- November 27, 2022
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 14)
The Untouchable Man
I know I can come off as a sanctimonious asshole, with opinions and an attitude that come off as too big for my britches, but it’s not in me to hold back what I don’t want to. To hold back on the thirst and anger that scares people, scares criminals, is something I won’t do. That’s who the Hood is, who I am, is uncompromising.
I won’t apologize to anyone for that.
It brings me enjoyment knowing that I scare criminals, everyone really. They have to deal with someone who can be as terrible to them as they are to each other, and feel no guilt. Some criminals and cops run when they see me alone now. They’ve stopped trying to fight when they know the others aren’t there to make sure I don’t kill them or even just maim them.
Criminals like David Sanchez, a drug dealer who got a promotion by the Savaage to weapons dealer, the ones feeding blasters to the Reapers in North Aeg. It seems they’ve given him another promotion, to sell triggers for the superhuman gene.
I’m less concerned with the morality of it. If superhuman powers become like guns, something you can buy and use with impunity, the job may become more challenging and enjoyable for me, but it won’t for everyone else on my team.
Huh, I guess I am compromising. I can never keep it straight anymore. Good thing I have the code to keep me from going to far.
Right now, David is meeting with some local Reapers about selling powers to their bosses, with the impression that they can give anyone superpowers. From the mangled bodies I’ve found, only those with the superhuman gene can survive.
In the dead of night, an hour to midnight, they meet in the train yard, where they keep all the old and broken-down train cars next to the new ones. It’s like even inanimate objects need to be reminded of what happens when they’re not needed anymore.
Being so late, and so dark above the trains, they don’t see me looking down on them. It’s not like they have anything more than shitty streetlights to help them see. Maybe if the city put half as much money into North Aeg as it did South, this shit wouldn’t be happening. Killing the rich shits doesn’t seem to push that needle… hmm, maybe I just need to try harder…
If I do that, how long before I get caught, and I kill someone whose definitely one of Emily’s friends…
I guess I make a lot of compromises now.
Nothing feels right since we’ve gotten back from the Timeless Palace, yet… things feel better, good even. I’ve gotten away from what I’m supposed to be doing.
This was supposed to be a calming night. Let’s… put the other thoughts aside to make it that way.
The drug deal, lets focus on that. The workers who usually guard here, they must have been bribed or threatened to look the other way. Probably bribed so the Reapers don’t hear of the side effects that happened to the drug addicts.
I see my target, David Sanchez, the dealer in his cheap blue hoodie and his gray sweatpants. I think I may be hanging around Emily too much if I’m judging his clothes. The main part is how it stands out next to his professional looking suitcase, no doubt where the merchandise is.
On time for the next train, the Reapers come from the darkness of the abandoned railway, the first thing you see being the green skulls on their clothes and painted on their faces.
The Code goes to work.
Angular shapes come over my visor and do what my mentor programmed it to do. I got an upgrade to the OS, so lets see how it looks. It finds the information I need, the crimes they’ve committed. Are they deserving of death? Are they dangerous?
Five targets, each guilty of murder, theft, and robbery. One guilty of sexual assault. APPROVED.
It’s terrible how it makes it so much easier. The tension in my shoulders fades away. I’m… glad their scum, I don’t have to hold back, I don’t have to spare them, they don’t deserve it, but… it’s like I’m hoping that there are people who have committed the worst things, whether it be in the name of survival or greed.
David Sanchez, spare. Guilty of drug sale, weapons sale, and petty theft.
“Errrr…” I growl.
Yeah, of course, it wasn’t going to be simple. The code says he’s not guilty enough to kill, so he gets to live but that means… I have to keep control. I haven’t cut lose in a little while and it’s building up. All that time playing pretend, being friends…
The second I was alone all the feelings came rushing back. I have to get it out of my system now while I have the chance. I can’t be caught up in this kind of mindset the next time I’m with the team. They can’t see me like this, they won’t understand… not that they should.
This is my time to get them while the night still hides me, can’t wait any longer. I pull out my MP5 from my back and get ready to take them all out, terrify Sanchez into quitting. If he does, he may find a new job offer from Burkestone in the mail.
The one good thing about having a billionaire on the team.
I’m all excited to start, at least until an annoying buzzing sound comes into my ear.
“Wait until they make the trade off!” It’s not gunfire that makes me wince, but the voice of my immortal grandmother reminding me that I let her see through my helmet.
I sigh and whisper, “Why?”
Of course, because she has bureaucrats to answer too, she answers, “So I can justify it in the eye of the law.”
I’m lining up my sights as David fiddles with his suitcase, ready to take out his hand as the Reapers come to see him.
I ask her, because she can see the movement of my gun, “What does that matter to me?”
“Can you- just- please?” she stumbles and asks. Must be a long day if she doesn’t have the energy to argue. Instead, she raises the pitch in her voice and asks, “For me?”
Her voice comes back to normal to complain, “So I don’t have to do an asinine amount of paperwork?”
Paperwork is honestly the most relatable thing.
I lower the sights slowly, to watch more closely and bring a finger to my helmet to increase the hearing, an upgrade from James, Claire’s tech support.
I tell Claire, “Fine,” as I try to listen in on their conversation and wait for the hand off.
“Thank you,” she groans in relief.
The head Reaper tries to rush, waving his hand around like David is some kind of servant. “Hurry up, we don’t got all day, you know what kind of freaks come out at night.”
I admit, I chuckle at that.
“Yeah, yeah, calm your tits, it’s not like the cops are gonna come here without a huge fucking siren,” the dealer assures the Reaper as he focuses on opening his suitcase and inspecting the merchandise.
I amplify my vision to see farther and the suitcase is filled with four small vials, purple in color, moving in their glass containers like lava lamps. He takes one out and holds it to the head Reaper.
“Here it is, one of four cases of super-juice, your surefire way to even the playing field with those freaks you’re so afraid of.” David seems like one of those people who’s not scared yet.
It won’t matter.
The Reaper inspects it, and he needs to take out the money for it to be a tradeoff. I know the requirements; this is far from the first bust Claire has had me help with.
The Reaper isn’t sure, and asks him, “How do I know this shit will even work? It could give me some superpowers or it could make me ugly and shitty for all I know”
David has a mouth, and that’s evident by how he tells the Reaper, “Well, you don’t have to worry about that, can’t possibly make your face any worse.”
I can’t tell much of David’s looks from his hoodie, but I see him flash his yellow teeth in a smile.
“Oh, so you got jokes huh, think you’re funny?” the Reaper mutters, annoyed with the lip he’s getting. I guess one could say he’s more professional.
When the Reaper tries to give the vial back, David tries to redeem himself, straying away from the jokes that have made him so unpopular.
“Hey, hey,” he presses with his hands, “this shit is tested and proven, you’ve seen the wannabes fight on the news, what the Red Devils got. Laser hands for Saint Lucifer was a pretty good deal, got to keep his pretty face.”
That’s a lie, Saint Lucifer was given tech, not superpowers, but S.I.L.A.S. didn’t tell anyone that.
The Reapers all don’t take kindly to the fact that he was selling to their competition. “You sold to those psychos? Shit, why should I trust anyone who works with them? They shot up God’s house, that’s nuts!”
“Because now they’re gone, and you’re here,” David argues, telling them, “we can’t afford to lose our biggest consumer group.” Where he learned that term, I have no idea.
That reasoning makes the Reaper tilt his head and think for a moment, but he buys the bullshit eventually. “Alright, tell me how it works already.”
David smirks and holds up the vial to showcase it, “It’s easy really, anyone can do it. You just got to ingest it, inhale, hell, fucking osmosis will do it, just make sure within twenty-four hours, you do something to trigger it.”
“I can drink that shit?” the Reaper questions, pointing at it with a look of disgust.
“It don’t taste good, I’ll admit that’s one thing, but I’ve heard that injecting makes it work faster. It does stain though, so I wouldn’t suggest laying it on your skin or letting it touch your teeth, I know purple ain’t your color.”
The Reaper waves his hands in front of him to try to get David to slow down. “Wait, wait, wait, so we drink that, shoot it, whatever, and what else?”
David tilts his head back like he’s rolling his eyes, and explains again, “I’m telling you, all you have to do is take this injection, then do something stressful,” and he closes the suitcase, “go skydiving, jump from really high, spill coffee on your lap, nothing ridiculous or life threatening, just something to get the heart going.”
David closes the suitcase and holds it up to the Reaper with the one vial. “5 Gs each, but this time the other two will be on the house, want it or not?”
The Reaper pauses to think about it. I doubt it’s because he’s hesitating. He knew he wanted it before he came here, he just wants it to seem like he needed to be sold. He gestures to one of his other thugs to bring the money and I’m about to get the tradeoff.
“Wait,” the Reaper says, “why don’t you take it first, so we know you ain’t pulling nothing.”
Shit, just get it over it with already, I can hear my own foot tapping.
David seems hesitant, and the Reaper says, “If it ain’t poison, you’ll be fine and there’s nothing to worry about. I want to know if it’s safe for my brothers, that’s it.” David chews on the inside of his lip but doesn’t hesitate to start unscrewing the top, making the Reaper smile.
Claire’s voice comes on over my ear. “Forget what I said, shoot them now.”
“If he takes that and you try to shoot him, don’t you think that’ll trigger his powers?” Claire figures. I was operating under the assumption that he wasn’t a superhuman, and that a chest full of bullets would kill him before the transformation if he was.
I ask her, “You don’t think I can make the shot through his head?”
The MP5 isn’t known for its range or accuracy, but with my modifications I don’t have to worry.
Claire doesn’t stand for any bullshit. “Just do what you wanted to do,” she orders, “we can’t risk another superhuman brawl spilling onto the streets.”
She’s right, better not to risk it, paperwork be damned.
I raise my gun, line it up with David as he’s bringing the vial to his lips, and pull the trigger.
I let off three controlled shots, one through his hand, one through the other, and another through his knee as he spins. David falls with the vial and it breaks, but he hits the ground on his head. He’s dead to the world, but the first shots should keep him from picking anything up or walking away.
The Reapers heard me, as expected, and try to whip out their guns as I jump off the twelve-foot train car. They try to shoot me through the dark with one running away as he fiddles with his gun.
I hear one shot ping off my shin while the rest put holes in the old train.
I’m aiming and shooting as I fall and fill the first three with lead, emptying the clip. Better safe than sorry. They’re all dead before I hit the ground.
As I’m hitting the ground, the fourth has finally managed to tear his gun out of his pants and get it ready to aim at me. I pull out my handgun with my right and watch as he aims his. He has his gun trained right on my head, whether because he’s skilled or lucky, it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my aim ready for his head.
At the same time, our guns fire.
Two bullets, smacked against each other, fall on the ground, and it takes him a moment to realize why we’re both still standing. He looks at the bullets on the ground, broken and cracked, but clearly stuck together, because they were shot into each other.
He looks up with his gun raised as I hear a confused grunt from the com.
“Did you just…?” he mumbles.
“Did you just…?” just as Claire says the same thing.
Never gonna tell her the truth.
I answer, “Yes,” then shoot him through the head.
I move over their bodies to check them over before I do David, and assure Claire, “The scumbags are dead.”
I hear the gravel crumple to my left, and I look over at David pushing himself to his hands and knees, his skin blistering and smoking.
No, no, I brought him down before the vial came anywhere near his lips, how did he-?!
He sits up, screaming, “Aaahh!” as the transformation rips through him. His hood comes off, and he’s this Hispanic kid with bullet holes through his hands.
He was head first in a puddle of exactly what we didn’t want him to ingest.
And he’s a superhuman. The night just gets better and better.
“Going to have to scratch that, all, part.”
Claire can see and yells at me to, “Light him up!” As if I wasn’t already letting the MP5 drop and aiming my handgun for his head.
I start taking shot after shot as he twists and turns, his body writhing under the pain of the transformation. Fuck the Code, this may be my life.
My first bullet hits his collarbone, the proper blood spouting out until I see a bit of purple. The second bullet hits his temple, and that makes a cracking noise as I watch the bullet snap in half.
Not good, I’ve made a stupid, stupid mistake.
I keep shooting until my clip is empty, and it’s clear that whatever power he’s getting, it’s made him bullet proof. I reload the handgun and the MP5, and hold the submachine gun trained on him as I watch the transformation.
His skin is blistering and boiling, but it’s not bubbling anymore.
Instead, the bumps rise and then smooth out over his skin. The bumps grow gray with a texture closer to stone each time. It seems as if his skin is evolving to form a layer that would have stopped the stimuli that triggered his transformation.
Basically, he’s about to become bulletproof.
As he screams, I wish I could put him out of his misery, not out of pity but to make this problem stop, to kill it before it becomes dangerous.
It seems I’m out of luck.
I brought a lot of magazines to fight the Reapers all night, I didn’t bring much in the way of anti-superhuman weapons, those are in the car.
The most powerful thing I have is an atom grenade, like I used on Emily. As he’s twisting and turning, I pull it out of a compartment on my suit and run towards him, priming it with the press of the finger.
The smoking from his body is dying down right as I leap over him, slam it into his back,. Then I just fucking book it from the explosion. As I’m diving it goes off and throws me across the ground.
The screams and groans of pain stop, and there’s just smoke. It seems like that did it. Whatever protection he was getting wasn’t as good Espada’s.
Then I hear a loud, “Aaahh.”
I hate when I get ahead of myself, that’s for people who don’t know what they’re doing.
I hear Claire ask me in regards to my atom grenade, “Do you have another one of those?”
“Nope,” I tell her, and honestly remind her, “but if he survived the first one, I doubt another would do the trick.”
“I’ll call in the others,” she tells me, but being that the time between when one can get here is much more than when his fist may get to my face… I digress.
“Tommy’s a few minutes away,” she tells me, “but he’s not picking up.”
I see David standing to his feet through the smoke as it begins to clear, struggling to stand and get his bearings. I see his torn hoodie, though the hood is still intact, along with his pants. What I don’t see is the shine that should come with sweaty skin. Instead, I see that his skin isn’t exactly flesh.
I think Claire should know, “I don’t think Tommy is the one I need right now.”
David looks at his hands the way I look at Tommy’s face when he speaks, with horror. He trembles as he brings his hands to his face and realizes that his whole exterior is stone.
“What did you do to me?” he questions, and he repeats it in a scream, “What did you do?!”
Of course, it’s my fault he’s a criminal carrying around a product that can give him superpowers.
I mean I shot him, but he deserved that.
As I pull out the MP5 to shoot, Claire is yelling, “Keep him away!” It’s like she thinks I’m absolutely stupid lately, even before one mistake. She must really care.
That being said, I’m shooting him before she can even finish that sentence and he throws up his arms to protect his face. While my bullets don’t pierce his skin, the impact makes cracks and dust, which I’m sure hurt. There’s also the yelling and carrying on that give me a clue, but mainly it’s the cracks.
He screams and begins to run away, where the Reapers came through the train tunnel. Just my luck, he’s heading towards where the people might be.
I sling the submachine gun over my back and take out my handgun so I can run faster. As he disappears into the dark tunnel, I ask Claire, “How far away is Tommy?!”
“He’s at the train station with his sister,” she informs me.
As I run through the tunnel of the abyss, I recommend that she, “Give him fair warning,” because tonight is about to be one of those nights.
“You’re right, Tommy, I don’t believe you at all,” Sofia tells me.
If you were looking at us, waiting for the subway train to come, there’s no way anyone would know that she’s my big sister by how we look.
To put it simply I’m Mr. Milk-toast, and people yell at her to speak English
Despite that, she’s my big sister and she likes to pick on her younger, superpowered brother. Counting off the list of insane things, she says, “You expect me to believe that there’s a place where time doesn’t pass, in this Japanese style dojo, but doesn’t have any ninjas? Just a dude who likes anime, an old guy from the future, and some cavewoman who can sumo toss a rhino?” By her count, she went over one hand. “If she had powers, I’d believe it, but you said she doesn’t.”
Yeah, Ali is pretty badass, and terrifying, and badass, but mostly terrifying.
Sofia looks like our parents, her birth parents, first generation from Honduran and Guatemalan immigrants. The Director sort of reminded me of Sofia when I first met her.
We’re coming home from a concert I managed to get tickets for, and we’re way past curfew. Not much we can do but wait for the last train from edge of North Aeg to the suburbs outside of the city.
“Told you,” I tell her, because she said she would believe me if I told her about the Land Before Time or however it’s said. I spent a long time there so you’d would think I’d have memorized its name.
“You know,” she starts as she shows off our matching shirts from the concert, “I don’t tell you this enough…” Knowing her it’s something mean, but not like the Hood mean, but like actually funny and endearing mean.
So of course, I have to say, “That I’m right?”
Funny, that’s the name of the band, but the band speaks English, where she cursed me out in Spanish. Thankfully, the shirt has the ‘u’ and the ‘c’ starred out. She may be a cheerleader, but her taste in music never left her middle school grunge phase.
I’m laughing as I tell her, “That was uncalled for!”
Sofia smiles as she shrugs. “Maybe so, but tell me,” she says as she snaps her fingers at me, “how did you manage to forget to ask this amazing girl’s last name?”
My greatest failure, easily of my life, nothing will ever top not asking Andrea what her last name is.
“<Well, I never said she was amazing,>” I mumble. Sometimes it’s nice to just slip into Spanish with her. People look at me weirdly when I speak Spanish and with an accent. I mean, I get it, but still, it was my first language.
“Hmhmm, yeah, I adlibbed considering how much you’ve talked about her.”
My hand goes to scratch my head, something I’m told I do lot so much that Sofia has taken to slapping my hand whenever I do it.
After she slaps my hand, and my head in the process, I sigh and admit, “I don’t know, I really don’t know how I screwed that one up. I don’t even remember if she told me and I forgot!”
Sofia makes this mocking cooing noise as she tries to pull on my cheek, telling me, “Poor boy, <millions of white girls to break Mama’s heart, you pick one that’s thirty!>”
“<Hey, believe me, if I wanted to be patronized, I would have told you,>” I tell her.
“<You love me,>” she tells me.
I wrap my arm around her shoulder and pull her in. As I ruin her hair, I disagree, “<I don’t know, you’re kind of annoying.>” She’s paws my hand away as she groans and growls in frustration.
“<Look at what you did!>” she yells at me as she pats her hair down.
“<We’re literally going home,>” I remind her.
“<Are we home yet? No? Then fuck off.>”
As I’m laughing, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and I take it out to make sure it’s not Mama or Papa wondering why we’re not home yet.
Instead, it’s the Director. I told her I’m not doing anything tonight that has to do with superheroing or fireballs, so I silence it and put it back in my pocket.
Sofia is giving me the mother of all stink eyes because of how often I mess with her hair. She may be a few months older but I’m taller, that gives me a distinct advantage.
She must have noticed me with my phone because she asks, “Was that them?”
“No,” I tell her, “just work,” she gives me a sympathetic face, it’s no secret that I’m Pyre, everyone would know if they cared who I was, so one of the better perks of working with a Burke.
She comes in for a hug that she knows I appreciate. “<Work sucks.>”
“<Yeah, I told her I was busy tonight.>”
“Well,” she starts, with fake quotations and a big man voice, “<lighting on fire I very importatn work.>”
“<Yeah, I know, where the hell is this train?>” I complain.
She informs me as we’re still hugging, “<It’ll be here in a few minutes, calm down, this is because we missed the last one.>”
We? She needed the cheerio.
As I am not so subtly trying to annoy Sofia with a tapping of my figure against her head, I notice people growing interested and crowding around the edge of the tracks. Right at the tunnel’s hole, they look as if they’re waiting for something that isn’t a train.
Oh shit, this about to become my problem.
“<Cut it out, Tommy,>” Sofia complains about my tapping, I let her go and she grows confused. “<Tommy? Where are you going?>”
“<To see what’s going on, stay here.>”
“<Fuck that,>” she says, as I hear her footsteps behind me. Honestly, it’s not at all surprising, like when do sisters ever do what anyone tells them.
When I come up behind all the people, someone comes running in through the tunnel, with this torn sweatshirt and weird looking under-armor…
Hol’ up a minute, I swear to god, if this is why the Director was calling me I’m so dead…
People try to pull him up like nice people do, at least until he’s halfway and several people start screaming.
Suffice it to say, my first instinct is to put arm up to keep Sofia behind me, and my second instinct is light my hand on fire.
Perk of training, now I can light parts of my body on fire, I don’t have to keep lighting my whole self on fire.
Two guys step back screaming, looking at their hands as they seem to be… turning to stone. From their fingers to the rest of their bodies. What I thought was weird under-armor must have been his actual skin, he’s a superhuman.
Way to fucking go Tommy, you mistook stone for clothes.
Sofia and I watch on in horror as their arms slowly turn to stone. It’s not just the skin, because when he tries to scrape it off, he cracks his finger and it falls off, the inside being stone, not blood.
I turn to Sofia and really tell her to, “<Stay back.>”
“<Fuck right,>” she says and turns the hell around. At least she listened this time.
The people who helped him are all turning to stone, and when he finishes pulling himself up, he shoves them around, heading towards more people and the exit. Can’t let a guy this dangerous get away from me.
I run along the other side of the pillar, paying attention like the Director and the Hood told me to do. I notice that as he pushes people and he touches their clothes, they don’t start turning to stone. It’s skin to skin contact.
Let’s not test out this theory immediately though.
As I run up to him, I jump and blast him with a fireball, bumping him to the ground. The stone that’s his skin actually lights up like a firecracker when my fireball explodes on him. He stumbles back to his feet and I get a full view of him. His whole body is this gray stone, maybe not even stone but definitely a rock.
The weirdest thing is this questioning look on his face before he blurts out, “Rodriguez?!” It’s always nice when the criminals recognize you by your last name, really makes you reconsider forgoing the secret identity thing.
Of course, the first thing he does is roar and charge at me. I try to let loose a stream of fire, causing more sparks to bounce off his skin, but he goes right through it…
… and right into my chest, sending me a couple feet into a pillar. That felt really nice.
“Tommy!” I look to my right and I see Sofia wide-eyed just seeing her little brother get pounded into the wall.
“Stay back!” I yell at her. If I can see the whites of her eyes, she’s too close to the fight.
“Pyre!” comes a different familiar voice as I climb my way back to my feet.
As I see the stoneman… actually, I’m going to keep that name… As I see the Stoneman walking towards me like he really wants to fuck up my face, I turn to the right and see the Hood.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him before.
The Hood is all business, understandable, and orders me to, “Blind him!” Oh, so we’re going for the combo already, I like it.
I light both hands on fire and burn the wrists of my shirt. I bring my hands together, cupping them so the fire flows outward in a big hulking mass that consumes the Stoneman.
The idea is to consume him in flames to blind him. The fire encompasses him and makes him think twice about where he’s going.
It gives a flame-retardant person like the Hood the chance to sock him.
And oh boy does he sock him… or really knife him.
The Hood leaps into the inferno, knives out in both hands. I remember when we first met, I filled his face full of flames but it meant nothing to his armor. He went right through, his black helmet being the only thing I can see coming to strike me down.
The Stoneman’s scream tells me that the Hood got him, and the thud that sends the Stoneman flying against the wall confirms it.
The Stoneman is groggy, trying to get his bearings as the Hood comes from the dissipating flames. Some of the fire still sticks to him but he walks as if he doesn’t notice. I come up on the other side of the Stoneman and this superhuman knows he’s in for a pounding.
Real quick, I warn the Hood, “Don’t let him touch your skin, he’s been turning people to stone.”
The Hood is quick to remind me, “I’m wearing full body armor, Pyre.”
You know, just when you want to help a guy out.
The Stoneman, as I will continue to call him, looks like a cornered stray, and I feel bad. I feel bad until he swings for my head.
When he goes to swing, the Hood catches him in the gut with his fist, leaving him open for me to throw an underhanded fireball right into the face.
I’ll admit, I get comfortable, it turns into a standard beat down as the Hood decks him across the cheek, and I follow up with a fireball jab and a kick to the-
“Fuck!” I yell, note to self, don’t kick a man made of stone in his stones, that really hurts. That should have been obvious.
The Stoneman finally fights back, and guess what’s his target?
My spleen… or I think my spleen.
He’s about to punch me again as I step back and double over. I have to say, being hit by a stone fist hurts like a motherfucker.
The Hood gives a one-two combo before he grabs his arm to twists it.
From my immobilized state, I point my hand up and fill his face with flames. I can hear him yelling in pain as his stone sparks, the worst thing about my superpower.
The Hood takes the opportunity to knee him in the face, to which the Stoneman responds by socking him across his face.
In the past few months that I’ve gotten to fight alongside this guy, I don’t think the Hood’s helmet has ever crack before, and I’ve seen Emily hit him in the face.
The Hood stumbles back, probably more stunned than anyone else. That also means the Stoneman gets another shot at me.
He turns to me and throws his fist my way without hesitation. I throw up my arms, and on an anxiety reflex let my arms burst into flames. It does nothing to stop the fist from making my bones rumble.
My shirt sleeves are ruined as I slide against the ground, but the Stoneman takes the chance to try running towards me. To save my ass, the Hood doesn’t let him take more than two steps before he puts the superhuman in a full nelson.
Then he screams to me, “What are you waiting for?!”
A chance to catch my breath honestly, but I’d settle for ‘please.’
I don’t actually wait, I point my hands straight at this asshole, and let him have it. I give him an inferno that he ain’t ever gonna forget.
Man, Inferno would have made a much better name than Pyre.
Still, I start standing up as I burn this guy, and I get the chance to look around me as the Hood and I try to burn this dude alive.
I see the people turning to stone on the ground, their bodies half gone, less than even dead. For a moment I think this guy deserves it, but I don’t know if he really meant it to happen. I’ve met too many superhumans like that to think that it’s not possible.
Then there’s the people watching from a far, my sister among them, watching me roast this screaming dude alive, with a known murder in tow.
I let up on the flames and the heat, and I see his face.
His stone exterior streaks yellow flames from between the cracks. I see the pain in his face and the fear in his eyes. I might be dangerously close to killing him.
“Tommy, what are you doing?!” I hear the Hood scream at me, but he’s a psychopath, he doesn’t get it. Or at least I think he’s a psychopath, can’t say I know the definition that well.
Then I realize he might be yelling because he’s losing his grip, especially when the Stoneman headbutts him, turns around and punches him in the chest, sending him to the ground.
Yeah, that was probably it.
I ready a fireball as he charges me, understandably pissed, and when I throw it, he’s clearly ready for it. He slaps it midair after I toss it, and backhands me in the chest, sending me flying into the next pillar wall and my next concussion.
I hear someone yell, “Tommy!” but I’m too busy being manhandled to listen. The Stoneman grabs me by my shirt and slams me back into the nearest wall, several times. I see who called my name when my sister comes with a 2×4.
Where the fuck did she get that?
She’s yelling as she swings, “Leave him alone!” and as soon as it hits it snaps in half, leaving her looking at the end of a broken 2×4.
I want to yell at her to run, but I lost my breath when I hit the wall some time ago. I try speak, to mouth it to her, as the Stoneman turns his head to look at her and is just dumbfounded.
“You’re a real stupid bitch, you know that?” he says to her, and the insult helps me focus my eyes, I don’t know how. When she’s frozen, inching backwards, he swings his hand at her to swat her away and she brings her hand to protect her face.
He still catches her hand.
Her left, ungloved hand.
Which is now turning to stone.
She’s holding it as she starts screaming but the Stoneman kicks her in the stomach and sends her to the ground. I know what’s allowing me to focus better after being manhandled and put through a wall.
When he turns back to me, he’s not looking at my face, he’s looking at Pyre, completely on fire. I can tell by the look in his eye that he knows he shouldn’t have done that.
I roar in his face!
My breath becoming flames, and he tries to back away.
No, no, I grab him by the remains of his sweatshirt and fly him upwards into the ceiling, tearing it apart as I drag him through it.
I notice that my hands are touching his stone chest, but my hands aren’t turning to stone, my fire protects me.
I hear the train starting to come, and after what he did to Sofia, I couldn’t give less shits about him. I’m not making a mistake, I took the risk and… now it’s her.
I’m breathing fire into his face and dragging him through the ceiling as the train’s lights come. I’m planning for the train to demolish this asshole.
But I throw him too early. When the train enters it clips him and he’s falling across the next walkway and off the ledge into the other tracks, leaving a subway car in my way. A subway car isn’t enough, he’s gonna burn. I’m going to personally-
My name is being called out a lot in the last five minutes, and at first I think to be angry, but I look down and it’s Sofia calling her brother for help, for me.
I fly down to her side, forgetting about the Stoneman, turning off the flames and being in nothing but the tattered remains of my jeans, or now shorts. She’s leaning against the pillar, groaning, crying at the painful transformation.
I slide in right next to her, tell her, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”
I’m looking at her hand, watching how the stone comes down her wrist, having already consumed her hand.
Sofia is freaking out, sweating, crying, and I’m not sure what to do when she yells to me, “Tommy, <I can’t feel my hand.>”
I don’t know what to do, I don’t-
“Hood!” I scream for him, looking around the pillar, he’s struggling back to his feet after having his head get knocked. I scream for him, “Hood, <I need you!>”
That actually gets him shaking his head and looking for me. He recovers faster than he should, and stumbles to his feet as he comes around the other side of Sofia. He looks down at us, me holding her hand as the stone consumes her faster and faster, halfway to her elbow.
I admit to him, “<I, I don’t know what to do,>” holding my sister in my arms. He comes down to one knee next to us, looking at us with his blank silent face. This is not the time for him to be silent. He needs to fucking say something!
He flicks his wrist and his knife pops out. “There’s only one way.”
Sofia starts sobbing, “<No, no, no, please no, there, there has to be something else, scrape it off, something else, anything else!>”
He talks to me, he stays calm as we freak out.
“Pyre, Tommy, look at me,” he says as he points his fingers where his eyes would be, as I’m watching the stone slowly consume my sister.
Then he repeats my name and I’m looking at him. “We’ve seen the others, the only thing under the stone skin is more stone, if we cut it off-”
“<No, no, please, please don’t,>” Sofia is begging, tears streaming down her face.
The Hood cuts to the chase. “If we don’t, she’ll die, we can’t save her arm, I don’t even know if I can cut through fast enough.” He grasps me by the shoulder and tells me, “Your hand… on fire… you can cut through and cauterize the wound fast enough.”
“Ehhhhh.” Sofia has devolved into a mess of sobs and tears, and I don’t have any other ideas on what I should do. I can’t let her die, I can’t let her turn to stone, but, but…that means her arm has to…
I turn my eyes to Sofia and she looks up me. She has to know it’s the only way.
I think… I think when she realizes it’s me and not the Hood, she accepts it. She leans her sobbing head into my chest, and the Hood takes her petrifying hand to hold it straight. She makes one last squeak as I raise my hand.
The Hood instructs me to, “Make one, hot slice at the bicep, you need to raise the temperature as high as your hand can go.”
I raise my hand, holding my palm flat, and go as hot as I can, several hundred degrees without my whole body going on fire.
Sofia looks into my eyes one more time. “<I’m so sorry.>”
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