I spotted her atop the Arch, a tall woman with wild red hair and an outlandish purple costume. Around her body, large steel plates revolved, forming a rotating shield. She actually hovered several feet above the structure, enabling these plates to cover the whole of her body, while leaving a steady opening for her to see out of.
Her body was also wreathed in crackling purple lightning that steadily flowed from her feet, down onto the metallic surface of the Arch. From this point, the lightning shot along the whole of the structure, which somehow acted as a sort of amplifier. Enormous bolts of energy shot wildly from the Arch, exploding off chunks of nearby buildings and scarring the landscape with blackened ruts. Numerous charred corpses, piles of debris, and burning vehicles littered the area.
It wasn’t normal lightning, of course, with how it twisted and trailed along set paths, instead of a single pin-point strike. Nevertheless, it operated along the same frequency, for lack of a better term, as the lightning mana that I could easily see and manipulate. As I flew towards Arch, I gripped the lightning with my will and directed it upwards. This seemed to startle my opponent for a moment, and the lightning bolts ceased.
“MAGNETORRA!” I shouted, using the wind to amplify and carry my voice. “Cease your attack immediately! You are not in your right mind!”
She didn’t respond and instead thrust her hands towards me. A torrent of her lightning surged forth, multiple wide bolts leaping from the around Arch, all converging on me. It was all I could do to catch and deflect the power before it overwhelmed me.
I found myself somewhat pinned. I could not just dodge around, as the continuous blast of power could lash out and demolish one of the buildings around us. I had to keep focused on her attack, diverting the power into the sky, where it could dissipate harmlessly. There was so much hitting me at once, however, that I could not spare any further control for a counter attack.
She eventually relented when she realized I was successfully blocking her. Even from a hundred yards away, I could see the fury in her expression. “YOU CAN’T STOP ME, EARTH MAGE! IT IS THE DESTINY OF THE GODS TO RULE! WHY DO YOU STAND AGAINST YOUR FELLOW GODS? YOU SHOULD—”
She continued to ramble at extreme volume, lines about conquest and glory. She sounded like an especially one-note villain from a kid’s cartoon. I wondered if she had sufficient durability to prevent injury to her throat from yelling like that.
As she spoke, I started to absorb the wind and lightning mana around us, bolstering my movement and speed. At the same time, I attempted to seize control of the metal plates orbiting her body, forcing them to close in on her. She had either been prepared for this, or her power simply overwhelmed mine at such close range, for all I managed was to cause the plates to wobble.
It was enough to antagonize her, however, snapping her out of her monologue and causing her to unleash another series of lightning bolts. This time, however, my speed was sufficiently accelerated to put me in the Class 3 range. The lightning reached me at a noticeably slower pace, and I was able to deflect it easily, while having the time to concentrate elsewhere. Behind the Arch, the
Mississippi River’s muddy
waters churned and flowed. As I deflected the lightning attack with one hand, I
reached forth and pulled at the water mana within the river.
Several bus-sized globs of water lifted from the rivers surface, then shot like missiles towards Magnetorra. She was so focused on me that she didn’t realize what was happening until the huge boulders of water smashed into her from behind with cannonball force, breaking apart her shield and knocking her clear away from the Arch.
She flew through the air, stunned, lightning crackling around her. However, her connection to the Arch was severed, and no longer could she fire the building-wrecking bolts she had before.
Still enhanced in my speed, I swooped over and caught her, looping my arms under hers and interlocking my fingers behind her neck. I rocketed into the sky. There were only a few wispy clouds in the distance, so I did not worry that her power might be enhanced by them. Under storm conditions, I might have tried to fly her elsewhere.
She attempted to electrocute me, of course, but her personal lightning was much more manageable. I easily suppressed her power, just as I could with Strider. I was lucking out, encountering all these elemental superhumans.
Her struggles were slow to my perception, and she opened her mouth to speak, with only a low droning sound coming forth. I bled off the lightning mana to lower my speed and let her catch up to me. With my grip on her, I could absorb more directly out of her to speed back up, should I feel the need.
“LET GO OF ME!” she roared, so loud it made me wince. Even with the wind rushing past us at this altitude, her voice was piercing. She reminded me of Knock-Off, in that regard.
“LISTEN TO ME!” I roared back. “You need to come to your senses! Someone has done this to you! You were a normal person once, living a normal life! Someone came to you and took away your sanity! Who is it? Tell me who it is!”
“UNHAND ME!” she screamed. She surged her power, stronger than I expected, and small purple bolts shot off the two of us like random sparks. “UNHAND ME, YOU TRAITOR!”
Traitor? That was interesting. “Why do you call me that?” I said. “What have I betrayed?”
Even locked in a full nelson, she managed to fight my grip enough to twist around and glare at me with one eye. She was still furious, but there was a momentary glimmer of confusion. “HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW? WHY DO YOU NOT REMEMBER? WE HAD A PURPOSE! WE HAD—!”
Her eyes suddenly widened and her face went from a snarl of rage to a stunned slack. “We had…” she whispered. Her expressed deadened.
I forced the wind around us to become still. “What? What did we have?”
“Oh, god…” was all she said. Then, she pushed against my grip on her power, enough so that a thin line of electricity crackled from her forehead, and touched something on her chest. From the folds of her purple costume, a long iron nail attached to a necklace rose into the air.
If I hadn’t dropped my speed down, I could have easily caught it. Instead, with only normal human reactions, I wasn’t fast enough to keep her from driving the nail into her own eye like a bullet. My reflexes were barely quick enough to jerk my head to side so the nail didn’t stab through me as well. I had absorbed enough earth mana to toughen my body up to Class 2, but the metal still sliced my cheek as blasted through her skull.
I grit my teeth. “Goddamn it!”
I had just cost a woman her life, all for nothing. What had I even learned? That I was a traitor. Did that actually mean anything, or was it just part of her Villain delusion? Was I wrong about a Villain Maker? Was this just some kind of psychosis that afflicted a percentage of superhumans? Was there just something about the environment in
that drove people crazy? America
Knock-Off had just said someone had paid her to clone the SFF. She’d never mentioned anything about having been directed to her ambitions of conquest by the same person. It couldn’t be a coincidence, though, that so many of these people attempted to seize power and cause destruction. There had to be a connection. If it wasn’t a person, then what was it?
People dismissed their ramblings of a higher purpose, of godhood and destiny, as the delusions of addled minds, weak individuals who snapped when their superhuman powers got to their heads. But there had to be more to it.
I floated back to the ground, dropping quickly, then slowing just before I landed, touching down light as a feather. I lay Magnetorra down. Part of her costume had included a large cape. I pulled it off her back and used it to cover her.
Max came up next to me. “Went bad, I take it?”
I nodded. “She killed herself. Shot herself in the head with a nail.” I looked up. “And the others?”
She frowned. “The teleporter, Knock-Off, she’s dead. The situation was too dangerous, so I couldn’t hold back. I ended up killing her.”
I grit my teeth. “Goddamn it, Max!”
She got right in my face, jabbing a finger into my chest. “She KOed the rest of the team in the space of a second, and almost got to me. She was so tough, I had to hit her at my strongest punch, because she was tanking my weaker hits. I didn’t know just how hard I had to hit her, so I went all out, because I could not afford to screw up my last shot, and have her take us all down.”
I didn’t back down, but I had no counter to that. I swallowed hard and forced down my anger and frustration. I was mad at myself, really. I knew how deadly these encounters could get. I knew this was a reckless plan. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and composed myself. “And the others? Are they still out?”
She shook her head. “I got them back on their feet. They’re figuring out how to deal with the third one. Hopefully, they’ll have more luck than us.”
I nodded. “They had better.”