Falling Forward

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

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

Next Story in the Arc: Take Back The Night by Mojiotok (Monday, April 10, 2006)

(posted Monday, April 10, 2006)

Where they hell are all these Vamps coming from? Didn't someone spray? After that oh-so-brief encounter with Rancor, Vickie was making sure she stayed sharp. Comm got them some breathing space, setting Sera smack in the middle of one of those tiny little doorways while the rest of them caught their breath. Vickie used the "fetching" spell she'd picked up from Rory to get herself more beanbags for her shotgun, then picked up a second gun from a fallen Penumbra. If she needed to use it, she would, and beanbags be damned.

Then she used the fetching spell again, this time into her own kitchen cupboard. She loaded down her pockets and a rather surprised Red's, and anyone else who would take them, with hard candies. Communard shook his head, muttering about decadence and self-indulgence.

"Boss-man," Vickie said patiently, "This isn't decadence. It's pure, concentrated energy. I'm flatlining, and I'm one of the ones of us least inclined to do so. If I am, you all are."

"Bah! We must retake the base from the fascists. Eat your sweets and move on. Gustave!" The ethereal and wispy shadow-form sprang into existence next to the Commissar. "Lead us to victory!"

Um. Victory. Right. Right now I'd settle for about five more feet of sewer tunnel.

With Sera leading the way, they shoved through the tiny door into the next section.

Oh dear god in heaven.

It was a big, open space. And it looked like a Vamp and Wolf convention. Where someone had yelled "Free Blood! Free Beer!"

"Get back a moment, comrades," Sera said, calmly. She took out a bow and arrow--something that had been impossible to see on a back swathed in flames--and serenely sighted and let fly.

With the rest of them out of sight, only a few of the Council monsters followed the little arrow that had barely stung one of the Warwolves back to its source.

An Equinox Parasite was the first through the door, falling to his knees in abject terror after barely a stride forward; Communard's mental domination had become masterful after decades upon decades of practice. The vampire's bewildered companions barreled over him, unable to stop suddenly in the sewer muck. The team of heroes took advantage of that confusion, pouncing on the pack of vampiri and Warwolves.

This ploy worked very well right up until the moment when they had to step out into the echoing space because Sera's bow simply would not reach that far. That was when the floodgates opened. Somehow all the remaining Council monsters spotted them at once.

Vickie was sucking on caffeinated mints as if she was addicted to them. At least they were keeping the taste of sewer water out of her mouth and her energy level up. Now that there was no point in keeping quiet, she was generating geomantic earth-waves again, and staying sharp.

Behind her, Cagey Bee threw some kind of radioactive muck that lit up the area and seemed to make the enemy every so slightly sick. On the one hand, she was glad of it. On the other, she really didn't want to think what it might be...or be from. Bee spit? Bee puke? ewwwww.

Vickie was keeping a very close eye on the distance between herself and Red; staying near enough to keep the dancing fire-flinger from getting into trouble, but far enough away to keep herself out of trouble. She had his vitals on the top of her HUD display, Sera's second...Thea's last. Thea, after all, could heal herself. Couldn't she?

But what Vickie had forgotten was that Thea healed by stealing the strength from her enemies. And sometimes they were too well-shielded for her to do that.

And that when they noticed who was trying to steal their power--she became a target.

It happened so quickly that Vickie hardly had time to react. Fully half of the vampires left concentrated their powers on Thea. Her vitals dropped, went yellow, then red--

And down Thea went. Before either she or Bee could do anything about it.

And then they did the same to Gustave.

And then---despite every bit of healing spell she could throw at him or boosting shot of radiation Bee could emanate, down went Comm.

"Red! Sera!" she shouted, "Cover me!'

She dove in under the noses of the vamps, and shot Communard so full of magic his hair stood on end.

Then again, his hair always stood on end.

He came up like a thing out of a Saturday morning cartoon, tearing his shirt off in a rage, screaming like a French gym teacher.

She and Red and Comm and Sera proceeded to use Comm's momentum to clean the room, while Bee helped Thea revive a little and propped her in a corner.

They clustered around her once the coast was clear. "Blin," she said weakly. She was always white, now she looked transparent.

"You stay put. When you feel better, catch up," Sera said firmly, before Comm could raise protest. And also before he could say anything, she lofted into the air and moved on, a blazing beacon, into the next tunnel.

Something impacted into Bella with all the force of a rocket-launched grenade. It threw her into the wall, and she blacked out.

She came to again on her own to see her team going toe-to-toe with robots and wolves and on her HUD their vitals were falling like the barometer in hurricane season.

Physician took the place of Commissar, Team Leader and pain. She waded in, sucked down a mouthful of glucose/caffeine/vodka cocktail of her own devising, and began throwing heals as fast as her rads would recharge.

They were inside. Barely.

The rear entry team had fought, and fought hard, to make a beachhead into the base. The Council troops had thrown themselves into the gap, using their sheer numbers to force a standstill. Half of the team was behind a knocked over support beam; Tutelary, Mandy, Natayasha, the Gremlin, and the Soviet Swordsman were all crouched down, doing their best to leave no parts of themselves sticking out where an anxious Council soldier might fire at it.

Nova, Marita, Taiga, the Soviet Shocker, and Soviet Winter were hiding behind two destroyed Warcry mechs, fused into one barrier in a block of ice through Winter's control over the cold. Slowly but surely, the Council were chipping away at their cover, though; before long they would have to either take control of the room or retreat. And running when their comrades were in danger was not an option.

"Comrades! We will be pushing through them, soon! Prepare yourselves!" Nova began to do what she could to protect everyone that she could see, using her kinerisynthesis to alter their vibrational harmonics and increase their molecular density. Shocker and Tutelary popped up from cover, firing electrical bolts and blasts of negative energy to keep the Council busy.

Mari was frustrated. She couldn't reach some of the team with her healing powers, and she didn't dare make a target of herself by darting out from under cover.

"Bah!" Kremlin Gremlin shouted in disgust. "A split force is crazy! Tactical advance to the rear!"

And with that, he jumped out from under cover and began dancing like an organ-grinder's monkey, hurling insults at the astonished Council. "Your father won the Derby! Your mother took 'Best In Show'! Your gramma burns her wiener schnitzel! Come on, you dumb apes, shoot at me!"

Under cover of the distraction, the others dashed for Winter's position. Finally the Council recovered enough to begin shooting. Gremlin, bolstered by Nova's shields and then by Mari's healing, dodged or shrugged off the rounds.

"Winter, we need to get back outside; we're vulnerable and no good in here," Shocker implored. "We need to retreat and regroup."

Soviet Winter spat at the ground, cursing. "Fall back. We will not retreat." He jumped up and over the Warhulks, freezing the first Council soldier he laid eyes on. The other heroes fired past him, scampering quickly out into the alley through the ruined doorframe. Finally, Winter joined them, holding a bleeding shoulder. "We're in the alley. Satisfied?" Bullets screamed into the alley, pock-marking the brick wall behind them. Gremlin was busy throwing Council soldiers back into their own ranks, not seeming to notice the fact that he was the only hero left in the room.

Nova concentrated, feeling the vibrational energies of the enemy, and used her gloves to transfer molecular momentum from them to Gremlin to boost his speed to almost that of a super-speedster. He was going to need it to get out of there. "Gremlin, fall ba---" She was interrupted as something small and round bounced towards her and rolled to a stop between her and Mari. She had barely enough time to insulate them both with eveerything she could throw when--

--they were flying, tumbling through the air. All sense of direction was lost in the violence of the explosion.

One second, airborne. Next second, impact.

Third second---