Cameron winced. Gladwell was licking the blood off her bladed hands, in a cat-like manner. She didn’t need to up the level of her super-vision to tell the connection between them was getting stronger the more blood was cleaned off her hand. She felt it, the tendrils of Gladwell’s power under her skin, digging deeper, entrenching themselves.
It was like Gladwell was off in her own little world, she hadn’t spoken since she started licking. Too busy expanding the connection to pay attention.
Using what little strength she had left, she raised her arm. The shaking made it harder to aim properly. Fuck it. She couldn’t wait until she got her shot lined up properly, she pulled the trigger. A headshot would have been ideal. She got a chest shot.
Gladwell stopped and looked down at her, startled.
For a second, Cameron felt another blade go through her, higher up this time. But no, there was nothing sticking out of her chest. The pain was there regardless, and this time it burned. She gasped. She couldn’t breathe, it felt like there was a hole in her chest but rationally, she knew there wasn’t one.
Gladwell’s lilting voice was barely audible through the haze of pain. “Should have thought that through better Cammie. Superpowers and memories aren’t the only things I can make us share.”
Being called Cammie annoyed her more than having her own attack turned against her.
That annoyance sharpened her focus. She teleported one of the tables blocking the door, placing it above Gladwell’s head. It did little damage.
The pain lessened, all of it. The sudden lack of it was disorientating. Her head felt heavy, like she was about to fall asleep. Gladwell gently placed her hands on the sides of Cameron’s helmet, turning it so their eyes met. “I still do like you. I think I’ll play around with you for a little bit, go through your head and take some of your memories away from you, until you become the kind of person who’d accept the offer I made. I bet they’d be really fun to hang out with.”
Cameron thought about the blond guy who had rampaged through the mall. Was that the result of Gladwell’s playing around?
She tried to pull away but Gladwell’s grip was tight and she felt so weak.
Nothing happened when she tried to teleport away. God, she couldn’t think clearly.
It reminded her of Dad. His stupid spirit tossing her in the closet, trapping her there. She had pushed as hard as she could but she was powerless against the spirit. She was weak and useless, too panicked to think of a way out.
All these years and what did she have to show for it?
She used that feeling, anger at herself for being so pathetic, as fuel.
Superpowers didn’t work well against superhumans, but with practice, they could train their natural resistance, lessen it when it became inconvenient or if they were really good, they could turn it off completely. She had plenty of experience with it.
Doing the reverse, increasing her natural resistance to superpowers, well, that would be new.
It had never, before this, come up. The strength of her power resistance was strong enough to deal with everything she had went up against. It was only the rare exceptions like Gladwell, who were able to directly use their power on another superhuman.
She felt those tendrils worm their way into her skull, shoving themselves into her brain.
For a moment, time became inconsequential.
Gladwell stepped away and smiled. “I didn’t know you had such interesting friends, Cameron. I’ve met Creed, you know. He was alright, but his boss pissed me off. Condescending asshole. You’d think he would be smart enough to know not to piss me off. I’ve been trying to kill him since but he’s surprisingly hard to find. You wouldn’t know where he is, would you?”
She needed to concentrate but answering gave her a little more time before Gladwell decided there was no time better than the present to mentally destroy someone until they became crazy psychopaths. “Shouldn’t you know if I did?”
“I did some digging through your memories but not through all your memories, there are a lot of them. I do know you’ve got reinforcements coming.” Her smile widened to show her sharp, white teeth. “It’ll be a good chance to add to my collection.”
A hand suddenly thrust out of Gladwell’s chest. Another soon joined it. The hands grabbed onto Gladwell’s hips and pushed, then, inch by inch, another Gladwell climbed out. It – she – fell to the ground at Gladwell’s feet, fully formed. It felt like the new Gladwell should be naked but she wasn’t, she wore the same clothes the original Gladwell did, clothes that surprisingly didn’t have a giant hole through them from a human being coming out of them.
The sound of metal scraping against metal. Gladwell whipped her head around toward the source of the noise.
The new Gladwell was rising to her feet, when a white blur went through her skull, gore splattering everywhere.
Cameron wiped off a few tiny drops that hit the green visor over her eyes on the helmet she wore. A white sword had impaled the ground where the new Gladwell’s dead body had fallen. It, like the other duplicate, seemed to die once significant damage was done to their brains. She was hardly an expert on the subject but the sword looked similar to one she saw a gladiator wielding in a movie, except a thin red beam of light covered the very edges of the blade.
“Well, this is an unpleasant surprise,” Gladwell said. She was looking at a newcomer, a tall man dressed in a brown leather jacket and jeans. Looking to be in his late thirties or early forties, he was still very much in shape, on the same level or better than a pro athlete. His black hair was cut short, a fuzz covering his head. He held a sword identical to the one stuck in the ground in his left hand. “I was hoping for a power I didn’t already have.”
He went to retrieve his other sword, stepping on the dead Gladwell in the process. Gladwell let him.
“I’m not going to let you escape, this time,” he said.
She scoffed. “You said that last time, too and look, I’m still here, still alive. I know you’re old, Reckoning, but changing things every once and awhile won’t kill you.”
Cameron frowned at herself. How did she not realize who he was before Gladwell identified him? This was Reckoning, a mercenary on the same level as Gladwell. An Ultra, a superhuman whose power far stronger than their peers. His face used to be plastered all over the news before he went into retirement five years ago.
Creed must gotten in touch with him somehow. It looked like there was a lot of history between Gladwell and Reckoning, Creed probably used that to convince him to come and help out.
He surged forward, every movement tight and controlled, and swung the sword in his right hand. Gladwell blocked it with her left bladed arm. The sword dug into her skin.
She set him on fire. Reckoning didn’t seem bothered, and stabbed his other sword directly into the arm she used to block. While it was difficult to see at this angle, Cameron swore she saw the skin on his face repair itself the second it was burnt.
Gladwell vanished and for a moment, Cameron wondered if she had teleported. Reckoning pulled out his sword and swung again at the air in front of him. Blood dripped to the floor from an invisible source.
Somewhere, in the middle of everything, Cameron had to have accidentally turned off super-vision.
Reckoning had no problems hitting Gladwell despite her being invisible. He chased her around the kitchen and swung one of his swords and every time, more blood would hit the floor. It wasn’t a one-sided fight, Gladwell got some good hits in too but every wound inflicted healed in seconds.
In the midst of their game, Cameron was forgotten.
They were too close to the door to the outside for Cameron to go through there. She retreated to the basement. The fire had went out, dying along with the Gladwell that created it.
Gladwell had shared some of her regenerating power with Cameron. The nasty hole in her stomach was gone, nothing but unblemished skin there now.
A fight between two high-level regenerators was going to take a lot of time, if it ever ended at all. This was the perfect opportunity to try severing this dumb connection between Gladwell and her, without anyone distracting her.
It also gave her time to try and figure out what the hell she was supposed to do.
Decreasing her power resistance required intense focus to get it to the level where people could actually use their abilities on her. Ian had taught her how so he could use his power on her so they could ride around Avocet at speeds so fast, no one was able to catch them.
She breathed, in then out, until her mind quieted. Like this, she could feel it rolling over her, similar to how steam felt against the skin. She thought of it as a fog, because it looked like fog when she first saw it using super-vision, but it was energy, the energy powers used to make their abilities work.
Controlling it without using her power was hard, unnatural. When decreasing resistance, she forced the fog to stay still while some other fog rolled over and seeped into her. Then to increase, she’d try and make the fog move and push against the foreign fog.
Easier said than done.
She activated super-vision. It helped when she could see it, made it feel more tangible. She quickly went through each level of super-vision until she saw the fog with her own eyes.
Cameron tried to push outwards with her mind, all while focusing on an idea, a concept. Defend.
She watched as one image grew larger and larger around her. The fog moved around the image, until it grew even bigger and started sucking the fog into it, feeding on it to increase its growth. Empowered by the fog, the image changed, became more solid, clearer.
It grew, stopping only when it the image covered Cameron from head to toe. A barrier, similar to a forcefield. Everything that wasn’t the image either was absorbed into it or bounced off of it. The not so little strip of light, connecting Cameron with Gladwell, wasn’t unaffected.
The strip fought harder than the fog did and she couldn’t get it to detach from her completely but it did shrink back to its original size.
Not ideal, but like this Gladwell couldn’t mess with her head.
Shutting off super-vision so she could see, Cameron noticed the smoke for the first time. The smoke was coming down from the kitchen and was pressed against the ceiling of the basement. Gladwell wasn’t going easy on the pyrokinesis. Cameron went up the stairs, anyway. She felt sore all over but it was especially noticeable around her stomach. Lowering the connection had also made it so Gladwell couldn’t share her healing factor.
Shit, the entire kitchen was on fire. She could barely make out two silhouettes in the midst of the flames and smoke.
Her costume was fireproof and had an air filter built into the helmet but staying inside a burning building wasn’t smart.
With her super-vision on, set to the lowest level, everything around her became clearer, crisp.
Cameron raised her gun, aimed, and fired. The beam cut through everything in its way. She adjusted her aim then fired again. She wasn’t one hundred percent certain which silhouette belonged to Gladwell, so might as well hit both.
The ensuing path created by the beams showed her who she managed to hit.
A smoking hole was in Gladwell’s chest and Reckoning’s nose was blasted out of existence.
Reckoning recovered first and used this chance to lop off Gladwell’s head.
He didn’t stop there, his swords sliced through limbs. Gladwell was reduced to a messy, crimson pile of body parts.
Cameron kicked up her super-vision a few notches until she could see the strips of the light connecting the pile to distant locations. There was one strip, thicker and brighter than all the others.
Then the strips were gone, in an instant.
The one connecting to her remained, but it wasn’t leading to the pile anymore but to some far off place.
Gladwell was far from dead.
Her strip disappeared too, at that realization. Gladwell severed it, to prevent Cameron from using it to track her down later.
Reckoning glanced in her direction and nodded at her. Already on fire, he ventured further into the flames, disappearing, the only thing visible was a silhouette of his retreating back.
She needed to leave too. Teleporting out would be a no go, she couldn’t see well through all this smoke and fire. She never tested how fireproof her costume was before. This was as good a time as any, she supposed. Cameron ran through the flames as quickly as she could, toward the only exit.
Overall, the costume was pretty fireproof except for the hole Gladwell had made when she gutted Cameron. It stung like a bitch but she pushed onward. She didn’t have time to deal with the pain right now.
Reckoning had torn through her barricade on his way in.
A few jagged edges hit the sides of Cameron’s costume as she ran past and out the door.
The other door, the one leading to the alley, had been knocked off its hinges. She stumbled out into the alley.
Falling onto all fours, exhausted, she heard the sound of sirens, off in the distance, getting louder by the second.