Neither the junior heroes, nor the Rabid Eight wasted any time on banter. The heroes knew it was pointless with them and the eight were only interested in a fight.
Bullrush opened the battle by charging at top speed at his enemies. However, Tartsche moved himself between Bullrush and his friends and extended a hand as if he was telling his foe to stop.
The horned brute ignored that gesture, of course, and aimed his horns directly at the hand. A light shimmer could be seen in the air around his horns as he hit directly into Tartsche’s palm – and unceremoniously bounced off, the force of his charge unable to even budge the young hero and thus lashing back into him.
At the same time, Bloodbath turned his hands in wickedly barbed blades as long as the rest of his arms and made two quick cuts across Slice Bride’s right arm, covering the edges of his blades into her blood. Before he could turn to attack his enemies, an ear-rending screech filled the air around him. The four villains still staying back raised their hands to their ears and fell to their knees.
Only Bloodbath himself remained standing and he turned to look at his enemies. Polymnia had all thirty-two of her speakers aimed at them, four for each for each, and was pushing down a single key of her control system.
To her misfortune, he had shifted his ears away when he recognized her, becoming effectively deaf but also immune to her sonic assault. So he leaped at her, intending to cut her down with his blood-coated blades. Halfway to her, he stumbled and fell, just in time for Outstep’s attack to miss. He let a mass of thin blades erupt out of his back and legs, aimed at the young hero armed with what looked like an oversized cattle prod, who immediately disappeared in a fast-moving blur.
A second later, Spellgun’s rifle roared and a glowing bullet hit El Conquistadore right between the eyes, throwing him two meters away, while two machine guns appeared in Tartsche’s hand, delivered by Outstep.
The immovable teenager took aim with both and fired at Bullrush, who was retreating in order to charge for a new attack. The recoil from the heavy duty machine guns was meaningless to him. Spellgun was using him both as cover and laying his rifle over his shoulder to steady his aim.
In the first few seconds, Polymnia’s attack had given them an edge, allowing them to take the most dangerous enemy out of the fight before he could attack, but now Bloodbath had come dangerously close to her. Unwilling to test her equipment against his blood-coated blades, she interrupted her assault in favor of jumping with her four mechanical legs, bringing Tartsche in between herself and Bloodbath. On the apex of her jump, the speaker-legs turned towards Bloodbath and emitted a single, ear-shattering sound that hit Bloodbath like a canon ball. The villain’s body reflexively shifted into a boneless state, absorbing the impact without taking damage, but his charge was halted long enough for Spellgun to aim and fire two blue bullets one after the other, each hitting one of his armblades and coating them in ice.
However, his attack had freed up the other villains and Exposed immediately coated herself in fire and shot two streams, one from each arm, towards Polymnia, the only hero who was currently vulnerable to such an attack. She did not notice how Slice Bride collapsed into a jerking heap, nor did she notice the red-and-white blur moving at her. The stun-rod jabbing her in the neck, however, she did notice – and she reacted with a scream and a fiery explosion that destroyed it and threw Outstep across the field and through the glass of the hotel lobby. While his attack failed to take her down, it interrupted her attack on Polymnia, who resumed her sonic assault on her, bringing her again to her knees.
All the while, Bullrush had been steadily retreating and was now taking a running charge – this time towards Polymnia.
“Tartsche, block Bullrush!”, Spellgun shouted as he held Bloodbath back by shooting bullets that multiplied during flight. They were not doing any real damage, but they were forcing the villain to shift into his invulnerable state, preventing him from advancing.
The armored hero abandoned his Absolute Defense Stance and moved towards Polymnia, who, at the same time, moved towards him. He barely managed to get himself in front of her and enter his Stance again, when Bullrush bounced off of him, again.
“Guys, where is El Conquistadore?!”, Polymnia shouted. Her lips did not move, instead her voice played out of two small speakers in her collar. The other two turned towards the spot where he had fallen, but it was empty.
“Polymnia, he disappeared just now, as if he was teleported”, mission control supplied.
Just at that moment, the lake of the city park behind the heroes exploded and a mass of water moved towards them like a miniature tsunami. They could see El Conquistadore surfing on top of it, a malicious grin on his too-perfect face.
“Oh cra-“, Spellgun began as the water slammed into them.
Polymnia barely managed to grab Tartsche with her legs, using his immovable body as an anchor. However, Spellgun was hit and pushed across the grounds and into the lobby, where Outstep had been thrown into.
El Conquistadore let out a deranged laugh as he landed next to Slice Bride and Exposed, both of which were drenched, but unharmed. Slice Bride was still unconscious, but Exposed immediately went on the offensive, throwing lances of ice at Polymnia, who shattered them with further sonic blasts.
The aquakinetic had gathered the water he had rushed his enemies with into an amorphous blob the size of a two story house, with his right hand sticking into the water. From that mass, he pulled a whirling bubble around himself while also launching torpedo-like shots at the two heroes still standing. Polymnia saw the attack coming and switched the arrangement of her speakers. Her fingers flew across the keybord, playing a beautiful melody. The water torpedoes and ice lances hit a kind of sonic cage and were repelled.
With a snarl, Bloodbath ran past Tartsche, unable to harm the still invulnerable superhero. Run past his back, Tartsche was unable to line up a shot and Bloodbath reached the distracted Polymnia.
He was quite surprised when he noticed that she was standing on the ground on her own two legs, with only one robotic leg to support the weight of her equipment and the other three aimed at him and fired their three-clawed tips like harpoons. Batting two aside, he was hit by the third. Though he shifted into his invulnerable state, the three claws closed around his torso, squeezing hard enough to prevent him from simply squeezing out of the grip. Unable to move for now, he slammed into the low wall that surrounded the hotel grounds, the sharp tips of the claws digging into the stone and pinning him to it. A thin, metallic cable connected claws and legs, two of them pulling back and reconnecting.
Tartsche spoke into the microphone build into his helmet: “Outstep, Spellgun, are you alright?”
“Outstep here, I’m conscious again. Dammit, that bitch knocked me out clean. Spellgun is unconscious. Ribs broken, shattered left arm and leg. At least a concussion. Breathing shallow, but stable, heartbeat the same. Damn, that wave packed quite the hit.”
“Get Spellgun to the medical team standing by in the next block, then come back with your motorcycle – we need the big guns!”, Tartsche ordered.
“Polymnia, how long can you keep up your defense?”, he asked.
“Not long, my battery is draining faster than I expected. Plus, I think those two are planning something!”, she said and true enough, a water tentacle had extended from the protective bubble El Conquistadore had raised around himself, encasing Exposed’s head – though she continued to alternatively shoot fireballs and ice lances at Polymnia and Tartsche, forcing them to remain on the defensive. Tartsche’s machine guns had run out of ammo and he had no more spare clips – not that they had been very effective, both the water bubble and Exposed’s skin were too tough to penetrate with normal ballistic weapons – and Outstep had not returned yet.
Just when the water tentacle retreated, a red-and-blue blur appeared and stopped in between Tartsche and Polymnia, just behind her sonic wall. It was Outstep, straddling an oversized bike painted in his colours. “Time to step up the action!”, he shouted, as rocket launchers folded out of the sides of the bike, aiming at the two villains.
* * *
“They are forgetting it!”, Brennus shouted, sounding quite irritated.
“What do you mean?”, the two girls asked in unison.
“El Conquistadore! How did he get from the hotel grounds to the lake? The cameras show that he just vanished into thin air – either he developed a new power or there is another villain there!”
“Shit, you’re right. But what can they do? They don’t know where this guy is and they have their hands more than full with the remaining guys!”, Vasiliki replied.
“Should we try and help them?”, Dalia asked.
“No, we would not get there in time. Besides, I do not think we could make much of a di- I just had an idea!”, Basil shouted and turned to his computer.
* * *
“I’m going to get into position now”, she said, turning away from the wall screen.
Jason turned to her and said: “Please, keep them safe. And take care of yourself as well.”
She gave him a smile and nodded, then she flew through the wall, leaving the building in less than three seconds.
* * *
Four rockets shot at the two still standing villains, just as Outstep passed Spellgun’s rifle to Tartsche.
“Your boyfriend is conscious. He tells you to blow up their asses”, he commented as he also gave him a bandolier full of ammunition.
El Conquistadore blocked the rockets by swinging the still large blob of water around and inbetween the rockets and himself and Exposed.
The rockets flew into it and were slowed down and eventually stopped before they could get close enough to the villains.
However, that still stopped the enemy assault, allowing Polymnia to lower her sonic shield. She turned towards Bloodbath – only to find the claws still attached to the wall, but the villain missing. “Mission Control, Bloodbath disappeared! Where did he go?”
“He vanished just like El Conquistadore did. Bullrush as well. Be careful, we have come to the conclusion that they must have another new member, some kind of teleporter!”
“Polymnia, watch out!”, shouted Tartsche as a blood-coated spinning blade made of ice flew through the receding water blob. She managed to move her torso out of the way, but it sheared through two of her four speaker arms as if they were made of warm butter. At the same time, Bloodbath appeared out of nowhere, standing next to Outstep and plunging one of his arm blades into his bike and the other through his leg into the same.
Before Outstep could even scream, the bike exploded, as the blades had cut right into the fuel tank and lines and created sparks at just the right places to ignite the fuel.
The resulting explosion threw him and Polymnia back, while it washed over Tartsche.
Bloodbath bounced off the ground and landed on his feet, but Polymnia was not so lucky. She had been standing close enough for the blast to hit her full-force and though she had just managed to turn her back to it, the damage was massive. All her remaining arms were blown off and the back of her armor had been mostly destroyed. Her visor displayed various warning signs, chief of which being the fact that the battery on her back was destroyed and her power armor would lock up in short order.
With a few finger movements, she gave the order to shed the armor, leaving her standing in her pink shorts and top, with only her visor.
Just as she tried to get her bearings back after her hypersensitive hearing had taken a beating from the sound of the explosion, something hit her in the back of the head and she fell to the ground.
At the same time, Tartsche hurried over to Outstep. The young speedster had just managed to kick in his power as the blade penetrated his leg and had gotten off his bike by tearing his leg sideways off the blade. His left leg was cut off at the thigh, with only a strip of skin and muscle holding it together. Fortunately, his suit had contracted around and over the wound, staunching the bleeding, though the exhaustion from kicking his power into overdrive, as well as the shock of the wound and the loss of blood had knocked him out. Tartsche knelt over him, so that he was touching him, and entered his Absolute Defense Stance, spreading his power to cover his fallen ally. He turned towards Bloodbath and opened fire with blue freezing bullets, unable to help Polymnia at the moment.
The later tried to pick herself up off the ground, but something hit her hard on the chest, making her double over in pain. She felt something, or someone, grab her by the hair and pull her up. A blow to her stomach further dizzied her. Next she felt the sensation of cold steel sliding over her belly. She tried to strike out blindly, but she was still too dizzy from the explosion and the blows. Something cold and hard moved under her cropped top, pulling it away from her body. Just as she thought this was it, a sudden scream caught her attention and then a black blur rammed into the air in front of her. A raven stopped cold as it hit something and she fell to the ground. Startled, she realized that an overweight man in a much too tight red bodysuit and mask was standing in front of her. He held a long, sharp knife coated in blood in one hand and was swinging it at the raven. However, he could not hit and he screamed as the raven’s sharp beak bit into his hand.
Four more ravens appeared and attacked the fat supervillain, their beaks and claws digging into his arms, face and shoulders. He swung his blade wildly and managed to hit one of them, the bloodcoated blade shearing cleanly through it.
The two halves fell in front of Polymnia and she could see the circuitry inside. Not questioning her luck, she darted around the fat man and dove for on of the keyboards that had been torn off her suit by the explosion. She had, by now, largely recovered from the blast and hit a combination on the keys that released the board from the mechanical arm it was attached too. Pulling a belt out of it, she hung it over one shoulder, then picked up one of the speakers that had remained largely undamaged, attaching it to one end of the keyboard.
“Polymnia, behind you!”, shouted her handler just as something small and hard slammed into her back, throwing her to the ground just in time to avoid an ice spear. She rolled to regain her footing, seeing one of the mechanical birds rising to the air again and then she aimed the speaker on the fat man who was still fighting the birds and pressed a single key. A deep, reverberating sound, directed by her specialized technology so it only affected whatever was in front of the speaker, hit the fat man and he screamed as his bowels emptied themselves convulsively.
“Attention, we have located Bullrush again! He moved two blocks to the east and is now charging at full speed towards the battleground!”
“Crap, Polymnia, retreat! Me and Outstep are safe for now, so get the hell away from here!”, Tartsche ordered.
“I can’t just leave you guys here!”, she said, making a cartwheel to evade another ice spear and a water blast, while simultaneously firing her brown note at them. Unfortunately, Exposed’s body seemed immune and El Conquistadore’s water bubble protected him.
“That was an order!”, Tartsche said as he shot his last freezing bullet at Bloodbath, finally encasing him completely in ice.
Polymnia’s fingers played her response on the keyboard: “Forget it, I can deal with these creeps!” Playing a more complex piece, she created a short-lived sonic shield that blocked another ice spear.
Having used up most of the water he had brought with him, El Conquistadore absorbed the rest of it into his protective bubble and then charged at her, while Exposed used a stream of fire to fly over her and towards Tartsche, pinning him down with a hail of fireballs.
Polymnia played another song on her keyboard, her fingers flying faster than the eyes could follow. The resulting blast hit the charging water bubble at an angle so it missed her.
The villain turned it around to her, letting the top flow open and reveal his head as he spoke with a leer: “I am going to enjoy playing with you when we’re done here, puta.”
Before he could follow up, a ravenbot rammed him, its beak plunging into his right eye. With a scream, he made the water shoot up and crush the bird, but his concentration was disturbed and Polymnia had the time to play a complex combination of sounds that made the water vibrate and all but explode, throwing him away from her.
“Polymnia, mission control here. Retreat, I repeat, retreat! Bullrush is just a few seconds away, Slice Bride just stood up and Bloodbath has been melted free by Exposed!”, shouted Mr. Widard.
She turned around to look towards the east, where the fat man was still fighting the birds, as Bullrush broke through the wall and charged right at his only available target – her.
Without regard for his teammate, he ran over the fat man, crushing his body into a bloody pulp and aimed his horns at her.
With no time to evade, she started playing a defensive piece.
“Enough of this”, said a female voice and a pillar of earth shot out from the ground, hitting Bullrush’ chin and flipping him over.
* * *
The cameras that had been focused on the fight angled up a bit to focus on a single, floating figure. Various split screens showed her from every angle.
“Who. The fuck. Is. That?”, asked Dalia.
Vasiliki tried to calm her trembling hands as the danger to her idol seemed over.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit. They actually had another one”, was the only thing Basil could say as he saw her through the cameras of his ravenbots.
* * *
Polymnia looked up at her saviour. She had, of course, been briefed on the plan – to showcase their fighting power, preferably by them defeating the Rabid Eight. If (or rather, when) that failed, they were to be pulled out by their new mystery member. Patrid, that conceited asshole, had of course not told them who that new member was – to ‘savour the surprise’. She only knew him for a little more than two months and he was already in her asshole category. And she was getting off-track again.
On the other hand, she could see why Patrid had had such confidence in his PR-stunt going off without a hitch. It wasn’t difficult to guess who the person standing above her in the air was. Anyone with working eyes and a basic knowledge of history could. Still.
Holy. Fucking. Shit. They actually had another one.
The young girl looked to be fourteen, going twenty-four. She had shoulder-length, straight black hair, a pale, unblemished complexion and unnaturally blue eyes, like the night sky. Her body was as perfect as only an adonis-type’s could be.
She wore a skintight black bodysuit without any emblem and a heavy, ankle-length white cape with a cowl, which she had currently thrown back. The bodysuit left her hands bare, but extended to a pair of foot-formed shoes, like the ones sometimes worn by climbers and some runners, the ones that almost looked like really thick socks.
Her face was set in a self-confident, almost bored expression, as she looked down on the remaining combatants the way a queen looked down on peasants.
“Surrender, and I will not harm you. There is no way you could best me.” Her voice carriet over the grounds, loud and clear. Polymnia’s ears could pick out the undertones meant to compel submissive behaviour from all those hearing them. The effect was meaningless to her, partly because it was not aimed at her, but a quick look around showed that Exposed had stopped attacking Tartsche and was now looking at the flying girl with an entranced expression.
El Conquistadore was still writhing on the ground and howling in pain over his ruined eye. Bullrush was still picking himself up, dizzy from the impact. Bloodbath was moving towards them – still deaf, it seemed. Slice Bride dropped the knife she was holding, but after a moment she drew a new one, coating its edge in her blood.
The remaining robotic ravens flew down to the ground around Polymnia, forming a circle around her. I’ve got to analyze those things. I hope they are gadgets.
When she noticed that her command was not going to be obeyed, the girl sighed and turned towards Bloodbath and Slice Bride, who now stood next to each other. Bloodbath had dipped his hand-blades into Slice Bride’s blood again and was advancing towards Polymnia, who aimed her speaker at him.
* * *
“Basil, you seem to know, again, who that is. So, don’t make me ask again – who is that hottie?”, Dalia asked.
“Well, why do you not just watch and see. I would be surprised if the- ah, here goes the PR manager”, answered Basil and pointed at the wall screen, where Patrid turned towards the camera with a smug grin on his face.
“Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce the new rising star of the superhero world – our city’s new prime protector, Gloom Glimmer!”
“Gloom Glimmer? What kind of name is that?”, asked Dalia again. She turned towards Vasiliki. “Do you want to tell me, who that is? Judging from your silence, I guess that you know as well.” But Vasiliki just shook her head and focused on the TV.
* * *
Before Polymnia or the remaining villains could do anything, Gloom Glimmer shot towards Bloodbath and Slice Bride, moving almost too fast to be seen.
Changing direction in ways she should not be able to, she flew to within a meter in front of them but then flew around them and hit Slice Bride on the back of the head with a slightly glowing fist.
Before Bloodbath could retaliate, before Slice Bride even hit the ground, she already flew up again and fired a pulsing, green sphere at Exposed. The entranced woman was knocked back several meters and did not stand up.
“Polymnia, take your chance and retreat. Let Gloom Glimmer handle this”, said her contact.
Oh fuck it. This is not just her show, she thought, aiming her speaker at the still screaming Spaniard on the ground.
Playing a longer, more nuanced piece of music, she covered him in a lullaby that first numbed his pain, then slowly put him to sleep.
While that was going on, Gloom Glimmer moved against Bullrush. When he saw her fly down to ground level, he aimed his horns and charged her again.
Gloom Glimmer did not touch the ground, instead she hovered a few centimeters over it and pulled her fist back for a punch. A shimmering red glow appeared, coating it in its light.
When Bullrush reached her, his horns passed through her, as if she wasn’t there, and she struck with her glowing fist, hitting him right in the forehead. The blow stopped him cold and Polymnia heard the crack of his skull shattering.
I hope she didn’t kill him.
As the brute fell to the ground, Gloom Glimmer vanished in flash of light just in time for Bloodbath’s blades to cut through thin air. She reappeared behind him and struck him with her glowing fist.
At the same time, Polymnia had finished putting the Spanish supervillain to sleep and had turned around to the fight. Ignoring the orders from mission control, she dropped to one knee and took careful aim at him as Gloom Glimmer struck.
His body shifted into an invulnerable state, the strength of the blow being absorbed or redirected into harmless backwards momentum – but in that moment, when he was essentially a boneless meat sack, Polymnia oppened up with her sonic attack, unleashing a fluctuating, screeching sound that hit him with a wall of vibrating air. Physical blows may have been useless against his body in that state, but the vibrations made him extremely ill – in fact, he actually created an opening in his body to barf out his stomach’s contents.
Instinctively shifting back into a solid form, he was wide open to a second blow by Gloom Glimmer – which made him shift back into his invulnerable state, making him more susceptible to the sonic attack. However, in the middle of attacking him, there was a malfunction in her keyboard and it shut down. She could almost immediately smell burnt circuits. Must be his power at work. It was already damaged and he accelerated the decay.
However, his luck did not hold up as the next time he shifted back into his normal state, Gloom Glimmer grabbed and threw him upwards. When he could not evade her in any way, she emitted a blue-white cone of light from her eyes that covered his body in frost. He dropped down and she moved the earth around him, encasing him in a coffin of dirt, grass and rock.
“So much for his famous luck”, she said.
* * *
Walking over to the bisected ravenbot, Polymnia picked the two halves up, taking care not to look at the remains of the fat supervillain.
The still functioning robots had taken off and flown away once the battle had been over. Polymnia had watched Gloom Glimmer create shackles made of light to bind Slice Bride, Exposed and El Conquistadore. Police teams were already moving in, bringing a truck to collect the still unconscious Bullrush.
After stashing the remains of the ravenbot in a bag she pulled from a compartment hidden in one speaker-arm and assembling another keyboard-speaker, Polymnia moved over to Tartsche, who stood by as a pair of EMTs gave first aid to Outstep.
“Well done. You were great, especially for your first fight”, Tartsche told her. She gave him a short smile, then turned towards Outstep. The young superhero was still unconscious and the wound in his leg was still bleeding.
“This was way too close. What if he had not been able to move away from the explosion in time?“, she asked over their commlink.
“My power told me he would, otherwise I would have helped earlier”, said a melodic voice from behind. Turning around, they got an up close and personal look of Gloom Glimmer, her feet touching the ground for the first time.
She was even more stunning now, out of battle, her mere presence dazzling even Polymnia. “Stop this, please. I hate glamours“, she told her over the commlink, so the EMTs would not hear.
I take what I get. Sorry, said Gloom Glimmer’s voice in her head. Try to look away, it should get easier. Then, she pulled off her cloak and put it around Polymnia’s shoulders. She shivered, both from finally noticing the cold and from the girl’s touch which, however brief, magnified her power’s effect on her by an order of magnitude. I’m sorry, she said in Polymnia’s head again.
With that, she moved to Outstep, kneeling down beside him. The EMTs gave her some space, intimidated (and, if those bulges were any indication, aroused) by her presence.
Putting her hands on Outstep’s chest, a soft light spread from them over his body. His wounds, both the big one on his leg and the countless cuts and abrasions healed – even his costume was fixed.
With a sigh, his body relaxed, slipping from unconsciousness to true sleep.
Gloom Glimmer stood up and said to the EMTs: “He won’t require any more medical attention. Just don’t wake him before he wakes up by himself.”
Pulling the thick, heavy cloak closer around herself, Polymnia did her best to stay sharp and agitated – she was afraid that the moment she relaxed, she would break down.
Tartsche must have realized this, because he put one hand on her shoulder and guided her to the armored van waiting for them. With the villains neutralized, they were no longer needed – the police would look after the hostages, they would deport the villains, clean up the wreckage and generally do everything left to be done.
What was coming up next for the UJH was probably going to be more difficult than the actual fight – the debriefing.