The street, and the house, came into view quickly – since I had the monkey (mostly) up to keep myself pristine, I poured on the speed, leaping across a block or two at a time. Thanks to its night vision, I could make out the good spots to land without causing any damage.
When I got closer to the house – in mid-leap towards it, aiming to land in front of the door – I was thankful for it for another reason, because I just barely saw someone enter the house, the door falling closed behind them.
That doesn’t bode well. I could think of three or four possible explanations for that, and none of them were likely to support my plan.
“Even the best-laid plan rarely survives contact with reality. Always be ready to adapt… and to exploit the chances the world offers you.”
Fuck you, Journeyman, I thought angrily as I landed near the house. You just had to put me in mind of him. I was usually good about keeping the memories down, but Journeyman had knocked the padlock loose with that last fucking advice. Knowing him, it was deliberate. I bet he got the Stone Lecture, too, from someone.
No time. Focus. Focus. There’s trouble afoot. I approached the door – it hadn’t been closed entirely – and snuck in, drawing the monkey closer to my body to avoid causing damage. Immediately, I could smell two strangers inside, as well as the lawyer and her son. I could also smell… brimstone?
Metahumans. I let the monkey swell again, taking full shape around me as I passed a huge mirror on the wall, taking a look at myself. Blue fur so dark it looked black covered me from my head to my ankles. A long tail lashed behind me (I had to be careful not to casually crush the furniture and building), covered in the same fur. My hands were jet black, large and long-fingered, with even darker, long nails. Same for my bare feet. My face… frankly, my face was the stuff of nightmares. A monkey’s face, jet black with big, blood-red eyes – the sclera black as a pit – and teeth as black as the nails. What was most unnerving, I thought, was that, unless I made a conscious effort (or went into a rage), the face was perfectly solemn… noble, even. The black horns that grew out of the sides of my head, curving backwards, looked almost like a crown, when I was upright and calm.
The two metahumans had ascended the stairs by the time I reached the bottom of them, and I could hear them approach the master bedroom – as if they knew where to go. I could sniff out a few more details – both of them were female, one smelling strongly of brimstone. The other one’s smell was… weird. Unlike anything I’d smelled before. Neither of them was part of the team I’d taken out earlier on.
Did the hit squad report to someone to organise this? No, they didn’t know who their employer was, or whom to report to apart from Mrs Saltston. I started sneaking up the stairs. They didn’t seem to have any enhanced senses like mine, or they would have noticed me already, but there was no reason to be careless. Whoever their employer may be, he or she must have organised this as soon as he heard of the hit squad’s failure… or perhaps even beforehand.
That actually made me angrier than the attempt on my life had. Who was this person? What were they even thinking? Why come after me, why go after an agent, when you had to fear reprisal from the Syndicate?
Or was this an internal matter? Someone from within the Syndicate? I didn’t know. Hell, I didn’t even know the current line-up of the Five. Kraquok would be on it, of course (I wasn’t sure if he could be killed and after almost a century, I doubted that he’d be interested in retirement) and I’d find it more believable that DiL turned into a philanthropist than that anyone took the Dowager out of the game.
Either way, though, I was in trouble. This might be people from the Syndicate, in which case I’d be pissing their superiors off by taking them down – or they were people who weren’t afraid of it. Meaning they either had one of the other big organisations to back them (scary thought – some of them made the Syndicate look like a freaking charity) or they were complete morons. I was hoping for complete morons. Or at least oblivious to what was really going on.
I reached the top of the stairs just as they reached the bedroom door, and saw that they apparently liked their traditional outfits – all skintight black faux-leather (it didn’t smell real). The one who smelled of brimstone wore a catsuit that left her arms bare up to her shoulders – and they were apparently made of volcanic rock, covered in cracks and holes that burned with faint embers. Some manner of pyrokinesis perhaps. Or worse, lava generation. I hated fighting people who could make or summon lava. Fortunately, the petrification didn’t seem to reach beyond her shoulders – there were thin strips of pale white skin visible between the rock and her leather-like suit. Might be she wasn’t any tougher than normal. I could also tell that she wasn’t wearing a helmet or anything, and just had dark brown hair tied into a tight bun.
The other one wore a catsuit made of the same material, only it covered her from head to toe, it seemed, leaving nothing (visible from behind) uncovered – but tight enough to show off a build that suggested physical enhancements. Plus, that weird, weird smell of hers.
Looks suggest physical enhancements. Probably at least one other power. I should take them both down quickly, preferably remove them from the premises with the same attack.
Which meant sneaking up and, preferably, tackling them out of the house, even through a wall or two. I was confident that I could take anything they could dish out for at least long enough to get them away from the civilians. But I wasn’t quite sure where the best place to fight would be – I hadn’t scouted the surroundings in anticipation of a battle.
No use. Sneak, wait for the right moment, remove them from the premises. Figure the rest out on the fly.
I moved closer as they entered the bedroom, creeping up on them.
The moment the weirdly smelling woman stepped into the room, there was a loud roar and a flash of light and she flew out of sight, the sound of a heavy crash indicating that she’d impacted the wall. I smelled gunpowder.
“I hate jobs like this,” murmured Brimstone as her arms began to glow brighter from within.
That’s my cue. I didn’t know what had happened to the other woman, but my money was on them having tripped the alarm and the lady of the house having more than just the one weapon I’d seen in her office. Nevertheless, unless she was secretly a metahuman herself, I wouldn’t give her much chance against two super-powered assassins.
I bellowed out loud, my shout loud enough to crack a mirror that hung on the wall nearby and kicked off the ground at the same time, vaulting towards the flinching assassin.
She made a startled sound somewhere between a scream and a gasp as I tackled her through the open door. I pushed on even while I sped up my senses, to take a look around the room.
Smelly had been hit hard – a good part of the left side of her costume was gone, at the height of her torso, and the skin beneath was bleeding – though the wounds looked shallow. Still, if she’d been a normal human, or a less tough meta, she’d probably be dead.
I took another step, turning my head. Mrs Saltston was standing with her back to the wardrobe, holding a rather flimsy-looking shotgun in her hands. I’d spent enough time around Gadgeteers to spot the telltale signs of a handcrafted Gadget, which would explain how she’d taken Smelly Girl down.
Perhaps it is fortunate that I didn’t have to enact my plan – God knows what else she might be packing.
Since I couldn’t see the boy, I assumed he was hiding in the wardrobe, and decided to follow my original plan to remove the assassins from the premises.
Lashing out with my tail, I grabbed the downed Smelly by her waist and charged on, straight through and out the window.
“Grab your boy and get out!” I shouted as we left the room.
“Fucker! What the hell!” Brimstone cursed and her arms burst into flames. Luckily, they weren’t particularly hot and didn’t even burn my (copious amounts of) hair – but I did feel the heat, which told me all I needed to know; best to avoid a direct hit.
Landing on the lawn, I threw her across the yard and into a huge tree, her body impacting it horizontally. This time, she did scream, but it cut off when I threw her compatriot to slam into her midsection.
“Don’t stop. Attack until they’re completely neutralised as a threat.”
I stopped my attack, sitting on my haunches, staring at them. I really ought to just take them down, but… I’d rather end this without any further fighting, to be honest. I wasn’t in the mood.
The two of them fell off the tree in a way I might have found comical if I wasn’t feeling so morose, but quickly jumped up to face me again. Brimstone’s arms lit up, but she didn’t attack immediately, instead waiting for her friend to get up as well.
Smelly seemed quite stunned, though I didn’t know whether it was because she’d been shot by whatever that gun was, or because she’d been thrown hard enough into her friend to put a few cracks into the old tree. Perhaps both.
Interesting. I would’ve pegged Brimstone as less tough than her friend, yet the impact doesn’t seem to have done much more than piss her off.
“This is a one-time offer,” I growled, letting the monkey slip into my voice to sound more intimidating than usual. “Run now. You can’t fight me, and even if you thought it might work, the authorities won’t be too far away in a neighborhood like this.” I finished, then just waited, staring stoically at them.
After a few heartbeats, they nodded and left, vaulting over the fence to leave.
I smirked to myself – I’d memorised their scents. It wouldn’t be too hard to track them down later on.