”

Pack was still struggling under the taller, stronger boy as he tried to choke her. The lizards were trying to spread out to get around the zombie so they could get to her, but weren’t having much luck. And Grandstand apparently couldn’t use her power with the damn stone attached to her arm. Well, power or no power, she wasn’t helpless. Immediately, she brought one of her pistols up and took aim. In another second, she would end thi– 

“Jennica?!” The shout made Setrea stop, as Broadway pointed at the other girl. “Is–is that you?” 

The name made the girl in question start a bit, clearly taken by surprise. Gaze snapping that way, she blurted, “Wh–do I know you? Wait… what?” For the first time since she had revealed herself, the figure seemed taken aback and uncertain. “Who the fuck are you?” 

Pivoting, Broadway sent a blast of concentrated sound toward Pack and Jason. It struck the boy, knocking him off her while giving Pack a chance to roll out of the way. Instantly, her gorilla-lizard positioned himself in front of her, snarling at the zombie, Jason himself, and the masked girl who was apparently behind all this. Jennica. Whoever that was. 

“Fuck it,” Setrea muttered, taking aim once more. Whatever was going on here, they could figure it out once she made sure this girl wasn’t a threat.

Jennica, however, abruptly snapped without looking at her, “I wouldn’t do that if I was you. See the black stones?” At those words, the one just under Jason’s throat began to glow with a purplish light as he stood half-slumped with his eyes closed, like a robot or something that had been turned off. There was also another one attached to Pack’s arm, where Jennica had apparently thrown it at the same time as when she had hit Grandstand with the yellow one. 

“Any injury you try to inflict on me, happens to everyone with those stones instead,” the girl informed them snidely. “So go ahead, shoot me. See if I care.” 

Okay, well this was getting more complicated by the second. Apparently Jason wasn’t responsible for this whole thing. He was being… what, controlled by the stones that were attached to him? Stones that came from this girl, Jennica. Setrea couldn’t activate either of her Manifestations through the blinding pain that came when she tried, and any attempt to actually hurt this girl would just be passed off to Jason and Pack. In short, the whole situation was a fucking mess. Worse, she was still no closer to being able to interrogate whichever of these two knew something about the other person who was vying for a spot on the Scions. Setrea might have preferred not to let a bunch of innocent people get slaughtered for nothing, but her main goal here was to find out who murdered Jolene. So far, she knew it was someone who was trying to get in with Pencil and Cup, and that those two were running some sort of contest. The person behind the fire-zombies was another part of it, and they had to have interacted with the other person. The person she was really after. She didn’t care if that ended up being Jason, this Jennica girl, or some third suddenly-revealed mastermind. Whoever it was, she was getting some damned answers out of them. One way or another. 

“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” the girl was gloating. “Anything that gets hit with a black stone takes all the damage that was supposed to hit me. You get a yellow stone, you don’t get to use your powers without a fuckload of pain. Red stone, I get to control you. Wanna know what the blue and green stones do? Keep pushing me and you’ll find out.” 

“Jennica,” Broadway was saying while taking a step that way, “you need to stop. What the hell are you trying to do? What did you do to your brother?” 

“My brother?” the other girl gave a short, barked laugh. “Obviously, you don’t know me very well after all. He’s not my brother, he’s just some guy who lived with the same family I lived with. He’s nobody. Except for my ticket into the big leagues. The Scions wanna see someone do something special? How do you think you’re going to react when I pull off a massacre like this and manage to blame someone else for it? It’s perfect, and there’s no way any other dipshit’s gonna top it.” 

Other dipshit. Setrea instantly zeroed in on that. This girl knew something about her competition. She could tell her something about who he really was. 

“You really think we’re just gonna let you do that?” Pack demanded while clearly keeping a wary eye on the zombie, who was just standing there as though awaiting new instructions. “I don’t care who you think you are, you don’t get to murder a stadium full of people just to show off for a bunch of other psychopaths. And Jason can’t take the blame when we tell people it was you.” 

“Well darn,” Jennica sarcastically lamented while kicking at the floor, “if you’re gonna ruin my fun like that, I guess I’ve got no choice…” She looked up then, a smile spreading across the exposed lower portion of her face. “I’ll just have to kill all of you.” 

In that instant, the amber stone on Jason’s chest glowed, as two more clouds of ashes suddenly flew into the room. They reformed quickly into a couple more fire-zombies, one of which threw itself toward Broadway, while the other went toward Setrea. 

So, sure, things weren’t great. She couldn’t use her power, and she doubted this thing would care about being shot. None of them had cared that much before, and they probably weren’t going to start now. Worse, shooting the bitch herself would apparently only end in hurting her own… well, allies was a bit of a strong word, but still. They were working together, and Setrea didn’t really like the idea of hurting them. Especially when there was no guarantee that it would accomplish anything. Now there were three zombies, a girl who couldn’t be hurt, and the innocent guy she was apparently puppeting somehow. Who, for the record, was unconscious and had no chance of fighting back for himself.

In short, things could have been better. 

An instant later, just as Setrea was taking aim at the knee of the zombie who was coming for her, in an attempt to at least slow it down, a small form rocketed up out of the hole leading downstairs and planted itself against the ceiling. Or rather, himself.

“Hi, guys!” Paintball announced, seemingly cheerfully, while standing upside down. The zombies, the puppeted Jason, and Jennica had all stopped short to look that way reflexively. “Sorry it took me so long to get up here, you would not believe the traffic. Oh, and the part where I had to stop and listen to your evil plan so I knew what was going on.” He added that with a thumbs up toward Jennica, which was accompanied by a purple thumbs up that appeared in the middle of his chest. Upside down so it could be seen properly, of course. Which was followed by a slightly awkward moment as the boy slowly turned his hand around so that his thumb would be pointed up as well. 

For her part, the evil little girl giggled. It came off sounding more than a little unhinged. “Oh, goody, it’s you. You think you’re really funny, huh? You know how fast I’ll get accepted by Pencil if I bring you in so they can play with you? They might make me second-in-command.”

“Jennica!” Broadway blurted, still keeping one hand raised toward the zombie who had been coming toward her, just in case he started moving again.  “Would you stop and look at what you’re doing?! Why would you want to join the Scions? Why would you want to hurt your brother and blame him for–for this?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

Clearly glaring that way, the girl snarled, “Okay, I don’t know why you think saying my name like we’re supposed to be friends will suddenly make me see the light and turn this whole thing into a great big Care Bear hug pile or something, but knock it off. I don’t know you. I don’t care about you. I don’t care about any of you. I’ve been treated like shit from the moment I was born. My parents didn’t want me, nobody wanted me. Well, you know what? I don’t want them either. You? These other people, the idiot up on the ceiling, every fucking person in this stadium? You can all go to hell. It’s time for me to get mine. Fuck all of you.” 

Before Setrea, Broadway, or anyone else could respond to that, Paintball piped up. “Yeah, that’s about what I figured.” He clearly used blue paint on his shoes, springing himself forward and over the girl’s head before landing in front of her. “I wish you weren’t evil. We could’ve teamed up, you know? Come on, think about it. You’ve got all those different color rings connected to those different stones you throw around? And they all do something different based on the color? Yellow, blue, red, green, black. You’re even using most of the same colors I do, it would’ve been perfect. We could’ve had so much fun together.” 

“Ehhhh,” Jennica drawled out, “I think we can still have fun together.” With that, she brought her hand up. A red stone appeared in the air, clearly projected out of the matching ring on her hand even as she sent it flying right at Paintball. 

An assortment of shouted warnings went out, even as Paintball himself dove sideways. The stone corrected to follow him, but Setrea was already acting. Pistol extended, she fired once, nailing the stone in mid-air and shattering it just before the thing would have caught up with the boy. 

Unfortunately, no sooner had she done that, then her entire body exploded in pain, making her drop the gun and double over with cry. She dimly heard Jennica taunting her by saying something about being able to control the amber stone manually too, then caught the sound of Paintball saying something. 

The pain abruptly stopped, as Jennica turned to the boy. “I’m sorry, what did you say? The screaming was a little distracting.” 

From where he was lying on the floor, Paintball repeated, “I said, that’s far enough. I only needed you to take a couple steps forward.” Just as the girl was clearly processing that, he gave a loud, sharp whistle.

Instantly, something slammed up through the floor directly below Jennica’s feet. The floor itself broke away instantly, giving Setrea and the others enough of a glimpse of the underside of it (what would have been the ceiling of the room below) to see that it had clearly been painted pink. They also saw what had broken through using that pink circle. It was a narrow, six foot tall ruby and silver box, which had captured the girl inside, cutting her off from sight. They could hear the girl, screaming at them as she pounded the sides of the box. 

“Boy,” Alloy announced while rising into the room behind it, “she’s pleasant, isn’t she?” 

The two partners exchanged a high five, all while Jason and the zombies remained completely still. Paintball, turning away from Alloy, explained, “We found the room where she locked up a couple of the park managers.” 

Nodding, Alloy added, “Would you believe we only found them because I thought I saw a raccoon waving at me? Anyway, the guys in there said that it seemed like she could only activate the stones she was looking at. So, in there, she can’t look at any of them.” 

The pounding and shouting from inside the box abruptly stopped, before Jennica’s voice called, “Maybe I can’t see, but I can still hear. And that’s not quite right.  Remember the green ring? It lets me go aaaanywhere one of my other green stones is. In other words–”

In the midst of that spiel, Setrea had already snapped her pistol up. She fired twice in rapid succession before the girl could say anything else. Each shot skimmed either side of the unconscious boy who stood at attention, shattering the green stones there. The shots drew blood, but not that much. Mostly she simply grazed the boy. Even Broadway, who started to shout out in shock and anger when she saw Setrea pointing the gun that way, stopped short and stared. 

“Damn,” Paintball put in, “you’re a good shot.” 

A slight pause followed that, before Jennica let out a loud, frustrated scream. Then there was a sudden flash of bright green light from within the box. When no other sound followed, Alloy opened a hole in it, then transformed the box back into two marbles, revealing nothing inside. Jennica had teleported away somewhere. She was gone. And with that, the various colored stones all vanished from Setrea, Jason, and the others, while Jason himself collapsed back to the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut. He was still unconscious. 

“I uhh, guess that means she’s gone?” Pack managed, while touching one of her lizards protectively. “She must’ve had another green stone somewhere else.” 

“Fuck!” Setrea blurted, spinning to punch a nearby wall hard enough to bruise her hand. “Damn it! She was my best shot! She was my best fucking shot to find out who the Scions’ other contest recruit is! I have to find that piece of shit!” 

Broadway, who had fallen to her knees next to her brother to check on him, spoke up. “I’ll help you.” She looked up, meeting Setrea’s gaze. “I’ll help you find her and this guy you’re looking for. You help me stop her from joining the Scions, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we find the guy you need too.”   

Just as Grandstand was about to respond to that, the sound of many police sirens, accompanied by several helicopters, filled the air. She glanced sideways toward the window, seeing several Star-Touched already starting to fill the stadium below. “Fine,” Setrea agreed. “But first, we should get out of here. 

“Something tells me those guys won’t be in the mood to hear us say we were trying to help.” 

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Interlude 23A – Broadway (Summus Proelium)

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A/N – Hey people! The non-canon for this story is out for everyone to read right here!

As she left the Star-Touched people, who would hopefully make sure her brother’s monsters didn’t kill anyone, KD Rafferty sprinted toward the door labeled for employees of the ballpark. Pack and her lizards were right next to her, a reassuring presence. Unlike the woman ahead of them. Why was Grandstand here? She said she only wanted to talk to Jason about finding someone else, but KD didn’t completely trust her. Yes, she didn’t have to present herself to them, and she certainly didn’t have to make it easier for them to reach the ballpark. She’d obviously heard enough while eavesdropping to know where they were heading, and could’ve gone ahead of them. But still, KD didn’t know exactly what the woman was up to, and when it came to her family, that made her anxious. 

Then again, she didn’t know what Jason was up to either. Could he really be trying to get himself into the Scions? That didn’t sound like him, at all. But was she just viewing him through rose-tinted glasses? She hadn’t spent that much time with him for awhile now. Maybe he really had changed that much. Or maybe he’d always been like that. She didn’t want to believe it, but she had seen way too many stories about people having no idea that their sibling, or son, or neighbor was an evil piece of shit to say that it was impossible. And, well, given the company she tended to keep, she had some first-hand experience when it came to seeing evil pieces of shit.

Whatever, the best way to find out the truth was to get to Jason and make him tell them. If he really had gone this far, if he was willing to attack a stadium full of people, she was done holding back. She hadn’t wanted to expose her identity to him. But if that was what it took to really get through to her brother and get answers, then she would do that. She’d gotten into the whole criminal thing to make money and have some fun. To say nothing of attacking what she saw as an unjust, entirely corrupt system that benefited only the rich. But she sure as hell didn’t want to kill innocent people. This whole thing was going entirely too far. Whatever it took, whatever she had to do, she would get through to him. She would stop him from hurting anyone else, even if that meant revealing her true identity and pleading with him to stop. He would listen to her then, right? There was no way he would be that far gone.

With those troubled thoughts filling her mind, the girl reached the base of the cement stairs leading up to a higher walkway where the staff offices and whatnot were. Grandstand was almost all the way up them, but KD pointed past her while triggering a burst of sound from her gauntlet. With a thought, her body transformed and traveled along those soundwaves, reappearing instantly at the top of the stairs. To KD, it felt a lot like surfing a very unstable wave. A wave that was going out in every direction. She just sort of forced herself to go one way along it. The act of teleporting that way had made her feel sick and woozy afterward for awhile, until she grew accustomed to it. Even now, however, traveling too far that way could leave her feeling wobbly.

“Oh sure!” Pack called from below. “She’s got super speed and you can teleport, just let me walk!” 

“Don’t walk!” KD called back. “Keep running!” 

“Besides,” Grandstand idly added, “I only have as much speed as there are people to make ignore me. And since I’m trying to stay with you two, that doesn’t really leave a lot to work with.” 

Even as she said that, a couple people poked their heads out of a doorway down the hall, one calling, “Hey, what’s going on down there?!” 

“Well,” Grandstand announced, “That’ll do.” And with that, she took off running faster than she had been moving before, even as the two people shifted their gazes away from her entirely, having forgotten her existence. 

Which left those two people staring at the La Casa Touched, quickly realizing that this wasn’t some sort of game. The man fumbled, yanking his phone from his pocket. “I–I–I’ll call the cops!” he blurted in a voice that shook a bit too much, KD thought. For fuck’s sake, they weren’t monsters. It wasn’t like La Casa went around killing people willy nilly at the slightest provocation. 

Eh, then again, most people probably didn’t have a lot of interaction with Fell-Touched. Certainly not enough to really get into the differences between different groups. As far as this guy was concerned, they were all just villains. So, she pushed that thought aside and simply started running again while calling out, “Please do, I’m sure you’ve got the address! The heroes downstairs probably need the help!” 

“She’s not kidding,” Pack added while running along behind her, “they really do need help down there, and you should probably all evacuate as fast as you can. Good luck!” Her own words were echoed by a series of yips and growls from the menagerie of lizard-animals trailing behind in a ridiculous parade. They seemed to be expressing much of the same general point. 

“Okay,” KD announced as they ran together, “he’s obviously not in that room. So what do we do, just check all the rest of them one at a time?” 

In response, Grandstand pivoted and lashed out with her foot. As she did so, KD felt her attention suddenly riveted to the woman. She really was beautiful, and pretty damn cool all things consi–fuck! The woman released her power just as her foot managed to kick in the door, having obviously pulled not only KD’s attention, but that of Pack and all her lizards too, giving herself enough of a strength boost to knock the door off its hinges. 

“Would you warn us before you do that?!” Dani blurted. “It’s disorienting!” 

In response, Grandstand simply turned away from the open doorway. “Not in there. And just consider this a blanket warning ahead of time, I’m going to keep using my power to kick these doors in, because we don’t have time to be polite. Unless you’ve forgotten that this place is about to be crawling with a bunch of evil fire zombies, or you don’t want to find this guy before he manages to get a bunch of innocent people killed by the aforementioned evil fire zombies.”

Before either of them could respond to that, they heard Paintball’s voice over the game announcement system, loudly calling for everyone to evacuate. Which was a good reminder of just how little time they probably had at this point if they were going to make sure Jason didn’t kill anyone.

Dani and KD looked at one another briefly, their eyes meeting (despite the fact that one of them was wearing a featureless black mask and the other had a visor over her face) before they both turned back to the other woman and spoke as one. “Use your power all you want.” 

So, Grandstand did just that. Together, the three of them ran down the hall, kicking doors in and telling anyone they saw that they should get the hell out of the building. Granted, most of the people they were warning thought that that the trio were robbing the place or something, but whatever got the point across. As long as they got out of there, that was all that really mattered.

And yet, there was still no sign of Jason. KD had taken to asking everyone if they saw if there was someone who fit his description, a tall, lanky guy with long dirty blond hair and a tattoo of a rose on his neck. Or anyone wearing a mask or otherwise looking shifty. Which ended up getting the girl an awful lot of strange looks, given the circumstances. 

Whatever, she didn’t care. All that mattered was finding him before he did something he could never take back. She’d even be fine with him going to prison for what he’d done so far, as long as they could stop him from doing something even worse. She desperately wanted to stop her brother from being sent to Breakwater, if that was at all possible. Unleashing a horde of monster zombies on a minor league baseball game? That wasn’t something the authorities would overlook. It wasn’t just having fun, messing with people, stealing from the rich, it wasn’t any of that. 

It was terrorizing, and possibly murdering, innocent people. If he really was that far gone, if he wanted to join the Scions and murder people like that, then… then KD would push him into Breakwater herself. Even as a part of her still clung to the idea that this was all a misunderstanding, or he was being used somehow, or… or any number of increasingly desperate and unlikely explanations, she had already firmly told herself that fact in a small, quiet part of her brain. If Jason was responsible for this, he had to be stopped. And he had to be put away. 

And yet, there was still no sign of him. They reached the end of the private office area, and had found little more than a dozen or so now-terrified employees, who were hopefully evacuating while flooding the emergency network so the authorities might actually do something. Through a doorway at the end of that hall, there was another stairwell leading back down, or a walkway that would take them across to an area where the private executive boxes for the rich fans sat. 

A mixture of staff and those rich fans were milling about in the corridor, talking loudly to one another about what was going on down on the field and why Paintball was here. Before Broadway and the others could do anything, or even be noticed, someone screamed from inside one of the rooms. The cry was echoed by another, and soon more people were streaming out from the private boxes while shouting about monsters and zombies. So, apparently Jason‘s little friends had made their entrance. At least they didn’t look stupid for trying to evacuate people now. 

The crowd turned to run right to the stairwell, only to stop short when they saw the Fell-Touched standing there. KD could see the people putting two and two together. In this case four wasn’t actually the right answer, but still. A few cried out while everyone spun to run the other way, even as she opened her mouth to blurt, “Hey, no, we’re not…” A groan escaped her. “Oh never mind. Whatever, run that way then.” Under her breath, she muttered, “We are so getting blamed for this.” 

Grandstand was already moving to the first door while casually noting, “Having a reputation has its upsides and downsides.” She kicked the door in, glanced around, and shook her head. “Fuck, this is taking too long. Can’t we search this place faster? Send your little friends there, lizard girl. They could spread out and hit every room a hell of a lot more efficiently than the three of us.” 

Pack looked like she was about to argue, then thought better of it and shrugged before stepping aside as she sent the lizards out to check every room ahead of them. Which was… well, quite a sight. Watching reptilian hybrid versions of an eagle, bear, gorilla, panther, monkey, and reindeer split up to kick in doors was pretty surreal. 

As they kept moving behind the scattered lizards, Grandstand turned to glance at Broadway. “Where the hell is he? You know him, right?”

“I have no idea!” KD blurted. “Obviously, I don’t know very much about him after all. Not if he’s the type of person who could do something like–” In mid-sentence, she was interrupted by the sudden appearance of one of the zombies. He was a heavy Latino man with dyed blond dreadlocks, and an obvious bullet hole in the middle of his head. He came slamming his way out of a door leading into what looked like a custodial supply closet, snarling as he saw them. 

Before he could do anything, Broadway pointed and sent a burst of sound that way while converting herself to follow it. Surfing that wave right past the man in her sound form, she reappeared behind him and pivoted to bring both hands up, unleashing a narrow burst of high-pitched music from her gauntlets. As soon as the sound was in the air, she caught it with her power and both magnified and narrowed the sound even more. She had used this to punch holes through concrete before. Normally, of course, she toned it down for human beings. She wasn’t a killer and had no desire to permanently cripple people. But this was different. This guy was already dead. He was a corpse who just needed to be taken apart. She had no need to hold back. 

And yet, despite the fact that those twin bursts of sound would have shattered concrete blocks in front of them, they did barely anything to the zombie. He staggered slightly, before pivoting with stunning speed. His hand flashed out to smack Broadway, but before he could make contact, there was a roar from the other side. Mars Bar came in out of nowhere and slammed into the man, knocking him sideways into the wall. The lizard bear howled in pain immediately, staggering back with visible burns all over his body. Pack shouted out in dismay, before quickly ordering Twinkle Toes to back off before the lizard-gorilla could come to his friend’s aid. In the same moment, she raised that shotgun and fired a beanbag around into the zombie’s face. The force made his head rock backwards, but did very little else. 

Abruptly, however, the air was filled with several more gunshots. These came from the two pistols that Grandstand had produced, which she repeatedly fired while advancing that way. Each shot made the zombie’s head rock backwards again, but he still wouldn’t fall.

Stopping Holiday from charging in, Pack reloaded the shotgun with a couple more shells, then took aim once more. Before she could fire, Broadway shouted, “Just knock him down, he doesn’t matter! He’s just delaying us!” Even as she said that, the girl charged up her gauntlets to unleash an even louder burst of sound. “Both of you hit his knees!” 

To her relief, the other two didn’t argue. They quickly readjusted their aim, Pack calling left so they wouldn’t both hit the same spot. An instant later, she unloaded the shotgun into that knee, while Grandstand hit the other with both of her pistols. 

At nearly the exact same time, as soon as she heard those shots, Broadway unleashed the sound burst from her gauntlets. The guns were much quieter than they should have been, thanks to Touched-Tech, but she still caught hold of that sound as well, just to add as much as possible to her power. This time, she didn’t narrow the force nearly as much. She wasn’t interested in cutting through the zombie. Instead, she kept it just about as wide as his body and magnified it as much as she could. It slammed into the already-dead figure like a freight train, just as his legs were knocked out from under him by the shots. Unable to brace himself as the blast of sound-powered force slammed into him, he was sent flying down the corridor. 

Without wasting another second, the three of them spun to the supply closet the zombie had come out of. Broadway was there first, poking her head in and looking around. There. A ladder that had clearly been pulled away from somewhere else led upward through a hole that had been burned into the ceiling. 

Either way, that was where he was. So, she looked up, pointing so she could send a burst of sound through the hole and teleport herself that way. No way was she going to wait around to use the ladder. Not when Jason was about to make the worst mistake of his life.

Reforming herself in what turned out to be some sort of enormous attic type storage space that had to be as wide and long as the entire building’s structure, she spotted the boy in question almost immediately. No, not boy. He was an adult. Older than she was, certainly, and adult enough that the authorities would have no problem sentencing him to Breakwater for this. He was on the far side of this wide open attic area (what was this for?), yet incredibly easy to spot. Because there was nothing else up here. It was just a wide open space with nothing in it. Nothing except for Jason himself. He was standing over by a narrow window that overlooked the field, staring down that way with his back to her. As soon as she had taken that in, however, he spun, and she saw his face. 

It was him. It was her brother. He had lightly tanned skin from spending a lot of time outside, was well-muscled thanks to all the yardwork he tended to do for extra cash, and had long dirty-blond hair pulled into a simple ponytail. He had no shirt on, and her attention was immediately drawn to several polished stones that seemed to be attached to the boy’s skin. The largest one, a red, gleaming, almost flat ruby, sat in the middle of his chest. It was about four inches across and looked incredibly smooth. There were also two blue ones up by his shoulders that were about half the size, and a couple of equally-sized green ones on either side of his stomach, just above his hips. An amber-colored stone that was smaller than all the rest sat right over his navel. Finally, there was a black one just under his throat. All of the stones were glowing faintly. 

He also wore glasses, which he was staring at her through while pointing what turned out to be a weird-looking pistol. It wasn’t an ordinary gun, that was for sure. 

“I got no problem with La Casa or any of you,” he was saying, his voice cracking a little. “But if you don’t back the fuck off down that ladder, I will.” 

“Jason,” KD blurted, “you have to stop this!” 

“I don’t exactly have–wait,” he interrupted himself, “how the fuck do you know my name?” 

Right, he wouldn’t recognize her. Not only was it impossible to see her face through the helmet, the armor she wore boosted her height by several inches. He’d never guess who she really was. Which had been a large part of the point of wearing this sort of costume, so no one would recognize her. But now… now what was she supposed to do? 

“Jason,” she started hesitantly. “We–” 

That, however, was as far as she got before the older boy abruptly crumpled to the floor. Suddenly, Grandstand was standing behind him, having clearly injected him with something from the syringe she was just putting away. 

“Jason!” KD blurted, before her gaze snapped that way. “What the hell did–” 

“Oh, sure,” Grandstand retorted, “I was really just going to stand around and let you have a moment with him or whatever while his monsters were out there killing people. We can both chat with him once we get him out of here and somewhere that he can’t attack us with his zombies.” 

“Uh,” Pack started before KD could respond to that, “speaking of his zombies, they aren’t falling down.” She had climbed up by then and was standing over by the window, staring at the field. “They’re still running around out there. Why aren’t they falling down? He’s unconscious.” 

“Does it have something to do with those… gems?” Pack asked, squinting that way. “What the fuck are those?” 

“No fucking idea, maybe if someone hadn’t knocked him out, we could’ve asked him. And maybe he has to actively make the zombies stop?” Broadway pointed out. “So, wake him up.” 

“That uhh, that might be a problem,” Grandstand admitted. “He’ll be out for hours thanks to this stuff.” She was looking at the syringe. “I really thought him going unconscious would stop the zombies. Isn’t that usually how it works?” 

“Fuck!” Pack snapped her gaze to her bird-lizard. “Riddles, go get Paintball! Lead him up here, we’ve gotta figure out what the fuck we’re supposed to do now! 

“If we can’t make those zombies stop without waiting for this guy to wake up, we’re in trouble.” 

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