Hungry Like The Wolf

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Counterattack by Belladonna Aura (Saturday, April 08, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: A Gate Too Far by Waitron9000 (Sunday, April 09, 2006)

(posted Sunday, April 09, 2006)

This wasn't fun. Tight quarters, low ceiling, and plenty of side tunnels for an attack to come from at any moment. Seraphic Flame's fires ramped up to their maximum intensity had burned away most of the sewer water in the immediate vicinity. Flash-boiled, it'd turned things even more humid, the stink now cloyingly thick in the back of everyone's throat. The first Council had been right around a corner, almost a full block away from where the sewer exited into the CCCP HQ's basement. Caught by surprise, the fighting had been--hell, it still was--intense, with the heroes working desperately to create some breathing room. It was a chore to keep from hitting each other, as well; they were intermixed with the Council pretty heavily.

Their attackers were War Wolves and Equinox vampires, almost exclusively. The dank, depressing surroundings suited their temperaments well.

It was a very good thing they had Communard and Thea on this team. Both of them gave some protection from the mind-blasts of the vampires. Red was particularly vulnerable to those.

The trouble was, he kept straying out of the protective fields, and Vickie, who also had some ability to uncloud hypnotized minds, was having to divide her attention in four directions. Induce geomantic shockwaves to knock all the Council off their feet, freeze the worst of the wolves in sheathes of stone, heal everyone that Cagey Bee couldn't reach with his healing auras, and un-mezz anyone who strayed out of the shadow-stuff Thea and Comm called up. Because the vamps were thick in here. As thick as the miasma. And getting thicker.

And that wasn't getting them any closer to the basement.

"Command, this is sewer team...we've run into some roadblocks..." Mojiotok was cursing under his breath, pacing as he listened to the comm chatter. Without the sewer team to clear the basement near the porters, his team would probably be walking right into a merry band of fascist scum. He shook his head; action was needed now, and he'd make sure that the CCCP provided it. "Comrades, we are leavink now. Through the portals!" He charged ahead of the other fourteen heroes, his barbed spines bursting from his suit. Moj believed that a sturdy leader was always the first into battle, and the last to leave; now he was going to exemplify that ideal.

The backdrop of the roof behind the base portal atop the PCPD vanished as he crossed the threshold...and he was engulfed in darkness. He stayed low, moving to the first cover he could see; overturned storage crates. His eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness. The hazard zone portal room was clear of any Council presence. The rest of the team came through moments later, taking positions around the room. Beyond the door, the sounds of fighting echoed throughout the base. Hopefully, the majority of the Council forces would be occupied keeping the entrances secured.

Using hand signals that had been worked out during the planning phase, Mojiotok gained the attention of Unter and Bestial Boy, issuing them orders. Both of them nodded, acknowledging the commands. Zach began exuding his murky essence, refracting the already sparse light to become effectively invisible. He was the first out the door, followed by the rest of his portion of the team. Two clicks came over their team channel; the next room was clear.

Moj and Untermensch advanced together, their team elements trailing behind and fanning out once in the room. It was the workshop; several of the machines had been toppled, with gadgets, tools, and components scattered on the floor. There were also two very unlucky Council soldiers crumpled on the basement floor; they soon faded from view as the Longbow teleportation tags kicked in.

"Commissar Mojiotok, here." It was Agn. He was standing near a pile of junk, motioning for Moj to come over.

"Comrade, what? We need to locate---gah!" The "pile of junk" stood up, waving to the Commissar. "Petrograd, if you ever do that again, especially in the midst of an operation of such importance, I guarantee excoriation."

"My apologies, Commissar. It won't happen again, you have my word as a Soviet."

"Now," Moj turned to face Zach and Unter, who had moved in behind him. "We still need to find the other rust-bucket---"

"Howdy pards! Glad the cavalry got here."

Everyone in the room dropped down into defensive stances, readying powers and equipment for a fight, and training all of it on the shadowy corner where the voice had come from. One of the industrial milling machines that had been toppled moved, pushed out from the wall. The eight foot tall mechanoid, F3L-1X, stood up, mimicking Petrograd's earlier wave.

"Commissar," John Murdock piped in, "That'd be th' other rust-bucket."

Mojiotok could only shake his head.

"Comrade Winter, there's a problem."

Soviet Winter was busy scanning the narrow alleyway behind the CCCP HQ, looking for any delayed ambushes that might choose exactly the wrong time to happen; like right now, when they were exposed with no real cover. He snapped a glance over to the young Nova Requiem and her bourgeoisie friend, Marita Red Bear. "What is it, comrade? We must be inside!" A Council soldier landed in between the three of them with a dull thud. Sounds of battle sounded down from the roof. "We're late!"

"It's locked, comrade. The Council must have---" Soviet Winter brushed past her and Marita, waving for them to move back.

"We don't have time." Concentrating, he called forth pure ice from a pocket dimension, sapping the heat out of the door. The very molecular activity of the door slowed as it began to freeze solid.

"Come on, move it, I'm late for my singing lessons!" mock-snarled Kremlin Gremlin.

"I can make a door!" Tutelary, the slender young Warshade, called out from the rear of their formation. With a snap-boom thunderclap of energy, she transformed into the hulking and heavily armored Kurukt form. Bounding forward with cheerful enthusiasm, she crossed the distance to the door in a second. "Watch!" Raising back her now massive and clawed fists, she slammed into the door, shattering it and caving in the wall around it.

"Boy oh boy, that is one radical smashing there, dude-honkey!" said Soviet Swordsman, eyes as wide as his grin.

"Thanks, mister---" Tutelary's reply was cut short as a bullet ricocheted off of her form's thick hide. The room beyond was filled with Council. "Eep!" Tutes squeaked. "Space Nazis!"

Fire and ice lanced out towards the Council troops, as Mandragora and Winter were the first to respond. Soviet Swordsman dashed past Tutelary, followed closely by Kremlin Gremlin, his saber swinging expertly. Gremlin simply waded in; head-bashing was his specialty. Natayasha took a covert gulp from her vodka-bottle before joining the combat.

And within moments, they were all engulfed in a tidal wave of Council Penumbras, while Galaxies lashed Mandy and Winter with their negative energy blasts. Tutelary stomped through the sea of Council to reach Mandy, shouting, "To the rescue!" She crashed a foot-pad into the floor, sending several of the offending Galaxies flying.

Nova Requiem concentrated all her force into one burst of power; there was no outer sign of what she had done, but suddenly--

--everyone was a bit faster, a bit stronger, able to evade, to strike, to do whatever had to be done just that tiny bit better than the enemy could.

Marrita dodged and weaved through the individual fights, healing as often as she could. Her teammates, her friends, were bing injured almost as fast as she could heal them. This was insane! They were holding their own for the moment, but... more Council were coming.

Jeezus Cluny Frog on a pogo stick-- Sweat matted Vickie's hair and ran into her eyes, stinging them. She fought through a stinking fog as Sera did her best to make herself look like the only target in the sewer and take down the vamps as fast as she could reach them. There were way, way, too many of everything, but the wolves and vamps were the worst; compared to them, the Penumbras were like mosquitoes.

"Flee Comrades!" Communard shrilled. Vickie ignored him. It was a sort of reflex-shriek for Comm; he'd yell "Flee!" but he never fled himself. His psychically-engendered warrior, Gustav, was getting hammered. The poor thing was going to go down any minute now--

Crap! One of the big bad wolves vaulted over its buddies and landed next to Vickie and made a swipe at her. She managed to get it frozen in rock, just in time to see Gustav go down and a flock of vamps heading for Comm. They knew if they took him out, there'd be one less fighter able to protect the team from their powers. She smacked them with a geomantic wave that knocked them off their feet long enough for Comm to reinvoke the spooky pillar of smoke.

She was exhausted. Just about flat-lined, But--

"Red!" She shrieked, as Djinni dropped out of the air, stunned by a mental attack. She countered it with the spell to break the mezz just in time--the wolf that was about to smack him got a face-full of fire-sword instead. Red bounded off with the effects of her spell still protecting him for a bit. Good thing because now she was flatlined and---

A growl over her head made her freeze. She looked up.

The warwolf was loose. And he was pissed. And he knew who had locked him in a pillar of geomantic stone, too.

She fumbled for the shotgun at her back, then remembered she'd run out of beanbags....

She watched her life flash before her eyes...."what am I gonna do, Red, plink them to submission?"...."I'm a killer"...."I can't justify this anymore"...

..."I love you"....."I'll be here as long as you need me"....

..."Marry me, then."

The warwolf reared back for the strike that would take her head off, literally. Her back was to the wall, and she was hemmed in on both sides by fallen Council and debris. There was nowhere for her to escape to.

The Warwolf fell on her.


With the breath driven out of her, half stunned, Vickie's free hand flailed at the open air. Can't---breathe--

Someone grabbed her wrist. Someone hauled her out from under the heavy weight of Warwolf.

Rancor picked her up by the shoulders, shook her hard, and set her down on her feet.

Rancor? What was he doing here?

"Focus, dammit!" he snarled. "You're no good to me dead!"

And then--he was gone.