I did not just see that.
I shook my head rapidly, hoping to clear my vision and see something else. He was still standing there. As I watched, he took another bite, apparently content to allow me to watch him eat.
After swallowing that bite while angling his head up and jerking his head slightly, like a bird swallowing a fish, he spoke again. “I suppose you’re going to ask, ‘Why are you eating people?’ or maybe you might be thinking, ‘Why not eat something else?'”
What? Is this some sort of mindfuck? NOT funny, Mirage.
“Well, humans are really slow, have poor senses, breed all year round, and tend to congregate in large numbers, so I can always find young, tender ones, instead of old, tougher ones.” He glanced at the arm he was gnawing at before continuing. “But when needs must, well-seasoned meat will do.”
I could only stare as he took another bite.
I need to do something.
The people on the roof were almost to the stairwell entrance on the roof. I needed to get far enough away from them that they would not be in my anger field any longer, and would go back up on the roof, for some chance at rescue.
Move, stop being passive, or the people in the building die trying to get to me.
There was a car parked next to the fence on my right. I walked up on top of the car, and then tried to jump over the fence. Predictably, my legs got caught on the barbed wire on top, and I fell flat on my face. It was a lot more harmful to my pride than my face.
“You are remarkably clumsy, even for a big fellow, aren’t you?” Arson commented. He closed the gap between us slightly, staying at around twenty-five feet away, watching me.
If he ever was human, he no longer is.
The last thing I wanted was a conversation with the monster. I would probably need to deliver a few one-liners to help piss him off, so the fight would be shorter. His potential for collateral damage was extreme.
I started walking at my best pace directly away from the burning building, but then noticed another building in the distance that I was approaching, so I turned a little right. I kept a close eye out for other people approaching. Most normals would not approach a super fight, but some were ignorant or stupid, or had suicide wishes. Death by super seemed attractive to some of the more emo subgroups.
Arson chuckled. “Is the big, bad, man in black trying to scare the evil villain with the silent treatment?”
I could see a few people watching us from far away. Hopefully, they were asking the right questions and finding out who I was. Almost nobody outside of Atlanta would know me, but the Enclave apparently had connections here, and I hope they told at least some people about me. There weren’t too many supers with my physical dimensions.
I can’t believe he hasn’t attacked me yet. He either has extreme self-control or is unaffected by my power?
I felt the two humans in the building drop off my ‘radar’, but kept walking a few more steps, before turning around and looking at my opponent.
I had only taken about fifteen long-legged steps, but when I turned around, Arson had nearly finished eating the flesh off the arm he was holding, the bones were visible for the whole length of the forearm to the wrist. He had reversed his grip and was holding the forearm bones while eating whole fingers and parts of the hand, small bones included, crunching them like pretzels.
Maybe he wasn’t attacking me because he was low on energy and hungry? As slow as I am and as fast as he is, I can’t force the engagement.
“Sure you don’t want some? I saved a couple bites for you.” Arson tossed the arm with a few scraps of flesh left on it in front of me.
It was all I could do not to recoil or take a step back as the skeletal remains of The Bull’s arm bounced to a stop at my feet followed a second later by the smell of cooked pork, again.
I wonder how many supers don’t eat pork? I think I’m going to stop.
“A strong, silent type, I guess. Except I get the impression you aren’t very strong. A clumsy, slow, silent type then.” He shook his head. “That really doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know?”
“If you fight with half as much energy as you talk, it’s no wonder you need so many calories.” I wanted this fight to start now, while there seemed to be few people around. If I had to talk to this monster to get the fight to start quickly, then so be it. I was too slow to be the aggressor here.
“I usually don’t attack what I won’t eat. You don’t smell like meat to me. I’m half tempted to just leave, collect another few meals from where I threw them out the windows of that building over there, and go lay out somewhere and relax.”
Threw meals out the windows? Oh. Fuck. Children?
Is he an alien? Does it matter?
I am very glad my emotions are muted in this form.
“I hear fear and weakness speaking.” I paused. “Not unexpected, really, from a self-professed hunter of children.”
“I can hunt adult humans too, but most adults taste bad.” He hissed at me.
OK, that settles it. I wasn’t sent here as backup. I’m either an enforcer or an assassin, and I know what way I’m leaning right now.
“Excuses, excuses.” I turned my back on him.
“I am going to cut you into a thousand pieces, and evaporate what’s left. What do they call you, anyway?”
“It won’t matter, to you. Either you fight me and lose now or you will be avoiding me for a long time, in a very small area, until you collapse from fatigue or hunger. Your pick.”
I continued facing away from him. He was silent, other than a clearly audible grating noise. He was probably grinding his beak or whatever his mouth parts would be called.
I bet he has a danger sense of some sort, and knows attacking me is dangerous.
“Since you haven’t left yet, despite indicating by your actions that you are a pathetic wannabe predator, I’m guessing that you are trapped in my anger field.” I paused. “You aren’t going anywhere. This body doesn’t need to eat or sleep, and I will make sure I don’t allow you near food.”
He did not speak, but I could still hear him grinding his teeth, beak parts, or whatever it was that he used to eat.
I tried to goad him again. “I don’t have all fucking day, you coward, do you want to go out with a bang, and maybe have a chance, or go out whimpering with your tail between your legs?”
“This is not fair. There is no way I can win this fight.” He said, with anger in his voice.
What? That sounded human.
“You pathetic whiner. Your danger sense, or whatever, has just made it clear to you that you can’t win? Do you realize how pathetic you sound, complaining about fairness? Life is not fair. You went out of control, and that led to me getting dropped on your head. At least pretend you have some backbone and try. You can’t bore me to death.”
I really don’t want to wait here till you go unconscious.
I heard Aria’s singing again, over towards the building, and saw her glittery effect grab the two people on the roof, and then streak away again.
Brave woman. There’s no way she could possibly miss him standing here, as bright as he is, and she still entered his line of sight.
I wish I could work with people like her, but I suspect I’ll be an enforcer or executioner targeted at supers like Arson instead. A ‘heavy’, indeed. More like an organized crime enforcer or torpedo.
Arson finally made his move, and tried to cut me in half, head to crotch, with his heat beam, or whatever it was. It was painful as hell, but not as bad as electricity.
The beam he attacked me with was very narrow. My body simply healed behind the cut.
“See, I knew you could be something other than a child-killing coward. At least you will go to your grave knowing that in your last fight, you didn’t just lay down and die.”
He cut off my right hand, with a rapid swipe of his beam, and it fell to the ground.
Arson paused, looking at the hand on the ground, then at me.
It felt like I’d jammed my arm into fry grease, but struggled to prevent Arson from seeing my pain.
“Oh, my, how exciting. You cut off my hand.” I reached down and picked up my right hand with my left, and stuck it back on. “Whew, I was worried for a minute there.”
“What the fuck kind of powers do you have? This is just wrong. You’re like a damn tar pit.” He started rapidly cutting me into pieces, which hurt like a bitch, but most of the cuts across larger body parts healed before the parts separated from my body.
Wow, La Brea would be a nice name. Too bad the media stuck me with Strangest.
“I’m just waiting to hear you say ‘Oh, please don’t kill me.'” I paused and tilted my head at him. “I imagine you’ve heard that a few times, haven’t you?”
He just stared at me.
“I promise I’ll give you just as much mercy as you gave the ones you killed.”
“Fuck you.” He screamed as he rapidly swiped the air with beams coming from each index finger, rapidly. A moment later, I was blind, but I could still see his mind on my mental ‘radar.’ He wasn’t going anywhere.
I know I gave him a little satisfaction as I writhed under his beams of fire. I even yelled and screamed a bit, I’m sure. The more energy he wasted, the sooner this would be over, so the burns were soothed by visions of him being dead soon.
The agony ended after a couple minutes.
I almost feel bad for doing this to him. Almost.
He really does seem to have predator instincts.
Like a big cat that starts taking humans as prey.
When my eyesight returned, I saw that Arson’s full body glow was down to a few guttering flames weakly dancing around his head and shoulders. He had managed to cut me up pretty good, but nothing like what Badger had done with that damn raw iron sword.
It took me a couple minutes to pull myself together. Despite myself, I was impressed with Arson’s self-control. He had not yet touched me with his body yet. If he had only managed a bit more self-control when choosing what he was going to eat, maybe he would have amounted to something.
I looked down at him. He was on his knees, palms in front of his mouth, praying. I certainly hoped that if anyone was listening to him, it agreed with me about how much those prayers were worth, considering their source. Then again, maybe whoever they were praying to could forgive him, as advertised. I couldn’t.
I reached out and touched his head and he fell over. The turtle beak and skin plates disappeared, and his body shape changed slightly, becoming a little shorter and carrying a bit of a gut. He wasn’t very heavy, and I certainly wasn’t going to leave him alone for even an instant, or change to human and give him or anyone else a chance to get him away from me.
I looked around. At some point, it had become apparent to the watchers that Arson was no longer a threat. There were several news crews recording the scene. The Bull was standing next to a news crew, heavy bandages on the stump of his severed arm. His remaining hand gripped a street sign, which he was obviously using to help support himself.
As The Bull saw me looking at him, he took a couple steps forward and tossed the street sign one-handed like it was a giant lawn dart. It struck the ground a few feet from me, at a shallow angle, and then fell flat against the ground.
A street sign. What?
I stopped a second and tried to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with a street sign. It was a stop sign. It even had the English word ‘STOP’ on it. Was he telling me to stop?
He saw me looking at the sign and back to him.
When he started miming chopping wood, I realized he was brilliant.
I dropped Arson to the ground, and nudged his arms together, against his torso so they would not be in the way. Then I picked up the stop sign. It was a little difficult to grip the stop sign like an axe, but the post was thick and blunt enough it didn’t cut through me too much. The weight of the sign was almost more than I could deal with, but after a couple practice swings against the ground near me, I was confident I could do the job cleanly.
I touched Arson with my foot on his skin, just to be sure he wouldn’t wake and move.
Do I really want to do this?
Kill a child killer? Who ate the children he killed?
Stupid question. Just do it.
I watched the rolling head come to a stop. It blinked.
I still resent being dropped into this the way I was. Someone has explaining to do.
A couple seconds later, as I stared at the head, I felt a strange electric sensation crawl across my skin. The sensation wasn’t painful, just irritating. As the strange itchy-crawly electric feeling passed, there was severe nausea, but I didn’t feel like my gorge was rising.
I’m not sure I want to know what I’d puke up in this body.
I’d never felt any non-pain body sensations that strongly in the shadow body. I fell to my knees, shaking my head. I experienced tunnel vision for a few moments before my sight returned to normal, and the nausea faded.
Is this a psychological reaction to killing someone?
I shifted back to my human body, pushed myself to my feet, and collected Arson’s head, holding it by the hair at the top. There were way too many people out there with weird powers. This guy wasn’t coming back unless someone could do it without his brain.
I typed in the ‘mission complete’ code from the band’s instruction manual. Hopefully, someone could get me out of here, quickly.
Green, Green, Green, Green
That code was pretty easy to remember, at least.
I waved to The Bull. He returned my wave with his good arm, and then Aria rapidly marched up behind him and lifted him into the air with her power and shot off at a high rate of speed, trailing almost-opera noises behind her.
Hope they have access to someone that can regenerate that arm before the stump heals.
Our young translator was herded off by a fireman, and I gave him a little wave as he waved back to me.
Despite feeling that I had done the right thing, I didn’t want to speak to anyone else besides Anne and Danny right now. I hoped that the Enclave people would honor that. If not, they were going to deal with a very grumpy Zeke.
A few people started to walk my way carrying cameras and microphones. Reporters. I held up my hand, in the universal stop signal, and shook my head. Most of them stopped. One stopped, handed his microphone to his cameraman, and kept walking towards me. The rest of the news crews spread out so they could record.
I tried to keep my face passive. I’d been in front of a few cameras before as CEO of Exactitude. That didn’t stop me from trying to stare down the reporter as he approached. I did not want to speak to strangers right now, hadn’t I made that clear?
I’m looking into cameras without a mask.
The cat is completely out of the bag now.
The reporter spoke to me in low tones, in English, thankfully, while covering his mouth. “Do you want to go somewhere more private? I do not wish for an interview, unless you want to give one. It’s not very peaceful here. I’ve done what you just did. The first time is painful.”
He’s done it before? Killed a man, or vigilante justice?
I shook my head and bowed a little towards him.
Do they even do that in Korea, or is that Japan? I can’t remember.
Thoughts continued to race around in my skull. A couple unwelcome thoughts settled, and I realized I had something else I needed to do, soonest, while I waited for teleportation
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked signal. Not good, but not bad. I dialed up Kat in public relations.
“Hello, Mr. Collins! How can I help you?”
“Kat, get all your people together and figure out what you’re going to do with this. Are you recording?”
After a moment passed, she replied “Recording now, sir.”
“I, Zeke Collins, CEO and majority stockholder of Exactitude, am also known to the world as the super called Strangest. Today, as Strangest, I was dropped by teleporter into the middle of a building on fire in South Korea, to support other supers, and eventually discovered that there was a rogue super villain by the name of Arson attacking the facility. Over the next thirty minutes or so, Arson clearly indicated that he not only killed and consumed humans, he preferred human children. In fact, in the beginning of the fight, as he was explaining his diet, he was eating the right forearm of the South Korean super named The Bull. At the end of our engagement, I executed Arson.”
Better to let the PR people get ahead of this, instead of forcing them to chase it.
“You got that, Kat?”
“Is this a joke, sir?”
“I wish it was. It’s real, Kat.”
A few seconds of silence before she responded. “That’s why you moved? We thought you were selling the company.”
“You are the second person today to tell me that. Please send an email to the whole company, telling everyone that unless I am legally forced out of the position, I’m not going anywhere. Legally forcing me out when I own sixty percent of the stock, and my wife owns thirty would be a bit difficult.”
“Are we going to become targets for your enemies, sir?”
Thanks, Kat, I needed to think about that right now.
“I strongly doubt anyone is going to be upset that Arson is dead, Kat. I do not plan on doing this all the time. However, it would not hurt to make sure that people are up to date on security protocols, worldwide.”
“Understood, sir, but…”
“Kat.” I interrupted. “I just killed a cannibal serial killer by chopping his head off with a stop sign. I really need you to do what you can with the information I have provided, get ahead of the media, and don’t let our people get caught off guard. Try to maintain or promote calm if there are any spots of anxiety. Don’t lie. Don’t try to blow smoke. Shoot straight. If there are questions you can’t answer, leave them for me.”
“Oh, ah. Yes, sir. I’m not sure what to say to that, sir. I hope everything works out OK.”
“I do too, Kat.” I ended the connection, and stared at the phone for a second before putting it back in my pocket.
I just hung up on an employee.
I looked up. Some of the microphones pointed my way would certainly have caught at least parts of my half of the conversation.
Like I care at this point. I’ve done a good deed today.
I doubt the Boy Scouts would approve of this one. Officially.
My belt began beeping slowly. After a few seconds, it started to beep rapidly. I held my breath.
I appeared in the cold room, nearly dropping the head as my body reacted violently to the absurd bone-chilling cold. I almost managed to avoid shifting, but not quite. Fortunately, there was nobody in the room with me.
I walked over to the liquid-black-looking portal to the Enclave.
Do I really want to confront the Enclave while carrying a severed head? What if Anne and Danny are there waiting for me?
If Gorgon is right and they are pushing me to be a villain, alienating me from family would be a good first step, especially if they can do it by making me scare my family.
I looked around, using my shadow body height to see if maybe someone else had the same idea before me. The idea of there being a pile of heads in a corner in the cold room just seemed right, in some strange way. I didn’t see any pile of heads, but I did see a good place for one. I shifted to human shape, and threw the head, which had stopped dripping at some point. It sailed over a bank of machines into a corner of the room where it wouldn’t be visible to people walking the path I had just taken – unless they were at least eight or nine feet tall, or flying.
I wiped my hands on my jeans, but started shivering uncontrollably, so I walked forward into the black portal.
Anne and Danny were there, waiting for me.
Several people who I did not recognize were also in the room. A couple of them were looking at me with narrowed eyes. One of the ones who narrowed their eyes had the temerity to walk behind me, obviously looking to see if I was carrying something behind me.
After I am done visiting family, some people with real answers better be ready to talk to me.