Scene 21 – June 19th
Exterior April Park, Evening
“They’re almost here,” Viv said as we stood in the park, Percy glaring at bystanders to keep them well away. “I’ll let her know it’s time to send the manifesto.” This time, she had a hidden pocket in her armor to carry her phone – she slipping it free and sent off a pre-written text message before replacing it.
“Good,” Percy said, crossing his arms. “I’ve been looking forward to getting a second crack at these fuckers.”
Tristan glared at him. “They aren’t fuckers!” he snapped. “They don’t know about the whole situation anymore than we did last year!”
“They work for a corrupt system,” Percy countered, “that makes them just as bad.”
“Not the time, kids,” mom said soothingly, nodding to where the Journeymen were approaching. “Show a united face, please.”
We all turned to face the heroes, and Viv raised an eyebrow. “No illusions, Loki?” she asked, with a faint note of uncertainty that I doubted anyone but me could detect in her voice.
“No point trying to hide things when you can see through them,” he pointed out. “This leaves me more concentration for…” A gesture caused a wall of fire to surround us, the sudden heat causing me to step back in surprise.
“Thought you would remember…” Viv began, then started rattling off a spell. Her words of magic were cut off halfway through, though, and the flames leapt higher, another rush of heat causing us to flinch back.
“Thought you would remember,” Loki shot back, “I know you need to speak to use your magic.”
“And you need to concentrate to use yours,” I muttered, stomping my foot and channeling power into my cape. The ground rose up around Loki, and unlike Newton, he was unable to dodge in time, finding himself locked in place, the wall of flames faltering, just as Viv had predicted it would in our earlier planning sessions.
Loki glared at me. Sequoia, the wooden guy behind him who was built almost as heavily as me, began to break him free, roots growing from him into Loki’s earthen cage, even as it began to vibrate under the force of Loki’s magic.
Tristan shot forward, zooming towards Referee – his job, one he had come up with himself, was to get her out of the way. Viv had approved, saying that Referee was the one who had turned the tide last time – although since the Journeymen now lacked Newton and seemed to be without Journey herself as well, I thought we would have been able to handle them regardless.
He scooped her up, the redheaded girl squeaking in surprise as he ran, and a moment later they were gone. Good – he would keep her occupied.
In the meantime, Percy ran forward to tear Sequoia away from Loki, and mom went for Hypnos. I, on the other hand, continued to reinforce the stone I was building around Loki’s lower body.
He met my eyes, then his crinkled, as though he was smiling below his mask. “Found the frequency,” he taunted, and snapped his fingers. The instant he did, the stone around him shattered into sand.
“I can control sand too,” I said, and did just that, flying it in a cloud towards his face to try and blink him.
He blinked, apparently unbothered. “You should pay more attention to Acumen,” he said, and vanished.
I gaped. When had he gotten out? And how? I hadn’t even noticed! I glanced at Viv, who I belatedly realized had been trying to get my attention for a while, but with her rendered speechless I hadn’t noticed. “Um… sorry?”
She glared at me, then rolled her eyes and waved her hands. “Acumen, I didn’t take ASL, I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“She says that you’re an idiot,” Sequoia said, pulling me into an armlock. Viv nodded in agreement as the hero pushed me to my knees.
“You lost the moment Acumen was muted,” Loki said from wherever he was hiding, his voice echoing sourcelessly from around the park.
“Help me!” I growled at her, struggling against Sequoia. I took control of the metal of my armor to fight against him, pitting the force of my earthbending against his own magical muscle, and managed to escape by the skin of my teeth, stumbling away from him on my knees.
Viv crouched in front of me and gave me a patronizing smile. “Don’t you get it?” she said, but her voice was Loki’s. “You’ve already lost.”
I saw red. “GET AWAY FROM MY SISTER!” I roared, and reached for Excalibur.
Scene 22 – June 19th
Exterior April Park, Continuous
Everything had been going well – the plan I had laid out had worked perfectly. An instant after muting Dame Acumen, we had all scattered, and I had put down a set of illusions over each of them to replace what each was seeing and hearing. It had been tricky to monitor what they were each experiencing, but the separation had been worth it.
Sir Alacrity had gone down quick – he had rushed after where he thought Referee was, and been tripped and bound by Hypnos. Acumen was next – she was about to pull Amethyst out of the illusion, but Sequoia had made it to her in time to encase her in magical wood.
Dame Adamant went easily, Referee stepping up behind her unnoticed and pulling the woman into a submission hold, and Ardent was the closest to causing a problem – he was more cautious than the others, and hadn’t seemed to trust what he was seeing – perhaps he had figured out that with Acumen unable to call out my illusions, there was no way to know what was real or not. Still, Hypnos and Sequoia had made short work of him, especially as I bent his perceptions to distract and confuse him.
It had seemed to be working on Amethyst, too – he had been occupied by trying to keep ‘me’ contained while we dealt with his teammates. Sequoia had tried to get at him, but he was somehow able to fight back against the dryad’s strength, so I continued using Acumen’s image against him, hoping to convince him to surrender…
It backfired, badly.
He pulled out a golden-hilted dagger, which burned with light and shifted forms into a cruciform longsword and could only be Excalibur. Before we could respond, a flood of blazing violet fog poured from Amethyst and spread across the park, and farther still. My images shattered under the mystic weight of that mist, revealing the truth of things to him.
“Disarm him!” I shouted, shooting a concussive beam of sound at him, but he just raised Excalibur and blocked it. “As fast as possible!”
Sir Amethyst stepped forward, and tendrils of earth rose from the ground across the park, breaking Acumen free of her wooden cage, snapping Alacrity and Ardent’s bonds, and separating Referee from Adamant. “No,” he said flatly.
Referee rushed for him, obviously pushing her aura as far as it can go to get him in it and repeat the power-boost we had used against Anima when she had lost herself to the blade, but she was tackled out of the way by Sir Alacrity.
Sequoia and Hypnos tried next, a two-point attack, but the knight simply stomped his foot and Sequoia was encased in stone. Hypnos, likely guided by his precognition, was able to dodge the first cage, but the second caught him.
I slammed a concussive wave into the cage around Sequoia, weakening it enough that he began to break free himself. “We have to retreat!” I ordered.
“Amethyst, do it!” Dame Acumen called to him. “The message is sent and received, wall off the city!”
My head snapped to her. “Wall off the what-”
He raised Excalibur again.
Scene 23 – June 19th
Exterior Highway, Late Evening
We were silent for a few minutes as the van sped down the highway, the siren continuing to blare. It was faster to travel over rooftops in New Venice, which was known for how poorly-laid out its streets were, but until we reached city limits, a car was faster.
Eventually, Canaveral leaned forward, propping his chin up on an arm. “I didn’t encounter the Round Table personally,” he quietly said, “so I’m going to ask for, and trust, your assessment of them. How high of a threat rating should they get? Low, medium, or high?”
I thought about it. The MLED’s threat ratings were a loose guideline on how to respond to metahuman villains, based on how dangerous it was to fight them. A low rating meant that the villain either was incapable of seriously harming someone or actively avoided doing so, a medium rating meant that there was a risk of serious harm but that death was unlikely, and a high rating meant that serious harm was nearly a guarantee, and there was a high risk of death as well. Villains in New Venice tended to rank low, going all the way back to the Mountain King – we had only a few mid-level threats, and just one high threat villain, Rube. The Round Table had only been assigned a low rating, but it was clear that Canaveral feared that might be inaccurate.
“Low, I think,” I finally answered. “I’m pretty sure they were holding back, when they attacked the Compound, and no one got hurt. The worst injuries we got were Anima draining Loki when we tried to confront her. I think Loki concurs, since Journey said that they were going to go fight them.”
He sighed. “That’s good to hear. I don’t know how much attention you were paying to my talk with Emilia on the way here but…”
“I heard, and… I understand your fear, but I don’t think it’s the case,” I told him. “The impression I got from the Round Table is that they have some reason – I don’t know if it’s valid or not, but they clearly think so – to distrust either the DMO as a whole, the MLED specifically, maybe even just some specific aspect of it the MLED. If not for that, well… maybe they just wanted Excalibur for themselves, maybe not, but they did help us get to Anima – without them helping, we would have been swarmed by golems before we could get into the museum and talk her down. That’s worth something, don’t you think?”
He slowly nodded. “I suppose it is.”
More time passed as the van sped onward, overtaking cars and trucks as the agent ignored the speed limit. Before long we were approaching city limits.
“Newton…” Canaveral began,
“Do you think that there’s any possibility of convincing the Round Table to become heroes?”
I bit off my instinctive reaction of ‘hell no’ and tried to actually think about it. Was there a possibility? I supposed anything was possible. But was it likely?
“I think…” I slowly said, “that if they wanted to be heroes, they would be. Even if they didn’t trust the MLED, they could act as vigilantes – it’s technically illegal, but there are loopholes in those laws big enough to drive this van through, as long as they were doing good. But they’re not doing that – they aren’t going on patrol or taking on villains.” I shook my head. “Anything’s possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. You once told me that people should only become heroes if they actually want to – and I don’t think they do.”
“Then I think I know how we should-”
He was cut off by the van suddenly screeching to a halt, nearly going into a tailspin before the agent regained control and stopped it behind several other cars, several of them crashed into each other and smoking.
“FUCK!” I swore as I was jerked to the side, the seatbelt catching me painfully before I left my seat. I instinctively reached out with my presence to hold myself safely in place, holding Canaveral and the driver in a loose telekinetic grip as well. “What the hell?”
Canaveral slipped out of his own seat, his own kinetic powers allowing him to brush aside my loose grip as he moved to get a better look out the windshield. “What on earth is that?”
I looked outside and saw what had brought the highway to a standstill – a metallic wall climbing upward from the ground, the material spinning itself out of midair in a fractal pattern of latticework. It had already passed the height of the nearest buildings and seemed to be curving inward, rapidly forming a dome that covered the whole city.
“…I think the Round Table’s threat rating may need to be revised.”
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