Avalanche – Snippet 02
John thought for a few moments. “Me. You. Us. All of this.” Effortlessly, he called flame to the arm that was wrapped around her; he already knew that their fires could never hurt each other. The ease with which he could call his fires, now, and keep them going…before, control had been his biggest issue. He had learned breathing exercises, even meditation, to keep his fires from going nova on him; every time he had decided to use his flames before his…transformation, he had needed immense concentration to prevent the fire from ramping up and going wild, like it had when he had escaped from the Facility. He’d been close to losing it like that a few times; if it hadn’t been for Vickie, he would have probably unintentionally cooked his friends and teammates alive by accident a couple of those times. “It’s a lot to deal with. That, and the…other stuff. The futures, our battle-sense, feeling things and being able to just ’bout read people’s thoughts…I don’t know how you did it all on your own.”
To his relief, she laughed a little. “Because I was not human, beloved. I could not handle it alone, now.”
“Well, there is that, I suppose.” He shook his head. “Still. How are we goin’ to deal with it now? I mean…what can we do with all of this power? It’s makin’ my head spin, if’n I’m bein’ honest.”
Her brows creased, as she thought, and there was some uncertainty in her voice. “I moderate what you can do. I am the–the gauge through which the power flows. Vickie was right, we have mapped the limits of our abilities, there at Ultima Thule. That is as much as we can bear; attempts to manipulate more will…not end well.” She offered a tentative attempt at a smile. “I sense this does not comfort you.”
He shrugged, pecking her on the cheek. “It was a good try.” He sighed heavily. “I figure we’ll just have to play it by ear. Bein’ mere mortals, we’ll do the best that we can.”
They could hear Vickie talking in the next room, but not what she was saying; she was probably on Private mode to Bella or Nat or one of the other ECHO or CCCP leads that were in Metis. Grey was nowhere in sight, which meant he was probably sitting on one of Vickie’s desks, kibbitzing. Herb was toddling across the floor with one of Vickie’s meals-in-a-can; John could swear it looked like the little rockman was bigger every time he saw him. How do you grow a pet rock?
There wasn’t much of a view out the window; the living-room window looked directly into the canopy of a huge live-oak tree. The tree’s proximity made coming in that way–at least for JM and Sera–a bit of a trick. It was a rare moment of peace, although John mistrusted it for that very reason. They were playing bodyguard on Vickie for a reason, after all. Just because her role as creator and implementer of Overwatch 2 was only known by a handful of people, it was a bigger handful than John liked. So far as he was concerned they were long past the critical mass it would take for the secret to somehow leak. Three people could keep a secret if two of them were dead, as the old saying went; sometimes, he thought even that was too many, with some secrets.
The danger to Vickie wasn’t just from supposed “allies” or other interested parties. The Thulians–including at least Ubermensch and Valkyria–that got away from Ultima Thule were at the top of the list. They–and the huge techno-dragon that they rode out on–were still very much a threat. Taking out Vickie would, despite the backups and contingencies that she had in place, be a huge blow for the global resistance against the Kriegers; one that they couldn’t afford to risk.
“Y’know, it’s ’bout time to start thinkin’ ’bout dinner. Vickie has those god-awful canned meals–havin’ eaten my fair share, I know how bad they can be–but I figure we need some real chow. What’re you feelin’ like, darlin’?” If they couldn’t decide, there was always little Thea; she always had something on the stove, hot and ready to be ladled out to hungry comrades after a shift.
“Is there a food truck near?” she asked, with a note of longing. He chuckled. Atlanta had some very good food trucks, still running despite shortages and the odd Thulian- or gang-attack, and John had gotten Sera addicted to the variety.
“I’ll ask Over–” he began. Then–
–it felt like a bomb went off inside of his skull, while a dozen sledge-hammers were pounding it in from the outside. Almost at the same time, he and Sera were both on the floor, frozen; he could barely see Sera’s face, and her eyes were almost completely rolled up in their sockets. He felt his own vision go dark, then stark white as something shot in like a lightning bolt through the pain. Dimly, he heard Vickie yelling–not at him or at Sera, but into her Overwatch gear.
He knew–though he didn’t know how–that it wasn’t a dream, or a hallucination, but a vision of something that was actually happening, right then.
Fire. Screaming and death. Explosions and people being crushed by falling rubble. Actinic beams of energy and the thunderous stomp of thousands of armored boots. And, finally, a gigantic dragon, roaring and glaring hatefully at everything below it.
Metis was falling, and there was nothing that they could do about it.
When he and Sera came to, again almost at the exact same time, he first noticed that his fingernails had dug deep, red furrows into his palms, and his jaw was sore; he must have been clenching it or grinding his teeth. Their cups of tea had shattered when they had hit the floor, and the couch had been kicked away; either by him or Sera, he didn’t know, but it was now very misshapen and piled against the far wall.
“Johnny! Sera!” Vickie was shouting, not via his Overwatch rig, but physically from the other room. “Are you OK?” Without waiting for an answer she continued. “The Thulians found Metis, and things just went nuclear FUBAR.”
It took John a few seconds to form words. It felt like his tongue couldn’t find purchase in his mouth, and he kept slurring and mumbling. He could see–and feel–Sera struggling just as he was. “We–we’re fine, Vickie. We’re feeling it happen.” John, much more slowly than he would have liked, pulled himself to his feet. He swayed for a moment, thinking he was going to pass out; it was like his blood pressure had just taken a dive, and he felt lightheaded. Then it passed, and he was steady again. He helped Sera to her feet; once he was sure that she was okay, they both started towards Vickie’s workroom. “We saw it, Vic. This isn’t just an attack; it’s extermination. They need to get as many people out as possible, and goddamned fast.”
“On it,” she shouted tersely. They had staggered to the door of her Overwatch suite; there were camera feeds from Bella, Bull, Ramona, Pride, Nat, and Moji.
“Is there any lala angel way you guys can get there?” she asked through gritted teeth, as her fingers flew over her keyboard.
“Darlin’?” John looked to Sera. Even with how fast they could fly–which was pretty goddamned fast, all things considered–it’d still take them hours to get to Metis. Hours that Metis didn’t have. They both realized this, and Sera confirmed it when she shook her head gravely. “Negative, comrade. Unless you’ve got some sorta rabbit you can pull out of your hat and get us there like you got us outta the Himalayas, we’re not gettin’ to Metis before the show is over.”
“Futu-i!” she swore. “No, there’s no landing pad and no time for anyone to put one down for me. They need you! I–”
“Hey! You ain’t wrong. But! They also need us here. Covering you, so you can cover them. That’s our job right now, and it’s the one we’re in a position to do. We don’t know what else these shifty bastards have up their sleeves; if they start strikin’ anywhere else, we need to be ready to pounce on that shit. So keep on keepin’ on, comrade. Alright?” John didn’t mean to use the Command Voice, but it sort of came through. They needed Vickie to do what she did best, now more than ever. If she was distracted, it could mean someone died. Maybe a lot of someones. People they knew. People they all loved. And, as much as it hurt him to put it before all of that, people that mattered to the future.
She nodded curtly, and kept her eyes on the monitors, her hands flying over the keyboard, muttering into her own microphone.