“Kill target. Only him.” I couldn’t tell where the electronic modulated voice was coming from.
So much for Gorgon only killing villain threats. Or does he see me as a potential villain, and a threat?
An extremely large, bulky shape jumped up to my right, appearing to pop right up out of the ground like some sort of computer video game enemy. It might have been funny if the shape hadn’t been eight feet tall, with oversized hands and feet, each finger and toe having a claw at the end that looked to be about as big as a short sword.
“Killing boring, want to dig.” That amazingly deep voice, coming out of a distinctly snout-shaped mouth without any blunt teeth.
“Are you thinking about not following orders, Badger?” Was that a little static? Remote control robot? Was that what Cog did?
“No! No. I kill quick. Why you not just shoot him and let me dig? We both supposed to kill him.”
Badger’s not as stupid as he sounds.
“He’s very hard to kill. Guns won’t do it, we have to tear him to pieces.”
“Good at that.”
“Yes, you are, that’s why the boss sent you. Remember, don’t touch him with your skin, just your claws.”
“Picky, picky. OK. No biting, no punching, just cutting.”
If I remembered right, Badger was a brick-type with a digging theme. I’m pretty sure that Cog was a remote power suit operator. I saw a documentary on physically disabled supers at one point, and Cog was one of them. He was paraplegic? Or maybe he lost his legs? I couldn’t remember. He couldn’t be more than a half mile from his controlled machines, and he’d almost certainly be in a vehicle.
Badger moved forward in a furry white-and-black blur, covering twenty feet in the time it took me to blink. Turf, dirt, and rock flew behind him, propelled backwards by massive foot claws as his body was propelled forwards.
The movement startled me, I was not expecting him to move that fast. Gigantic claws struck my left arm as I shifted. There was a great deal of pain.
My growth had expanded my body as normal, while badger’s claws were passing through me. My left arm was lying on the ground. There were two upper arm pieces, and the last piece was everything from the elbow down.
Badger collapsed. When I was expanding, I had touched him on his hand or arm.
Well, that was easy, and it only cost me an arm.
I laughed a bit hysterically as I stared down at the pieces of my arm. I had considered that this might happen. I had suffered some pretty severe damage in the fights I had been in, a lot of it self inflicted, and everything had always just sort of grown back together again. I wasn’t that durable, and there were lots of weapons or supers that could dismember me.
It was still scary as hell.
There are pieces of me lying on the ground. This is not a good time to freeze up.
I stopped staring at my body parts lying there, and picked up one of the upper arm pieces with my right hand, and pushed it against my left arm stump. It stuck in place.
Whew. This is unreal. I can put myself together like that plastic potato-headed toy.
When I flexed my muscles in my arm to see what the new piece would do, and make sure it wasn’t just going to fall right back off, I noticed my left arm on the ground, moving.
I imagined clenching my left fist.
My left fist, at the end of my left arm, lying on the ground, clenched. I stopped moving, and just stared, trying to process what I was seeing as I clenched and unclenched the fist that was no longer connected to my body.
OK, talk about phantom limbs, that’s going to feed some surreal dreams.
I heard the sharp noises of some sort of gunpowder weapon, punctuated by small, yet irritating pains.
Shooting? Anne! Danny! Wait, they aren’t here.
After remembering that Anne and Danny were safe, I ignored the gunfire. Cog used projectiles as weapons, mostly, which I could ignore. I picked up the other part of my upper arm, and pressed it in place. It fell off.
I picked it up again, pushed it in place, but it wouldn’t stick. I just stared. Pinpricks of pain continued to march their way up and down my body, head, arms, and legs.
Is there a time limit? Wait.
I turned the upper arm piece over and pressed it in place. It connected.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If You exist, and You are listening, thank you.
I reached out and grabbed my left arm off the ground, and stuck it back on. There was only one way to connect the last piece of my arm, the correct way, and it immediately locked into place. I clenched both fists, and they both seemed to move right.
There are times when I love this body.
I hoped my other body wasn’t too badly damaged, wherever it went to.
“Cog, you’ve probably realized by now that projectiles don’t have much of an effect on me.”
The shooting stopped. Then started again, much slower this time. I could see a large, semi reflective shape on the driveway, about a hundred feet from me. The shape wasn’t inhumanly big like Badger and me in my alternate body. The remote suit was about my human body’s height, with an American football nose tackle build, and add bulky armor to it. His aim had apparently gotten much worse when he slowed his firing rate. I wasn’t feeling any pain as the shots rang out.
How is he missing me?
“Oh, come on, I’m literally not that much smaller than the broad side of a barn, and you’re missing me?” I started moving towards where I thought Cog’s position would be as fast as I could. He couldn’t hurt me with physical projectiles; my anger field probably wouldn’t affect his remote suit.
The fastest I could move was a walk, unfortunately, even if it was the walk of a ten foot tall body. I might have been managing a good human jogging pace – which was nowhere near fast enough to catch cog’s suit. He allowed the suit to get well into my effective power range before bothering to avoid me, proving the suit itself was unaffected by my anger field, which was to be expected. It wasn’t even an AI. He moved to the side, and as I moved closer, I noticed that he wasn’t shooting at me at all, he was shooting past me.
Damn, he’s shooting his partner? That’s cold.
At the same time I noticed that Cog wasn’t shooting at me, he also noticed that I was ignoring the remote suit and continuing to walk up the driveway. I heard the sound of an engine starting, but no lights came on. I wasn’t going to catch cog’s real body in the effect of my field unless his vehicle failed.
All of a sudden there was a sound like a cross between a snarl and canvas ripping, and Badger’s mind became visible to me again.
Fifteen seconds? He recovered from the effect in fifteen seconds?
Badger immediately turned to face me and charged again, but not directly at me this time. He was clearly going to try to strafe by me.
He was way too fast for me to dodge completely, but he had to avoid touching me with his body too, which made him cautious. He cut me badly, but no parts fell off.
“Badger I need more ammo. I had to shoot you to make you heal faster, sorry. I’ll be back in thirty seconds. Don’t let him near my van, please. My meat body can’t fight him.”
Badger made spitting sounds “You shoot me? We… talk later. Now we kill this… Not-man, shadowthing? What name, Strangest?”
“OK Badger. I’m sorry I had to do that to you.”
“It helped Badger get up, fight faster. Was good idea. Pain not really matter. Hurry.”
Cog’s remote suit ran off. It was nowhere near as fast as Badger, but it was much faster than me. Badger now stood between me and where I knew Cog’s van to be.
I wasn’t sure how exactly my power worked on people’s minds and willingness to cooperate with one another when one person was inside the field and another was not.
Time to stir up trouble, if I can.
“You’re just going to let him shoot you and run away like that?” I taunted, wondering if I could get Badger mad enough to strike me foolishly, again.
Badger’s eyes glittered with madness, and he snarled that ripping canvas snarl again. “You think Badger dumb enough to fall for that trick?”
Well, you do talk in third person, so it was worth a shot.
“Yes, I thought you were dumb enough to fall for that trick. You’re dumb enough to be fighting me. Eventually, you will get careless, and I’ll touch you again. I always win, Badger, even when I don’t want to fight.”
“Badger not dumb. Badger sometimes confused. There is me half and other half in brain. At same time. Other half knows six hundred clay words, five thousand soil words, fifteen hundred sand words. Rock. So many words for rock…” Badger started muttering to himself as he looked around.
“You sound like a dirt tinker.” I muttered under my breath.
Both of Badger’s small, furry ears swiveled to point at me like little radar dishes. “Dirt tinker? Make things from dirt? From rock?” He sounded excited, and pointed at the ground, which started to rumble and shake a bit.
I started taking slow steps towards him, while he was distracted doing whatever it was that he was doing.
“Yes! Can do!” The ground stopped shaking. Badger did something that looked almost dance-like for a moment, pointed at the ground again, and the ground started to shake once more.
What did I just do?
A dark pillar about ten feet tall erupted from the ground between Badger and me. The pillar fell over, hitting the ground like a pile driver, and shaking the ground with a heavy, solid thump. Badger quickly leaned over and picked up his new club. It was sized for his hands, two handed. It appeared to be made from raw iron.
He’s geokinetic too?
I took a couple more steps forward as he was retrieving his club, and tried to reach out to grab him. He avoided me easily before swiping me with a cautious, testing blow from his new iron club. I still flew about ten feet, and it hurt. A lot. More than it ever hurt when Octagon hit me, or any other physical damage I had experienced to date.
I slammed against a tree, and fell forward onto my hands and knees, quickly standing again.
That hurt a lot more than it should have. Didn’t Fred say something about my powers having some magic? Does raw iron really hurt magic?
“Badger is dirt tinker! Hahaha.” Watching a bipedal badger-man do a happy dance was riveting. If he hadn’t been a murderous psychopathic half-animal that probably weighed at least fifteen hundred pounds, I would have probably laughed with him.
Cog’s voice from behind Badger announced his return. “I’m not sure what you just did there, Strangest. Badger was already strange enough. Now he seems to have gotten more peculiar, and figured out a new power.” He paused, clearly looking at badger’s club. “Potentially a useful one.”
“Badger not pee… pee… strange. You not even know difference between laterite and hematite.” Badger snorted. “We supposed to chop him up? Gun can’t chop. Who smart here?”
The way he talks, I can’t help but think he’s dull, but he’s not. Not in a fight.
Having done quite enough to teach my enemy how to fight me better, I did not mention that clubs weren’t so hot for chopping either. I moved deeper into the woods. I was hoping that swinging a ten foot long, foot-thick thick club made of iron would be a lot more difficult in a forest. He was strong; I didn’t think he was strong enough to ignore trees when swinging a club that probably weighed several tons.
It’s not all body strength. He’s geokinetic too, which also explains why he’s not unbalanced by how heavy that club is.
True to his words, Badger wasn’t dumb, at least not about fighting. He immediately saw what I was doing and quickly moved to block me from moving more than a few feet into the woods. “You stay out of woods. I have idea.” He then poked and prodded me with the end of his club, herding me. I didn’t have quite enough reach to get around the club. He was so much faster than me, even with the club, I probably couldn’t have touched him even if the club was half as long as it was.
After a couple minutes of pushing me around, badger got me back into the open in front of my house. He was wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth a bit by that time. Cog had done nothing but watch, which had apparently irritated Badger. I had never seen two people fighting me arguing before now. Cog’s remote suit was clearly unaffected by my power, which made sense, since he was not actually present. I only needed to wait though. It wouldn’t be much longer before Badger completely lost it and came after me with teeth and claws.
All of a sudden Badger knocked my legs out from underneath me and dropped his club across my waist.
There was no way I could possibly move with that club smashing my waist almost flat. It hurt too, a burning sensation like alcohol on a rash.
Badger eyed me, eyes glittering again. His hands gripped and relaxed a couple times, which was rather strange looking with claws that big, but it somehow worked. He started shaking, and I thought he was going to go for me with teeth and claws right then, but after a moment he got himself under control and the ground started shaking again. A few seconds later, a blade pushed out of the ground. It looked like some giant, crude videogame sword, and was nearly the size of the club that was still pinning me in place, growing more uncomfortable over time.
Badger approached me, from my right side, clearly looking at my head. “Chop chop time, shadow man.”
I did not reach out to try to grapple with the blade, hoping he wouldn’t realize how much reach I had. While he was still outside my reach, he chopped off my right arm at the shoulder, while staring at me. “Not stupid!” He said, following the statement with that canvas ripping snarl.
Not stupid. Definitely not stupid. Not entirely human either.
Cog simply continued to watch.
This was going to get ugly. I knew now that I could pull myself back together if I was cut up, but was there a limit? If they cut me into ten pieces, could I reform? A hundred? Hundreds? What if they put me through a wood chipper? I did have a wood chipper in the barn. I had planned to use it to mulch branches from trees I cut for firewood.
I tried to fend off Badger’s iron sword with my left arm, but that was almost useless, one chop and that arm was off at the shoulder as well.
At least I don’t bleed in this form.
Time to gamble. “Fuck you, you stupid little weasel.”
“Badger, Badger, Badger!! Not Weasel! Badger! Not stupid! I beat you!” Then he cut my head off.
Oooo… Oooo… Still alive? Whew.
“Badger!” Chop. “Badger! Badger!” Chop. Chop.
After my head stopped rolling, I was careful to not move any part of my body. My eyes were not facing towards my body, but based on the pains I was feeling and the noises and words he muttered as he raged, Badger was chopping up my legs and torso. Eventually he completely lost it and I heard that canvas ripping snarl, followed by one more pain in the middle of my chest, and then a powerful snoring almost below the point of human hearing. I could literally feel the vibrations of his snoring through the ground.
Cog spoke again. “I’ll be damned, Badger, you did it.” A few seconds later, another comment. “You’re one heavy son of a bitch, Badger.”
This was what I hoped would happen. Badger would have to be pulled off my body to be able to recover. Cog’s remote would have to do that for him. I couldn’t see where Badger and Cog’s remote were, but when I heard loud dragging noises, I started trying to run quickly, even though my body had been cut into many small parts. The intent being that some of the randomly moving pieces of me would hit Cog’s remote suit as they tried to obey the whole-body command to run.
Fortune was with me, and apparently there was something to the stories about technology being shorted out by magic. Since iron seemed to hurt me so much, I supposed it was only fair.
There was a very loud, high pitched noise, Squark!, followed by a very loud banging and clanging, as the remote suit crashed to the ground.
I thought about the phones I’d used when in the Strangest body.
Why haven’t I ever shorted out any other electronics?
Maybe only my inside surfaces have enough magic? Maybe it’s based on intent?
I shuddered. Or at least it felt like I tried to. It probably would have been damn creepy to see all the chopped up bits of me wriggling on the ground as all the different muscles tried to obey the command to shudder.
God, that was stupid.
It was the only real plan though. I was helpless.
I started feeling around with my hands until I touched something solid, and then I started tapping my fingers on the ground. When I was able to hear the tapping, I begin to work my neck muscles, slowly, slowly changing the direction my head was facing. My head had landed with the cut part of my neck flat on the ground, and there was a good bit of neck below the head, so it was annoying, but not impossible to adjust the direction I was looking.
When I finally got my head turned around, I was able to verify that Cog’s remote suit and Badger were lying amidst all my bits and pieces. I had been chopped up enough that the iron club was no longer holding my torso down. It was still touching at least a few pieces of me though, since I was feeling the iron burning over several of my body parts. The sword-axe-thing that Badger had been using was probably lying on some pieces of me too. I would be able to push or roll the club or sword off any pieces of me still underneath them, if need be.
Cog was still out there. Only his remote suit was down. He was almost certainly going to come try to get his equipment with a grappling cable or something. Gorgon knew my range, or had an idea of it anyway, from the earlier parts of the same fight where Octagon tried to use his unconscious body to beat me to death.
Yup, I can still hear the engine of the van.
Only two parts of me had any real mobility at all, my hands. The right was still connected to an arm, the left was just a hand. I experimented a bit and was able to start moving my left hand on the ground, clumsily, using the fingers like legs, dragging the palm.
I carefully adjusted the position of my head so I could watch the driveway, and started walking my hand along the driveway towards the road. Even if the van was a four wheel drive vehicle, there was only one way to get it down to the house to where Badger had chopped me up. Cog would almost certainly come down the driveway, at least far enough to see what had happened to his remote suit. Unless he had simply fled. I’d settle for either, but I’d rather catch the bastard.
Badger and the suit aren’t going anywhere.
Because they are lying on my brutally dissected body, which is disabling them.
I can’t believe I just thought that.
I almost wished Mirage could have been there poking around in my brain at that moment, because I wanted to see her reactions to a disembodied head commanding a disembodied hand to go apprehend a handicapped supervillain in a van.
Except she can’t poke around in my head when I’m in this form.
I laughed at myself briefly. Perhaps a little hysterically.
Stay on target!
It didn’t take long to walk the hand up the road fifty feet or so, to the point where I lost visual track of it. A black shadowy hand, low to the ground, at night, on a gravel road, in the woods – it blended in rapidly. I had known I would lose sight of the hand, and that it might then start walking in circles, unless I could verify what direction it was moving by sense of touch. To prevent circle-walking, I had moved the left hand to the right side of the gravel bed of the driveway and was using my left thumb to feel for weeds and pine needles on the right shoulder of the driveway. That allowed me to keep track of which side of the road the hand was on while my fingers pulled the hand forward along the gravel.
After about fifteen minutes, I felt a mind, almost all the way to the road. I heard the van’s motor change tone, and something ran over my hand. Twice. Three times. I heard a pistol or small caliber rifle fire a dozen rounds, closely followed by another dozen, each shot punctuated by a pinprick of pain in my hand Then I heard the sound of hydraulics. A few seconds later, I felt a touch on the hand, and the human mind I detected near my hand was off my ‘radar’, unconscious.
The van engine was still running.
And now I get to play Humpty Dumpty without all the king’s men.
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