Scene 23 – October 22nd
Interior MLED Compound, Late Evening
I tried my best to stifle a yawn as I leaned back in my chair in the common room. “Any news yet?”
There was a sigh from the console room. “No, Abe, we still haven’t heard or seen anything from Legion,” Ben said through the speaker.
“Maybe she’s left town,” Vulcan suggested, sounding almost as tired as me. The two of us had been on call for the last two days – me as the most experienced at fighting Legion, him as the only one immune to her absorption. After three and seven years as heroes, respectively, neither of us were strangers to long nights, but it was still tiring. Simone, being a Journeymen, wasn’t permitted to be on call for this long and was at home sleeping – lucky kid.
“We have no reason to think that, unfortunately,” I said before taking a sip of coffee. “We know of one thing that she was after, but we’ve sighted at least three bodies. That means, minimum, three objectives.” Vulcan let out a heavy sigh, and I reached up to pat him on the shoulder. “Chin up, kid – Aegis is still on track to be available tomorrow, so it’s only one more night no matter what happens.”
He nodded at that. “You’re right, sir. Just one more night.” The young man offered a tentative smile. “Could be worse, I suppose.”
“Goddamn it-” I began, but was interrupted by Starling’s voice from the console room.
“We’ve got a firefight on the north edge of town,” he informed us. “Buff Boy territory – looks like Legion decided to exit that way and they took exception without realizing just who they were pissing off.”
Vulcan began shrugging his shirt off as I pulled my cowl over my head. “How many of her are there?”
“Unclear. However many there are, she’s in full monster mode – much farther than she went when you ran into her, Abe.”
“Fuck.” I glanced at Vulcan. He moved surprisingly fast considering his size, but his weight kept him from being able to travel rooftops, which was a necessity for quick travel in New Venice. It would take him a while to get to the north edge. Simone was recharging her teleportation distance today and would be somewhere in Oregon right now – while she could be back in a moment’s notice, it would use up all of that distance, which was rather pointless.
“You go ahead,” Vulcan suggested. “I’ll catch up.”
“I can’t do much against her on my own, unfortunately – Sunday proved that. I can hold my own, but I can’t stop her from leaving whenever she wants.”
“Zookeeper has suggested that she can come and assist you, Canaveral,” said Starling. Emilia was on patrol right now, and her falcon form was fast enough to be anywhere in the city in a matter of minutes. “She believes that her control over her own shape might trump Legion’s ability to absorb her.”
This was my least favorite part of being a leader. I was constantly making calls that sent my best friends, and in this case my girlfriend, into danger. If I had the choice, I would wrap her in cotton and protect her from the world, shield her from everything I could – but I couldn’t make that choice, not when she was right. Not to mention that she wouldn’t want me to even if I expressed it. “Send her ahead,” I told Starling. “I’ll be with her in a matter of minutes.”
Scene 24 – October 22nd
Exterior City, Late Evening
I got to the site of the battle only a few minutes later, as promised, after having moved as fast or faster than I ever had. I barely paused to take in the scene as I arrived – Legion was, as Ben had said, in full monster mode, while Emilia was presently in the shape of a panther, landing on Legion’s face after a leap, then bounding off again along with a few scraps of flesh. The panther shrank into a falcon just in time to make a tight turn and avoid a large tentacle that had struck out at her.
Legion’s combat form was always a little different, but there were some commonalities whenever she decided to take a battle seriously, as she hadn’t done with me on my own. She always looked something like a mixture between an bear and an octopus – thick fur covered her as a kind of armor and every limb was tipped with razor-sharp claws, and there were far too many of those limbs, moving in ways that were unnatural for anything with bones. She usually had multiple heads, but today it seemed that she had decided to use extra eyes without growing additional heads – her head had a ring of bulbous eyes at the level of her brow almost like a crown, and a set of massive jaws occupied the entire region that should have been a face.
It was disconcerting, to say the least.
Emilia landed on my shoulder and briefly took the shape of a parrot to speak to me, saying, “I can keep distracting her for a little longer – get these gangsters out of the way before she eats them!” Then she was off again, shifting back into the falcon to approach at high speed, dodging and weaving around Legion’s limbs to keep herself from being struck.
As usual, she was right. There were around two dozen thugs lying around in various conditions – most unconscious, some just lying there and moaning. There were even a few that seemed to have had a chance to take brawn, as they were unhurt and their gold-tinged skin was still faintly steaming. Even they were holding back, though, showing a surprising amount of sense for members of the Buff Boys.
I sauntered up to a pair of the juiced-up thugs – a muscular Asian man of about my height, and a similarly well-built white woman a few inches shorter – trying to maintain as casual an air as I could while still watching the battle out of the corner of my eye. “Steering clear of the battle?” I asked.
The man glanced at me. “We’re no fools,” he said in a deep voice with a faint accent – Chinese, I thought. “We would have no chance against a monster like that.”
The woman nodded. “We’re just watching until Rube shows up,” she said.
“It certainly is a spectacle,” I agreed. “I can’t just stand around and watch, though – I have to get all of your friends here clear as well.” I gestured to the groaning and unconscious bodies that littered the street – hopefully no one was dead, but it remained to be seen. “Maybe you could lend a hand?”
They gave each other a look, then shrugged simultaneously. “I suppose the boss might be annoyed if we didn’t,” the woman admitted. “Alright.”
“Speaking of your boss,” I asked before they walked away, “you wouldn’t happen to know why there was no one fun at last week’s engagement, would you?”
“…fun?” the man said.
“Metas,” the woman guessed. “It was on Brewer’s word – she said nothing would go wrong with those buyers. Shows what she knows. Ridealong’s kind of pissed at himself right now for listening to a newbie.”
“More pissed at her,” the other thug commented.
“The MLED thanks you for your information,” I said with a grin, splitting off to start pulling bodies away from Legion.
A few minutes later, I and the BB thugs that had stayed away from Legion had gotten all of their fallen comrades out of danger. The shapeshifting villain, meanwhile, had abandoned much of the mass she’d brought with her, leaving it as a tree rooted into the ground, in favor of taking to the air after Zookeeper. My girlfriend was, thankfully, managing to stay ahead of her – while Legion was a far larger bird at the moment and would deal massive damage if she caught Emilia, Emilia was taking more maneuverable shapes.
It was one of the things that my girlfriend had over the other shapeshifter, in my completely unbiased opinion. Zookeeper’s power was limited to actual animals, while Legion could take on any form that she could imagine – but Emilia wasn’t limited by mass. No matter what form Legion took, in order to remain herself – whatever that meant for a woman who could duplicate herself as much as she wanted – she had to retain her human brain. That meant a pretty sizable bird, one which couldn’t make sharp turns all too easily. Emilia’s power, on the other hand, didn’t care one wit about mass – she could become an elephant as easily as an ant.
Speaking of brains… last time I had run into her I hadn’t been able to figure out where Legion was keeping her brain. The head was the first guess, but I hadn’t struck it in my attempts to attack her body, either. With the bird shape she currently wore, however, I could clearly see where the brain had to be. If I could strike her there…
It would definitely draw her attention, though. “Hey guys,” I said to the two thugs that had helped me clear the field, “I’m gonna do something stupid and draw Legion’s attention.”
“Who the hell is Legion?” the woman asked.
“Anyway, you two had better get off the field too. You don’t want to be anywhere near whoever she’s mad at.”
“That’s a she?” said the guy, staring.
“…yes.” I gave them a gentle shove. “Now get going.”
They backed off, but not very far.
…eh, close enough. I took half a second to look for a convenient weapon – a manhole cover or piece of rubble of around the right size would be ideal – but didn’t see any. Instead, I stomped, twisting energies as I did, and with a loud crack, a chunk of the pavement came loose – another momentary exertion sent it to my hand. The piece of pavement, I noted with pleasure, had come loose perfectly shaped for my purposes. I reeled back and hurled it at Legion’s head, twisting with my power to give it a force more appropriate to an oncoming train.
Despite its speed, Legion’s unnatural-looking bird form twisted in midair and avoided it. That goddamn…
I winced as my projectile struck the building that had been behind her – that was poorly thought out. I was usually better about compensating for whatever was behind my target.
The building shuddered for a moment, one of the windows cracked, then a large portion of its roof began breaking off with a loud rumble. It came down in pieces right on both Legion and Emilia.
My heart stopped as dust rose – the fall had been too unexpected and too fast for me to react to – Emilia, having been engaged in life-or-death combat with a supervillain, had surely been caught in it. This was all my fault, I had hurt or killed the woman I-
I blinked in surprise as the dust began to settle. A falcon was lying on its back on a pile of rubble, seeming somewhat stunned but unharmed. A moment later a familiar-looking trenchcoat, launched into the air by the impact of the collapse, drifted down over it. She was okay!
The cloth shifted, and a moment later Emilia stood in human form once more, tying her coat closed to cover herself. She reached into a pocket and produced a domino mask which she slipped on. “That was lucky,” she noted as she began to make her way down the pile. “I think that Legion is somewhere underneath… all of that.” She gestured vaguely at the pile.
“I’m so glad you’re alright!” I cried, rushing to meet her and pulling her close. I remembered just in time that we had agreed not to make our relationship public until we had been together for at least a year, and restrained myself to only a hug – even so, she pressed a brief kiss to my neck as she sank into my arms. “You’re not hurt, are you?”
“No, I’m okay,” she assured me. “Like I said, I was lucky.”
“You’re welcome!” came a cheerful voice from behind us. I released Emilia and turned to see the smiling face of Rube, the Buff Boy’s enforcer, considered by the MLED to be the second most dangerous villain in New Venice.