Crocell’s eye swiveled around, passing over the approaching capes and cowl – to focus, apparently, on Tyche again.
“The fu-” she started to say before Basil tackled her out of the way of the beam of whatever-it-was that Crocell sent her way.
The two of them fell off the roof as half of it – the half Tyche had been on – was disintegrated. Hecate, having stood on the other side of Basil from Tyche, was safe, though she smoked away just to be safe.
Basil fired a hook, swinging away from the doomed building – but clearly, Crocell wasn’t done, as it turned its head to pursue them with its lethal beam. He saw it approach them and knew that there was no way he could evade it – but Tyche could, maybe, if she turned to smoke, so he threw her away from himself.
“What are y-” she began to shout, only to be interrupted again.
“Smoke away!” he shouted, and she did as the beam approached.
If I swing around the building, I might get away, he thought, only then it was rendered moot as Kraquok tackled Crocell, one arm punching it’s barely existent jaw to snap its mouth shut.
The multi-limbed cowl roared as he pushed against the even bigger monster, whose limbs were still stuck to the ground by the silvery field the girl from the Feral family – Mercury, if he remembered their roster correctly – and bent it over backwards.
Crocell tried to open its maw, perhaps to roar but more likely to blast Kraquok off of itself, but the veteran fighter was using two of its limbs to hold it closed, while bending the feral monstrosity backwards – if it’d had anything like a classic skeleton, it’d have a broken spine by now; Kraquok was very nearly straddling it at this point, Crocell’s head and back just a metre or two away from touching the ground and getting stuck to Mercury’s field.
“Come on…” he couldn’t help but whisper as he swung onto another building. It would’ve been smarter to get out of sight, to only watch through his ravens, but he really, really wanted to see the pro’s go to town in person.
Evidently, others felt the same way, as capes and cowls gathered around the park. Whether they were holding back out of morbid curiosity, or because they didn’t want to get in the way (and possibly get hit by Kraquok’s infamous breath weapon), hold back they did, as Tyche and Hecate joined Basil again. Gilgul was up above, closer to the battle, looking for a chance to strike.
“Hey B, thanks for saving my ass – again,” Tyche said lightly, though Basil could hear an undercurrent of actual gratitude hidden beneath her light-hearted demeanor.
“I wonder why it’s been targeting you,” Hecate said, seemingly more worried than Tyche herself. “You’re hardly the most dangerous person around, and yet it’s been going after you every time it hasn’t been distracted by others.”
The redhead girl shrugged, just as Kraquok finally succeeded in bending Crocell over to the point where its head and shoulders were now stuck, leaving the monster now bent backwards in a rather grotesque way, its limbs flailing around uselessly.
He immediately got out of the way, at the same time that Doc Feral made a simple hand motion, and the whole Feral family sprang into action.
Wunderkind downed a glowing potion. Several others either drank or injected or, in one case, inhaled various concoctions. Doc Feral herself stabbed an injector into her left forearm. Only Mercury (a name she couldn’t possibly have claimed had it not been in the Feral Family for decades) kept her current power, maintaining the hold on Crocell.
And then they ripped into the beast.
They acted in pairs, at least, if not in trios. Basil couldn’t even tell what the individual powers they’d picked were, as they never used them independently of each other; instead, they heterodyned with an ease that made his and Polymnia’s gadgeteering session seem anemic. Brilliant beams of spiraling energy, twisting, semi-solid masses of corrosive light, vicious exploding mist lashing out like a lovecraftian horror with countless tentacles and more assaulted their prone quarry. Some of them stuck together, some only combined for a single attack before they cycled through partners, powers or both.
The result was a glorious, perfectly coordinated storm of destruction that flayed the flesh off Crocell’s side and hips. Clear fluid shot out as if it was filled with high-pressure hoses, as masses of pearlescent, pale white flesh and what looked like cartilaginous bones (in a configuration which seemed to be meant for a fish rather than a humanoid) were exposed, and the assault didn’t stop there – they only dug deeper.
The cacophony of the Feral Family’s attack was bad enough, but Crocell trumped them all a moment later, screaming at such a high volume, Basil had to steady the girls again as they reeled from the attack. Hecate even dropped her staff in favour of holding her hands over her ears, while Tyche’s rifle only remained with her due to the strap she was carrying it by.
And the monster kept screaming, only rising in pitch. Glass shattered for several blocks around the park, as people collapsed with their ears bleeding. The Feral family was hit the hardest, as they were also closest. Even Kraquok reeled, stumbling in disorientation.
Basil’s ravens were being destroyed as well, and he’d actually made an effort to make them resistant to sonic attacks; since it clearly hadn’t been sufficient, he sent them away instead. Even so, he was down to just two ravens now, out of what had once been a whole unkindness.
He took a step back, holding onto the girls, as he furiously thought about some way to get them to safety – as well as himself, as he didn’t know how long his own protection would hold out against this level of noise.
All that was rendered moot, though, as all the sound suddenly vanished; they were all plunged into total silence, silence so complete, it made Basil’s ears ring.
He looked up to see Gloom Glimmer in the air above, cape billowing with the now soundless pressure of Crocell’s cry, her left arm extended, palm up, with a blueish sphere the size of a softball hovering above it.
She was looking furious, her eyes turned red and black again.
An impact shook the building Basil was standing on, drawing his attention away from her. In the seconds he’d been distracted, the Feral Family had managed to recover and gone back to their assault on the giant monster. Three of them – Basil didn’t recognise them, but they looked like father, mother and son in matching costumes – were standing together, holding hands in a triangle formation. They raised their intertwined hands in synchronous motion, then brought them down – and with them came a pillar of what appeared to be solid gold, slamming into Crocell’s midsection, where he’d been regenerating the damage done to him – it served to both slow down his visible regeneration and also kept him down, as Mercury had passed out from the sonic assault, freeing him from the silvery field she’d covered the ground beneath him with. The rest of the family was no slouch either – Doc Feral was leading a group of five, the others teaming up in pairs of two or three, renewing their assault on the beast.
Basil and the girls all watched in awe as they blasted the beast across the park, slowly but surely driving it down the main street to try and get it out of the city. It was, frankly, not something they’d expected from the Ferals.
The Shining Guardians were the favourite subject of more message boards, talk shows and video channels than one could count, and one of the favourite pastimes of them was to compare the members of the group, both past and present, and rank them – in these rankings, the Feral Family usually took last place.
Fleur was Lady Light’s former sidekick, the first she’d taken on since Elysium’s death; a hugely successful heroine whom many described as a good Weisswald, power-wise.
Quetzalcoatl was, frankly, a monster, a catastrophe made flesh which, in any sane world, would be hunted down by any means necessary. Since he lived in Brazil, though, he was a national hero.
Severance was the last truly original member, mysterious and shrewd enough to keep the nature of his power a secret over a seventy-year career. He was als somehow managing to keep a lid on crime in New Johannesburg, which spoke volumes about his capabilities. The criminals of that city supposedly feared him more than Sovereign.
Huong Long was young, had a questionable history, big problems with the Japanese Sentai and the kind of power that had catapulted her to the world stage within a month and a half of manifesting.
Doc Feral, meanwhile, only ever showed up with her family – Basil wasn’t even sure whether there was any footage of her fighting on her own – and they usually stayed in the back of the big fights, overshadowed by the flashier. members of the Shining Guardians and even some other heroes.
Or, perhaps, they simply prefer a support role when there are others around to stand up front, Basil though. The way they work, they’re probably better-suited to it, anyway.
Clearly, though, they could bring the hurt when necessary. Crocell was being driven out of the city, screaming and trashing without a sound, as the gathered heroes and villains followed the stoically advancing Feral Family.
Gloom Glimmer floated down to move along Basil and the girls, along with Gilgul.
“I feel so darn useless,” Gilgul admitted, sounding both awed and annoyed. “What are we even here for? The Ferals seem like they can take him down on their own.”
“They can’t keep this up forever,” Gloom Glimmer explained, her voice reverberating oddly with itself. “Some of them can only make small amounts of formula a day, others can only take a limited amount of it per day without serious side effects and every one they lose reduces their overall power exponentially.”
“So they have a lot of power, but not a lot of staying power,” Hecate summarised. Gloom Glimmer nodded in affirmation.
“How is Polymnia?” Basil asked curiously. “Those screams can not have been good for her.”
The floating girl bit her lower lip, a look of frustration spreading over her face. “It knocked her out. I was able to fix her ears and wake her up, but… I couldn’t fix the pain it caused. She’s at the command post.”
“Your power is not cooperating?” He watched the Feral family change powers, creating no less than eleven different kinds of bindings, from purple chains to arms growing out of the ground, while Doc Feral, Wunderkind and one other member were charging up what looked like a small sun.
“I’m used to it,” she said, as they watched them blast the immobilized Crocell square in the chest, causing an explosion of steam which obscured all vision. “Though I really would’ve thought I’d want to ease her pain to get a power for that…”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Tyche told her as she patted the floating girl’s shoulder. “I got nothing like control over my power and if it’s taught me one thing it’s that you can’t take it personally. Powers are weird.”
Gloom Glimmer giggled, reluctantly, just as a strong, cool wind picked up.
Basil turned his head and saw the woman in the brown costume again, standing next to Prospero. She had her arms raised, waving them about as if conducting a play, as the wind blew the steam away.
Prospero, meanwhile, was holding his staff up over his head with both hands, holding it horizontally, as he seemed to… cuss at the sky?
One of Basil’s ravens was close and he sent it closer still, until its microphone (battered though it was) picked up a steady stream of insults, curses and general derogatory comments, which Prospero was shouting at the air at the top of his lungs, while a humanoid figure formed out of the wind that the woman in brown was moving.
It looked androgynous, sexless, with long, ethereal hair several times its height of about a metre and a half. Once it was fully formed – though still translucent – it flew out towards Crocell, while Prospero went to work cussing up another spir-
“Brennus, why are you giggling?” Hecate asked in a worried tone of voice.
“I, ah, I just… nothing,” he replied, once had himself back under control. Well, mostly. It was still too funny, even for him. He looked over at Prospero drawing more of his wind spirit out of the air, aided by the woman’s power, as he continued shouting at his own creations. Basil stifled another giggle. He’s cussing up a storm.
The steam was gone, by that point, and they could see the results of it all. Crocell was picking itself up off the ground, having been pushed very nearly to the city’s limits, most of its front flayed off to the muscle. Even now, it was regenerating, the attack apparently having had no greater effect, than previous efforts.
The Feral Family had retreated by about fifty metres, while several of the present heroes were forming up a line between them and the monster. Hollywood’s sphere of light was hovering up above the battle, providing its boons to all defenders of the city.
Weirdly enough, Basil couldn’t make out Kraquok anywhere, even though the monstrous villain had grown far too big to simply slip out of sight. A few others were missing, as well – Waverider and Father Manus. He could see Amy, hovering over a nearby rooftop, circled by several compressed spheres of metal – former cars she’d turned into impromptu projectiles. Lamarr was nowhere to be seen. Nor had Totemic or Sovereign’s Subjugator made an appearance yet.
Let’s hope they’re planning something big, Basil thought to himself, though he didn’t share his thoughts with the others.
“I’m going to join the heavy hitters,” Gilgul announced, looking at the girls, then at Basil, nodding quickly. “Stay safe, all of you.”
“Yes ma’am,” Basil replied, his mask hiding his smile as she flew away towards the line of frontline fighters.
Gloom Glimmer nodded to them and flew ahead as well.
“What do we do, B-Six?” Tyche asked him. “We’re kind of superfluous here.”
Hecate made a surprisingly refined snort. “I don’t think so. I’m going to get closer and angle for a shot. See you two later.” And she burst into smoke, flying away before either of them could say anything.
Basil took a look at Tyche. She was still unharmed. Barely a speck of dust on her; she’d even managed to keep ahold of her rifle, which he was quite glad about – it was nearly a match to his own, in sheer stopping power, though it lacked some of the more exotic (and delicate) additions his rail gun had, and it would have been hideously expensive to remake.
“We are going to run Search and Rescue, I guess,” he replied. “I only have two ravens left, but between them and your luck, we should be able to h-“
He saw it move through the one raven he’d sent up above, keeping a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, and reacted at the last moment, throwing himself at Tyche and knocking her out of the way at the last moment, just as Crocell shot another beam aimed straight at her. It missed them by barely an inch, very nearly blasting off Basil’s legs.
The sonic boom it caused hit them in spite of Gloom Glimmer’s power negating the actual sound of it, shaking Basil to the core and disorienting him greatly.
He very nearly threw up in his mask as his sight turned black for moments, and he lost all sense of direction while he and Tyche were thrown off the roof, approaching the ground in a graceless tumble.
Acting on reflex, he fired his grappling hooks left and right, hoping for some, any kind of purchase – but the blast had damaged the left one, causing it to get stuck, while the other one didn’t hit anything but air.
And then his and Tyche’s fall was suddenly arrested, as the air itself seemed to catch them, bringing them to a brain-shaking halt.
“Ugh…” Tyche made a sick sound, before she audibly threw up – fortunately, she didn’t throw up on him. That would’ve seriously crimped his white cape’s style.
Slowly, Basil’s vision returned as he and Tyche were deposited on the street, just in time to see the woman in brown float gracefully down to meet them. Unfortunately, as his vision sharpened, he saw that the impact had caused a lot of damage to his equipment – especially to his mask’s HUD and cameras, forcing him to trigger the failsafe and open up two slits for his eyes. Well, it’s this kind of situation I built them in for.
“Are you two alright?” the woman asked with a voice that didn’t match her boring, rather forgettable costume – it was strong, weathered, a practiced voice that could easily be heard across the roar of a storm – and which drew his attention away from inspecting the damage readouts he still had access to.
Tyche groaned, heaving, but Basil righted himself and nodded. “We are quite fine. Thank you for the save.”
She nodded. “Let’s get out of here before that thing-“
There was a roar, and then a groundshaking impact, and then the two buildings behind them – including the one Crocell had shorn the top off of – began to topple towards them.
Basil didn’t bother wasting breath to curse or anything – instead, he grabbed Tyche by her upper arm and charged forward, hooking his other arm into the woman’s own, and pulled them with him as he ran to the right, trying to get out of the collapsing buildings’ arc.
But it was too late and the two constructions, built to fit the modern customs and regulations (you really couldn’t afford having buildings be too easy to bring down, nowadays) crashed down atop them with a deafening noise.