8.4 Shelter

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Pak Kret, Thailand – Saturday, the 16th of June 2012. 08:10 PM local time.
King Kong versus Godzilla.

Sarina didn’t find Magpie’s dry sarcasm very amusing. They’d come here to help ensure the city would still be standing tomorrow, and a duel between two power surged entities wasn’t going to help matters. Internally, she cringed at the collateral damage potential.

The disc stopped to hover a few meters above the flat-roofed top of a seemingly abandoned apartment building. Rampage climbed up the sheer grey stone façade on all fours, defying gravity with his spider-like grace to join them up top. Sarina didn’t abandon her seat on the bronze disc, but she slid closer to the rim to keep an eye on both Rampage and the dark, quiet road below.

A few hundred meters ahead, behind a cluster of skyscrapers that had to belong to the city center, a persistent white glow permeated the encroaching darkness, illuminating walls and reflecting off windows. Its area of effect didn’t seem to be very large, but its core was much brighter than any floodlight. The thousands of roaring voices they’d heard from that direction were still silent. Instead, the hot, foul-smelling wind brought a hint of words, too distant to understand.

“Are they fighting?” Rampage asked, perched on the edge in the roof to narrow his eyes at the glow. “Seems too quiet for that. No, wait. They’re talking, and not in English. I don’t understand a word.”

“Animal senses?” Sarina asked. “I don’t hear them.”

“Owl.” He grinned.

“They speak Siamese,” Data informed them through their earbuds. “I expect they’ll start trying to kill each other in a few minutes. Hellion is not exactly a skilled diplomat.”

God, please no.

“We have to do make them stop,” Sarina said. “All those voices we heard… Hellion must have thousands of citizens gathered at the center. Data, what do you know about Warbreaker’s powers?”

“They’re not going to stop,” Magpie scoffed. “They have to prove their superiority. It’s why Warbreaker showed up in the first place.”

Data ignored her. “I wonder how they intend to fight. Warbreaker’s peace aura makes any hostile action by anyone other than himself impossible. Based on the data I’m picking up, it seems to suppress Hellion’s effect and halted its expansion. The power surge increased the pacification effects range by… well, I’m not sure, but quite a bit.”

It was expanding? Sarina felt uncomfortably reminded of the Shadowspawner in Prague, who’d increased his range in proportion to the amount of people he’d absorbed.

“Does that mean everyone he mind-controlled will be able to escape?” She asked with rekindled hope.

“No. The crowd – about ten thousand citizens – isn’t moving. The two overlapping effects appear to put them into some kind of passive standby mode. As for Warbreaker’s other powers – he commands three luminescent discs to shield himself with or to attack. Add speed of light travel at short distances with a considerable recharge delay.”

Rampage raised his head to frown up at the hovering disc. “He made his way here from India in what, two hours? Short distances, my ass.”

“Power surge,” Data said.

“We should try and team up with Warbreaker,” Sarina suggested. “With his help, Hellion won’t be much trouble.”

“Good luck with that,” Magpie stated without an ounce of enthusiasm. “He’s not a hero, babe. If we’re unlucky, they both team up on us. We should head back.”

“They’re busy with one another, we can at least get closer to take a look. If Warbreaker cancels out Hellion’s effect, it seems pretty safe,” Sarina argued.

“Warbreaker can’t deactivate his peace aura, so I agree.” The bronze disc seemed to vibrate with Data’s words, even though they came through the earbud. “Rampage. Scout ahead, but stay in my field of vision. You shouldn’t be affected by Hellion. If you are, I’ll send you back to headquarters.”

“I don’t want to get him into trouble for my sake,” Sarina said. “Let me go. If I go crazy, at least I’m a crazy someone without powers.”

“Aw. So sweet of you to worry about me, babe. But to be honest, I’m getting a little bored.” With that, Rampage whirled around and leapt back down to the road, landing all fours. Sarina could see him run towards the city center and climb up the wall of a ten story building a hundred meters ahead, illuminated by the last streaks of reddened light.

No, he didn’t actually climb. This time, he ran up the wall.

She clenched her fingers in anticipation of something going wrong, watching out for any suspicious change in his movement pattern. She hadn’t been kidding. She wouldn’t have wanted anyone to lose their mind for her sake, not even someone she barely knew.

Data floated half the distance to the building Rampage used as a vantage point, then stopped again, rotating in lazy circles like the world’s slowest gyroscope. Scanning for power signatures, Sarina assumed.

“You’re going to regret staying,” Magpie stated in a tone as dry as sawdust.

“I’d regret leaving,” Sarina countered.

“Can’t do anything here, babe. You tried. Isn’t that enough?”

“I won’t know until I try again.”

Magpie shook her head and shouldered her rifle, watching the now distant red speck of Rampage’s costume leap over to another roof. Sarina was more focused on the network of roads and alleys, and the buildings that flanked them. Once she knew where to look, she could make out countless Thais who blended into the darkness, as silent as statues and hardly more lively. They just stood around as if they didn’t remember being alive, and there was more of them the closer they were to the city center.

Passive standby mode, Data had named it. It was too neutral a term for something so horrific. Sarina rubbed her arms to ward off the chill that seeped through her despite the warm weather.

Warbreaker and Hellion’s voices were more easily audible now, and even though Sarina didn’t understand a word they said, the dramatic intonation indicated an escalating argument. She suspected the deeper voice belonged to Hellion; it sounded angrier by far.

Rampage’s voice came drew her attention back to the earbud it came from. “I can feel Warbreaker’s area effect, it’s quite subtle. Nothing from Hellion. Seems safe enough for now.”

“Hellion doesn’t have an active aura then,” Sarina concluded.

“Stay where you are,” Data commanded. “We’ll be one roof over.”

The disc set in motion again and floated upward to approach a twelve story apartment tower. Sarina scanned some of the windows they passed, and she detected movement behind some of them. People shied away from the windows to withdraw deeper into their apartments.

“I don’t think the whole city is affected,” she reported with some relief. “The people who stayed inside seem fine.”

“Hellion’s power could be a visible target type of deal,” Magpie suspected. “Limited to his field of vision, but permanently active once it’s been used on someone.”

Sarina didn’t get the chance to add further observations; the disc floated over a flat roof and stopped near the edge. The sight of the area that opened up below her stifled any further comment.

With some imagination, the city center could be pictured as the charred, butchered remains of a park, about a third of the size of New York’s Central Park – but with fewer trees. Only small clusters of them were still standing along the edges of a large clearing that might once had served as a religious site of sorts, as evidenced by the a long line of golden hued humanoid statues that traversed the center from east to west.

The statues were positioned at intervals of about three meters, and nearly all of them had been defaced in some fashion. Some had been painted with blood and bits of human remains, others had bodies in various states of mutilation draped over them. Two of the statues were missing heads and limbs.

“Well, shit,” Magpie commented, face scrunching up into a grimace. “That’s awful even for villain standards.”

Sarina slid a hand over her mouth and nose, horrified by the sight of it all. She turned her attention back to the crowd.

The clearing and the surrounding park were filled with thousands upon thousands of people, many of them armed with makeshift weapons. Now that their united roar of rage had stopped, their mouths hung open in silent dismay, and their vacant eyes stared into space.

So many. Sarina’s heart sank at the sight of them. She’d heard Data’s announcement about tens of thousands, sure. But hearing about the numbers didn’t compare to seeing for herself.

Hellion was easily recognized. He sat on the golden shoulder of the largest Buddha statue that dominated the center of the long statue lined walkway, wielding a curved sword that was as long as he was tall. He wore some kind of traditional Thai costume that consisted of upper body plating, a pot shaped helmet and a knee-length red loincloth. A scowling demon mask covered his face, matching the twisted, masked visages of the honor guard that surrounded him. There were about two dozen of them, silent and waiting.

It took Sarina a moment of shock to realize that apart from the masks and some horrible looking wounds that didn’t bleed, they looked and were dressed like normal people.

“Crap,” Magpie murmured, keeping her voice low. “That’s not just some rage effect, babe. Those guys look dead.

“Get off the drone and wait here,” Data said through the earbud. “This building offers some cover and a good position to evacuate you from.”

Sarina climbed down from the drone and positioned herself against the metal railing without comment. Her attention was on the other Evolved, ten meters from Hellion, who floated above the crowd on one of the three discs that surrounded him. Each one was about the size of a satellite dish, and their added brightness gave off the intensely white light Sarina had spotted from a distance. Two of the glowing discs flanked the man on either side as a pair of autonomous, hovering shields, leaving his hands free for the long spear he was holding.

Warbreaker. After Data’s summary of his powers, the identity wasn’t hard to figure out.

The Indian Lightshaper’s costume consisted of a tightly wrapped small white turban and a traditional, long sleeved Indian men’s outfit, made of white silk and tied at the waist with a red shawl. A featureless golden hued mask covered his face. From the looks of it, the glowing white discs served as his only defense.

Then again, his permanently active peace aura probably made any kind of armor obsolete.

Warbreaker lowered his spear to point at Hellion’s demon masked entourage, shouting something in a language Sarina didn’t understand. The villain showed no reaction, but his entourage of two dozen demon-masked humanoids stirred in response, drawing Sarina’s focus back in that direction.

Now that she gave them more than a glance, she had to agree with Magpie’s impression. She wasn’t sure those people were dead, but they very much didn’t look okay. They moved as one, like a swarm of drones controlled by the same hive mind, and their blackened fingers ended in long claws that looked awfully sharp.

No. Those aren’t people anymore.

Warbreaker shouted something in Siamese, then gripped the spear with his left hand and raised his right in what might have been a gesture of authority or peace. A ghostly apparition, three times as tall as he was, flickered into existence in front of him to repeat the gesture. It radiated the same pale white light as the three discs that surrounded Warbreaker.

Then Hellion’s demonic entourage stirred into action, and the area erupted into chaos. The masked creatures straightened up from their crouching position to leap at the surrounding crowd. Their clawed hands cut through clothing and flesh as effortlessly as a knife through butter, and half a dozen people collapsed in a spasm of blood.

A wave of uneasiness went through the mob. Faces twisted into grimaces of shock and fear, and some made panicked sounds, but they barely moved. No one ran.

Warbreaker made a low, guttural sound and charged forward, preceded by the glowing apparition that drifted through the crowd as if it wasn’t there.

Sarina only managed two breathy words. “Magpie! Shoot!” Once the words were out, she made a desperate attempt to grasp the fabric of reality and twist it.

Remove Hellion.

Nothing happened.

The glowing apparition drifted up to the large Buddha statue, one arm shooting forward. But the masked villain wasn’t there anymore. In his stead, one of Hellion’s creatures took the blow. The impact of the glowing fist eviscerated the creature, sending a gush of dark fluid and fleshy bits over the heads of the strangely passive crowd below.

“Can’t shoot,” Magpie muttered. “Warbreaker’s peace aura is active.”

“But why-”

“It seems the pacification effect only applies to living human beings,” Data commented, devoid of any emotion.

Sarina’s thoughts whirled in frantic loops as she realized what was happening. Warbreaker’s aura prevented the mob of thousands of previously raging citizens from wreaking havoc, but it also stopped Magpie from shooting Hellion with Power Zero. Warbreaker’s ghostly apparition and the villain’s demonic creatures were unaffected and could still have a go at each other.

Magpie kneeled by the edge of the roof with her rifle shouldered, its barrel aiming down at one of the smaller statues. Sarina saw that the Hellion had appeared beside it – seemingly out of nowhere – and was making a move towards Warbreaker.

Except that the villain was cheating, somehow. Warbreaker’s attacks never hit him. Every time the ghostly double struck, one of Hellion’s creatures was reduced to a bloody mess. Regardless, the remaining creatures continued ignoring his existence to turn on the helpless, dazed crowd instead.

Why? It seemed needlessly vicious and didn’t make any sense, and the blood and noise made Sarina’s stomach roil. Her power still refused to work.

Down below, Hellion stepped out of the cover provided by the statue and lunged, sword raised above his masked head. It grew in length while he moved, but never struck the white knight who hovered two meters above. The villain just stood there, seemingly frozen in mid movement.

Warbreaker floated backward on his disc. The ghostly apparition imitated his movement in reverse and drifted back towards him, extending a fist as he did.

“There is the proof,” Data commented. “The peace aura only affects humans, Hellion included.”

“How can you stay so fucking calm? We came to help!” Sarina only realized the words had come from her mouth when Magpie stared at her, obviously startled by the raw fury in her voice.

“I would ask Drifter to swap some combat drones in,” Data said. “But I must admit I’m not prepared for this. The two I had were destroyed on another recent mission, and still need repairs. This model is geared for support, not combat.”

“I’m not going down there,” Rampage said through the earbud. Sarina could still see him on top of the next building, about ten meters away. “My job’s to protect the girl, no one said anything about playing hero.”

Looking down at all those people who weren’t even trying to run away, Sarina knew they had to do something about Hellion’s creatures, and fast. Even though a few of them had been destroyed by Warbreaker’s attacks, the rest was still on the move, attacking seemingly random targets from among the mob that had gathered in the destroyed park.

Hellion disappeared again, replaced by another of his creatures before the ghostly apparition’s fist connected to his masked head. The upper half of the creature’s body was reduced to a mass of black mash, splattered against the golden chest of the statue behind it. Another was eviscerated by one of Warbreaker’s luminescent discs, which had detached itself to flit over the crowd in search of targets. It left the Lightshaper with only one shield for defense. He still stood on top of the third, hovering above the gigantic mob.

Half of the creatures abandoned their targets to start attacking him instead.

“Warbreaker is distracting them,” Sarina said. “If Hellion can’t make more…” she stopped, her attention drawn by three of the creatures who’d grown still instead of seeking new targets. Their heads twisted at impossible angles, scowling demon masks staring up at the roof she stood on.

“Data.” Magpie lowered the rifle from her shoulder. “Get us out of here. Now.”

“Only on Dancer’s command,” Data’s voice replied with inhuman calm. The disc made a descent to the two girls who stood side by side. “Dancer. Come to me.”

Sarina pulled back from the edge as the three creatures charged forward, leaping over heads and limbs as if they were some obstacle course. The speed and agility of their movements reminded her of Rampage – who could climb.

“Dancer. Out,” Magpie commanded. “We can’t fucking defend ourselves if we can’t fight.”

Sarina considered it for a second. Her pulse had quickened to a gallop, but unlike other tense situations in the past, she wasn’t consumed by fear.

Maybe because the passivity of her companions was really starting to piss her off.

An idea struck her, and she reached out to get ahold of Magpie’s arm. “Come with me.”

The other woman didn’t get the chance to reply. Something landed on the roof with a loud thud, a flash of long claws, and a blood curling scream. Sarina felt herself being pulled back onto the vibrating metal disc a mere second before a flash of red bodysuit jumped in front of her.

Rampage. Her thoughts didn’t go beyond that. Everything was happening much too quickly to absorb and piece together as a series of events.

The following impact of colliding bodies shook the building. Sarina dropped bottom first onto the metal disc, pulled along by someone with a rifle. Rampage surged forward to block the way of another leaper. He staggered backwards, nearly buried beneath the twisting bodies of the two creatures that clung to him.

The air was filled by the same glass-rattling whir they’d heard just before Data picked up Warbreaker’s presence. A sudden gust of wind swept across the rooftops and the destroyed park flashed white, illuminated by a blinding beam that shot westward. Sarina shielded her eyes with a hand in reflex. When she could see again, she found herself a few meters up in the air on the disc shaped drone. Magpie crouched to her left, staring down at the battlefield.

Looking back, Sarina saw Rampage leap off the roof of the building they’d just vacated. He dropped down ten stories and landed on a car sized garbage container, its metal lid dented by the force of the impact. One of the creatures had been crushed, but the other still clung to him, clawing and biting at his red costume in a desperate attempt to get traction. Rampage didn’t even bother trying to shake it off. He jumped into the crowd and kept moving until he was out of sight, submerged in the sea of bodies.

Don’t get tied down in one place.

Clinging to the hope that Rampage would be fine, Sarina turned her attention back to the battlefield. Warbreaker had moved a couple hundred meters to the fringes of the park, easily spotted by the glowing white trail he’d left in his wake. The crowd staggered. Some had dropped to their knees and clutched hands to their eyes, but seemed otherwise unharmed.

The same wasn’t true for the obstacles the Lightshaper had passed through. One of the statues along the walkway had been vaporized, its previous position marked by a cloud of glowing dust that drifted in the air. The upper half of a small shrine had been shaved off.

Hellion used the moment of reprieve to approach the bodies of those who had been killed by his creatures. Each corpse he touched came to life with an ear-piercing scream. Their limbs and faces twitched and transformed, masks appearing where faces had been.

Judging by the ugly sounds, the other creatures were still busy decimating the dazed crowd.

“Oh god,” Sarina whispered. “He’s making more.” The sight of them threatened to turn her stomach. She forced herself to look away, find solutions instead.

Magpie shouldered her rifle and peered through the scope. “Still can’t shoot. Data, what’s Warbreaker’s range?”

“I don’t know, but it appears to exceed Hellion’s limits.”

“He’s all the way over there,” the other woman said, pointing at the distant glow. “If that isn’t enough, the rifle’s fucking useless.”

“You tried to shoot Warbreaker? He’s not the villain,” Sarina snapped, frustration overtaking her. “We have to fly out of his aura. If you don’t want to do it, pass me the rifle. At least I know who to aim at.”

Magpie didn’t hand it over, but she tilted her head, eyes narrowing in consideration of Sarina’s face. “Lookie, the sugarbabe is growing a spine.”

“Close your eyes,” Data said.

Sarina managed to raise her arm before the next flash of light seared into her eyelids. When the brilliance faded, she could see that Warbreaker had moved back into melee range with Hellion. The villain’s creatures stopped mowing down the crowd to turn their attention to Warbreaker instead. There had to be three dozen of them by now. It was easy to see that three shields and the oversized double wouldn’t be enough to hold them off.

“Warbreaker!” Sarina shouted. “Leave the city for a minute so we can handle this!”

Warbreaker’s white turban turned towards the sound of her voice, but he didn’t get the chance to respond. Several of Hellion’s creatures leaped from the crowd, driving him and the luminescent disc that carried him backward.

The ghostly double punched one of the attackers and sent it crashing to the ground. Three more of Hellion’s creatures jumped up, nimbly evading the glowing disc that swept down to intercept the bulk of them. The second disc cut through one of them, bisecting it. Another creature impaled by a quick thrust of Warbreaker’s spear, but the third clung to his leg and climbed up. It never got the chance to dig its claws into his costume.

Another flash of light lit up the area as Warbreaker changed position, blinding Sarina with its white brightness. The wind tore at her hair and clothes, threatening her balance. She heard a muttered curse from Magpie beside her, then Data’s voice came through the earbud.

“He stands no chance of winning. His projection is not very efficient, and he hardly uses the discs to attack. They might harm the crowd.”

We need him to retreat, but if he does, the crowd might turn on each other. She closed her eyes. Think. Solutions. Now that Warbreaker had moved a good distance away, the demon masked not-people began attacking the crowd again, and judging by the screams, their number was still growing. The awareness of all those deaths was sickening and turned her brain to jelly.

“Where is Rampage?” Sarina asked, suppressing the nausea in her gut.

“Nearby,” Magpie replied. “Saw him break through a window.”

Sarina rubbed at her stinging eyes, trying to hold the tears inside. She wasn’t crying. She wanted to scream in frustration at her inability to help, but she definitely wasn’t crying.

A shout came from below, in heavily accented English. “You come fight me?”

Sarina glanced in that direction, still unable to see much beyond dancing spots of white light. She’d already seen that the monsters couldn’t fly. Hopefully the same was true for the demon-masked villain.

Now that they had drawn the villain’s attention, Data reacted, speeding the drone up. Moving them out of sight, Sarina assumed. It was too late. Hellion’s power hit her like a wave of summer heat, rippling across her body and mind and making the hairs on her neck stand up. For a fraction of a second, her anger and frustration grew into a red-hot fireball, and she wanted nothing more than to put her hands around Magpie’s neck.

Then another effect kicked in and suppressed the first. The rage was diminished to a flicker at the back of her mind, not powerful enough to influence her actions, but persistent. Even after they had rounded a corner and taken cover behind a building, she could still feel its effect on her pulse.

“Oh shit,” Magpie said. “You feel that?”

“Did he hit you with his power?” Data asked through the earbud, sounding concerned for the first time.

The other woman scowled. “You could say that. Warbreaker’s aura is keeping me sane. Barely. Now you better warn the boss that we’ll need the Revoker, and get us out.”

Coward. It wasn’t the first time the thought crossed Sarina’s mind, but this time it shot through her like a bolt of lightning, powerful and angry.

“Shut up,” Sarina snapped. “We haven’t accomplished anything. Data. Can Drifter swap Hellion out?”

“Only after a power zero shot. We can’t put our base at risk.”

“Then Magpie traps the monsters with her power. Like the group we found right after we arrived.”

“Too many. Too agile. Not gonna work,” Magpie replied.

Another flash of white light illuminated the area, and the wind stirred some trash on the road below – leftovers from previous acts of vandalism.

“Seems Warbreaker moved back into the fray,” Sarina said. “Data. Move us right above him. Then we drag him off. Darkshaper and Lightshaper powers cancel each other out, right?”

Something flashed in Magpie’s dark eyes. Understanding, maybe. Or agreement.

“…that could actually work. But holy shit, Dancer, if I suppress his power by accident, I swear I’m going to kill you. Hellion’s still in there somewhere.” Magpie curled a finger towards the shaven right side of her head.

Maybe I’d kill you first. Sarina shrugged the thought off, focusing her mind on the problem at hand. Hellion. Warbreaker. The permanently active peace aura that prevented Magpie from pumping the villain full of Power Zero.

“We’re going to try it,” Data said after a moment. “Drifter is positive he’d swap one of you out before anyone dies. I’ll give Rampage instructions to provide a distraction.”

And with that, the disc set in motion again, taking them around the building and back to a position above the battlefield. Like before, the creatures – more than half a hundred of them – had turned their attention to Warbreaker, who kept his distance to take a third of them out with his flitting, whirling discs. Sarina spotted Rampage’s bright red bodysuit as he jumped out of the crowd and crashed into the bulk of demon-masked attackers, scattering some of them.

She briefly wondered about the sudden change of mind. Only a few minutes ago, Rampage hadn’t been keen to play hero. At all.

Data’s disc stopped a few meters above the Lightshaper, who didn’t seem to notice them. The coordination of his double and the two glowing discs took up all of his attention. He gradually drifted backward in an attempt to avoid contact with the creatures for as long as possible.

Magpie released tendrils of darkness that cascaded downward, seeking something to hold on to. Sarina peered down over the drone’s rim to see the bands of shadow weave themselves around Warbreaker’s limbs. He yelped in surprise, and she felt a little sorry for him. He didn’t seem injured, but it was hard to tell through the sheer mass of solid darkness that covered most of his body. His mewling protest was muffled, barely audible.

As the shadows solidified, the Lightshaper’s luminescent double flickered and went out, along with the three glowing discs. The parts of his body that were still visible through the web of darkness glowed white. The light was feeble compared to the previously blinding flashes, and no wind came.

He can’t relocate, she realized. Her pulse kicked up in excitement. It’s working.

“The range of his aura is shrinking,” Data informed through the earbud.

By now, the leaping creatures had almost reached the mass of solid darkness that extended down from Magpie and the floating disc. The drone jerked into motion to accelerate towards the silhouette of a still intact business district to the east. Warbreaker hung a few meters beneath the metal disc, hopelessly entangled and suspended in midair. Sarina gripped the drone’s rim to keep her balance as the air rushed past her face, her hair fluttering behind her.

She didn’t need to ask about the peace aura. The thunderous roar of a thousand voices crying out in rage was answer enough.

She hoped Rampage was okay.

“Peace aura is down to a few meters,” Data informed them. “Magpie. Vantage point. Take aim before you lose Warbreaker’s effect.”

The drone slowed down and stopped beside one of the tall stone pillars that surrounded a cone-shaped temple. Without wasting breath on another word, Magpie detached herself from the web of darkness, then stepped off the floating disc and took position atop the pillar. She quickly adjusted the scope of her rifle and took aim at the writhing mass of people.

“Got aim. Go,” Magpie said.

Data’s disc lurched up and away from the pillar, the entangled hero still struggling beneath it. The shot came seconds later.

The screams of rage from below were replaced by cries of fear and panic, and the mob was beginning to scatter into all directions. Weapons were dropped to the ground. Some people simply collapsed, others made a beeline for the nearest cover, trampling over anything and anyone in their path.

“Is Hellion down?” Sarina asked, her eyes desperately scanning the area for any hint that the threat had ended and the city was safe.

Instead, she discovered that Hellion’s creatures hadn’t died. They were still very active, taking down anyone who couldn’t run fast enough to evade their long claws.

A wave of nausea washed over her, and the previous excitement was gone. She clenched her teeth to keep herself from crying out in frustration. This was supposed to be over.

Despite the surge of negative emotions, she still couldn’t grasp her power.

“Yes. The Covenant has sent drones and will pick him up in approximately thirty minutes. Rampage will kill any of the creatures he can find.”

“Wait. Since when do you know the Athena’s drones are on the way?” Sarina’s brow furrowed. She was feeling too frustrated and exhausted to make sense of it all, but somehow about this didn’t seem right. Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it sooner?

“Since a couple of hours,” Magpie said. The drone had drifted back towards her, and she stepped off the top of the top of the pillar, back onto the disc.

“Athena didn’t have urban combat drones stationed nearby,” Data declared. “They’re flying over from Australia.”

“And how do you know where the Covenant’s drones are stationed?”

“I’m the Ghost in the Machine,” Data replied, sounding amused.

“Okay. Whatever. We have to go help Rampage,” Sarina said. “If you haven’t noticed, people are still dying.”

Magpie peered down at the shadow web and the captured rogue who continued to struggle against it. “Sure,” she said. “And let’s find someplace to drop our passenger.”

Sarina spotted a glimpse of Rampage’s bodysuit among half a dozen of the demon-masked creatures, and the drone floated towards him. Magpie had prepared another shot when something sliced through the air above them.

Sarina didn’t hear the bang of Magpie’s rifle going off. Something cold and heavy knocked her down, then her surroundings dissolved, and she was yanked away.

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3 thoughts on “8.4 Shelter

  1. Okay, I have a feeling this one’s terrible, and I’d like to apologize. This was the most difficult chapter I’ve ever written. I started it with severe writer’s block, which took me two weeks of painfully slow 500 word progress to overcome. My buffer saved me, there.

    The editing took about 15 hours instead of the usual 5-8, as well, and I still don’t think it turned out right. All in all, I probably sank about 45 hours into this thing.

    It’s not the chapter I wanted to write, but here it is. If you’d like to honor the effort regardless, please consider voting to help me gain new readers: http://topwebfiction.com/?for=anathema

    • I thought it was okay, but yeah its sub-par compared to the stuff you’ve been writing recently.

      I have no suggestions for making it better.

      If I got this right, Dancer can feel emotions and death to a small degree?

      • Thanks for commenting. Maybe you can help me understand what made it sub-par compared to other chapters? Again, please don’t ever be afraid if commenting with criticism. It’s a big part of the reason I’m posting this online – so I can understand my flaws as a writer and improve.

        I don’t have a proofreader for content anymore, only for grammar. That could be part of it.

        As for the question about Dancer – no, that wasn’t intended. I’ll make some edits to clarify.

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