Thursday, July 26, 2018

11 : Strider


I could sense perfectly any floor of a building that didn’t have a floor under it, which either meant the ground floor or the basement. I could terraport there too. Unfortunately, anything higher than that I could not just travel to, and my senses increasingly dulled. Yes, I could sense a mouse skitter across a rooftop, but if three dozen mice were doing it, it became a lot harder to pick them out individually. I could sense the vibrations that traveled down the walls of the structure and made contact with the ground, so I could know something small was moving. But with many vibrations funneling through the same limited planes, it tended to wash out the signal.

It “sounded” like everyone was in the nearest building, a dormitory that was actually four floors, but with the ground floor half-submerged into the earth. I wasn’t sure what you’d call that. A half-basement? Whatever it was, it was unoccupied. I could sense movement tremors coming from the upper floors, though, enough that I couldn’t tell how many people were on which level. With an army of two hundred, and several dozen hostages, I imagine the building was rather crowded.

I stepped over to the edge of campus, ducking down behind a short stone wall that framed the entrance to a long curved driveway. I could see some lights flickering in the windows. Flashlights, some candles, an odd green glow in one room, and a sky blue glow in another. Those last two might have been from the supers, and of course, they were on the very top floor.

Just a few years ago, I would have killed them all by terraporting the entire building straight into the ground, burying them all alive, and causing an explosion of two masses phasing into one another.

But I was here to save lives, not take them, and for once do it without wiping out an entire settlement in the process.

The army of clones and captured civilians all being above the ground floor was a pain, though. A quirk of my power, I could teleport the building with everything inside it all at once, but it was only on that ground floor that I could individually move the different things inside the building. I also couldn’t just teleport myself directly on or off the other floors.

I often wondered just who or what designed these powers. Terraportation was a mighty ability, but it would have been much handier if it was just a straight up “point-and-shoot” teleport that wasn’t limited to what touched the ground.

There I went, complaining again. Time to nut it and shut it. Or however that expression went.

I sensed the campus around me, seeing what I could weaponize. This would be so much easier if some of that army was on the ground floor. So, why not lead them there?

I sensed one of those enormous CostMart general stores nearby, and terraported into it. I took a few minutes to locate the kitchen appliances, grabbed a dozen mechanical kitchen timers, and stepped back to my hiding spot. I cranked the timers for a two minute countdown, then ported them into the rooms of the basement/ground floor.

I’d set them all for the same time, but of course, there was a second or two delay as I cranked each manually, so when they went of, it was with an increasing level of racket that had the groups on the upper floors jumping and shuffling about in rising confusion. I could hear the tremors of female shouting, too muffled by the other noises to tell the words. Then, I heard the sound I hoped for. Dozens of footsteps thudded down the main stairwell, into the basement. As soon as their feet touched the final set of stairs, they were within my power, I could actually “see” them.

“Bizarro” had been an apt descriptor. They were shaped like people, but they walked in jerky steps, with little jittery movements. Their skin was cracked and peeling, their eyes glassy. They were almost like zombies. I suppose a zombie is sort of an inferior version of a human, aside from that whole unable to feel pain or need rest and being undead. However, I could sense blood pumping through them, as well as labored breath. These people-things were alive, they just weren’t in the best of shape.

Even though I could have terraported each one the instant they contacted the bottom steps, I waited until all the ones sent down piled into the basement floor. They threw open unlocked doors and frantically searched the rooms for the offending alarms. They busted down doors that we locked by beating their bodies against them until they bled, and continuing until the wood caved in.

Jeesh, they basically were zombies. And definitely a downgrade from what Yrba could make, at least as far as I’d seen. Again, special circumstances, though, so there was no telling if what I’d seen was what she could do in her natural state.

In total, about fifty of the “living zombies” were shuffling about, having not found anything. They started to head back for the stairs. I decided that these mockeries of people weren’t on my “to save” list. It might be tipping my hand early, but I activated my power, and instantly buried them a quarter mile into the ground. One moment they were there, the next they were liquefied between layers of rock.

I waited a bit longer. There was more female shouting. I could actually hear it through a few random open windows as she stormed across the top floor. The banshee-like shrieking wavered between audible and unintelligible. “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED” something-something “WHO DARES TO INTRUDE ON MY NEW DOMAIN” something-something “FIND THE CULPRIT!” something-something-something “— RIGHT IN HER FUCKING GASH!”

Okay. That was definitely not Yrba. Still, I’d started the fight now, I had to finish it.

Zombie people surged out of the building, two-hundred and thirty in total. Many looked identical, despite being dressed in mish-mashes of clothes, probably salvaged from the dorm room closets. If I had to guess, there were about ten different people that had been replicated over and over again. I hoped they were all still alive. I hadn’t sensed any dead bodies anywhere and the officer hadn’t mentioned fatalities, but that didn’t mean there weren’t corpses cooling in the corners of the upper rooms. I hoped that Knock-Off needed live people to replicate live soldiers, and she hadn’t felt the need yet to make an example out of some hostages to keep the others inline.

Surely the super copies were enough for that.

I once again waited until the whole army was on the ground, pouring out of the building’s three exits. They didn’t moan like zombies, but their breathing was ragged, as though their throats were as cracked as their skin. If they could actually feel pain, then what I was doing had to be a mercy. Once again, I terraported them, sending them into the solid rock over a thousand feet below.

I focused on the building, trying to catch the now greatly reduced number of vibrations. I wasn’t totally sure, but I think I sensed about twenty people moving about. That number started to increase as more and more footsteps started coming from the center of the building. Knock-Off was already making more copies. If ten of the ones I’d just sensed were hostages, and one of them, the loudest, stompiest steps no doubt, was Knock-Off, then the rest were probably the super-copies. If I also had to guess, from how faint the vibrations were, they were all probably on the top floor.

She wasn’t dumb enough to send her next wave of zombies out immediately. But I could sense the extra footsteps stop building after only a minute. From there, it didn’t seem like nearly as many as before were in motion. Maybe equal to what I’d felt on the steps to the basement, so about fifty then. Maybe that was her limit? Assuming ten hostages, maybe five copies apiece? Someone had said that was the highest number of duplicates of one person they’d seen, so maybe five per person was the best she could do at a time, or fifty clones in total at a time, and she had to wait to recharge.

“SUPER!” bellowed that banshee-voice again. I glanced around the corner of my wall slightly. The sun had fully set now, but a little bit of twilight was left, enough to reveal the silhouette of a rag-wrapped woman leaning out one of the top floor windows, holding up two bodies like limp dolls. “SEE WHAT MY ARMY HAS DONE TO YOUR FELLOWS! SEE HOW YOUR MIGHT CANNOT POSSIBLY MATCH MINE! MY HUMAN MINIONS MAY NOT MATCH YOUR POWER, BUT MY OWN SUPER-MINIONS CAN CRUSH YOU JUST AS EASILY AS THEY DID THESE!”

Good Lord, that woman had some lungs on her. I was five hundred feet away and still wanted to cover my ears.

A moment later, two bodies thunked onto the outside front steps. I glanced at them with my power. A man and a woman, dressed in what looked like SWAT gear. I didn’t recognize either of them, but then, I hadn’t been in America, nor part of the network, very long. I had no idea what powers they’d faced Knock-Off and her cronies with, but it hadn’t been enough to prevent their hearts from being ripped out of their chests.

I then saw a dark shape zoom out from another window. I didn’t have any time to see what she looked like. I didn’t even have time to terraport away. For a split second, I just saw something move from the top floor, and then a fist struck my face with the force of a wrecking ball and exploded my skull.

You know what would have been really smart of me? If I’d learned a bit more about her clone-army’s powers before I picked a fight with them. That would have been really good to know.


1 comment:

  1. Ouch, not dead already, I hope?

    I'm sensing a zombie theme here. People-things and bio-zombies. Terraporting is pretty broken though, as long as you have ground to touch on.