Avalanche – Snippet 23
“I’m not talkin’ ’bout how y’all showed up at places. I’m talkin’ ’bout how y’all got around once you were on site.”
“We protected ourselves with a sheath of power, and it…made us slippery. We could go as fast as we willed.”
John grinned lopsidedly. “Worth a shot, ain’t it? Better than showin’ up late to the party.”
“We must do something,” she agreed. “And we must do it now!”
John started towards Vickie’s balcony, calling over his shoulder as he half-jogged. “Vic, make sure the civvies are evac’d if you haven’t already. We’re tryin’ somethin’ new.” The couple stood shoulder to shoulder on the balcony railing; it was their customary launching and landing spot for Vickie’s flat. John looked over to Sera, shrugging. “Only one way to find out if this is goin’ to work,” he said. With a thought, his boots became sheathed in Celestial fire. He let the fire build for a moment, directing it downwards, and then he lifted off from the balcony. After a few scorched curtains and singed carpets, John had learned to take off gently and get into the air before turning on the “afterburners”. Meanwhile, Vickie had put up metal shutters instead of curtains on that window. It occurred to John that she must have an unusually tolerant landlord.
Sera merely gathered herself and leapt onto the wind, snapping her wings wide at the top of her arc and joining him with a pair of powerful wingbeats.
Alright, darlin’. This is my first time with this sort of thing. You’ll have to walk me through it. He could have used the Overwatch system to talk with her, even over the screaming wind, but for non-mission critical communication, it was faster and easier for him to speak with her over their connection. It just had more…nuance than regular speech did. And this time it would probably not have been possible to verbally describe what it was she wanted him to do. She had to show him, but also had to allow him to experience how the process felt. It was one part instinct, one part visceral, and one part verbal. John had realized some time ago that this was more like how the Siblings themselves communicated with their Song, though the way they spoke mind to mind, soul to soul, was still unique to Sera and himself.
Sera began to “explain” how it was done…and it felt like remembering and learning at the same time. Something he was experiencing for the first time and coming back to like an old hand. There was memory; not John’s, but Sera’s. His ability to fly with the fire was but a small part of it that he had discovered on his own, through desperation and his love for Sera, to save her when she had been kidnapped. This was an expansion of that power. The realization of it. It happened suddenly. One moment, John was abreast with Sera, concentrating on what she was helping him to learn. He focused the energy in front of himself, and then let it flow over him like magma in a perfect sheath that covered him from head to toe. Then he fed more Celestial energy into the sheath—
—and he rocketed up and away, accelerating like something launched out of the Cape. Within moments he had left Sera behind.
“Holy SHIT!” He didn’t feel the wind on his face anymore; normally it would have pulled the skin back from his skull and pressed the goggles deep into his eye-sockets, but now it was nonexistent. He felt a moment of vertigo and nausea as he watched the countryside below streak by almost at a blur; he wasn’t very high, only about a thousand feet off the ground, so everything was passing very quickly.
Do not falter and do not wait for me, beloved! Go, go, go!
John didn’t hesitate. He immediately poured more energy into the fires. The sheath of Celestial fire around him shimmered for a moment, and he realized that he had broken the sound barrier as a vapor cloud formed and was quickly left in his wake. There was an upper limit to how fast he could go; even with the Celestial energy, he was only a metahuman, and wasn’t made of the sterner stuff that the Siblings were. Still, he pushed as far as he could, willing himself to go faster.
Wouldn’t want to be anyone with windows down there.
It took John’s HUD a couple of seconds to re-calibrate to the speed he was travelling at.
Vickie got it first. “Holy freaking shit, Johnny!”
“That’s what I said,” he responded.
“You’re–Congrats. You just broke the sound barrier. We’ll be paying for windows…”
“Time for trophies and lawsuits later. ETA for the attack site?”
“About 3 minutes.”
“…holy shit. Again.” He paused for a moment. “Sera’s trailing behind me by a good bit. I’m solo on this, damnit.”
“I’ll try and spot for you.”
“What’s the situation on the civvies?”
“Basement. No time for them to go anywhere else. I’ve got verbal confirmation that no one’s missing anyway, because, kids.”
“Standard protocol, spot ’em out for me. Goin’ to try to put myself between them and the Spheres. Any sightin’s of ground armor? Wolves, troopers?”
“I think this is strictly a Blitzkrieg op. All air.”
“Good. Not my specialty, though.” He really wished Sera was there with him. Everything had happened so fast, he hadn’t had the time to figure out how to bring her along with him. That was how their connection worked; information dump, instantly shared and understood. Normally it was a blessing, but he desperately wanted her by his side right now. Something felt off.
It is the battle sense. We are too far apart. You must dance alone, beloved. And memories of Sera’s “dance” above a small Georgia town flooded through him.
….she danced, and the first ship that she danced with came at her with newly-hardened tentacles reaching with inhuman speed, and energy cannon seeking to lock onto her….she landed, a cascade of fire waterfalled from her down the sides of the ship–a white-hot waterfall that fused the portals for the weapons shut, and blinded the ship, a torrent of plasma that was so hot and fierce that it did so and dissipated without cooking the crew inside….her fire-wings buffeted the next ship, destroying the sensors an instant after blinding the crew….
There wasn’t enough time. John was already over the campus. Everything on the western half of the grounds had been leveled, completely. There were two lines of Death Spheres; the first used mechanical tentacles and energy cannons to rip apart and raze buildings. The second line bathed the ruins in showers of thermite, to make sure that any survivors were dead. Through his HUD overlay, he saw that the students and faculty had moved to the easternmost buildings, fleeing the Death Spheres. There were basements on that side; some of them converted into Civil Defense shelters, others just storage rooms or engineering rooms for the HVAC systems. The advancing line of Thulians had almost reached the buildings where the civilians were hiding.
John did the only thing he could think to do. He flew straight down, interposing himself in front of the lead Death Sphere, just as Sera had, back then. The speeds he flew at were dizzying, but his enhancements—already ramped up—helped his reaction time. That, combined with the energy sheath, protected him from the sudden deceleration and prevented him from slamming into the ground. He hovered there for a moment, appraising the attackers. The two lines of Thulians came to a halt in the air, brought up short. They clearly hadn’t been expecting metahuman resistance.
I wonder if these bastards know about me and Sera? Did they take footage of their own at Ultima Thule? Were they there? A sudden hateful glee rose in his chest. Are they pissing themselves, right now? These sons of bitches who would attack children?
After another moment of hesitation, the muzzles for the energy cannons on the front line of Death Spheres swung toward John. He tried to reach through the Futures, and realized with sickening clarity that he couldn’t; Sera was still too far away. He was back to his own powers, now; his enhancements, and the Celestial fire, without the benefit of being able to predict where the enemy would strike.
Dance, beloved! Dance!
“Watch your HUD JM! 8-Ball’s sending you predictive trajectories!”