For a moment, the idea of superpowers was completely and utterly ridiculous.
I could no more feel the wind than I could feel anything else, but I could feel Colton’s ragged breath against my ear, could feel Hands quiver. Could feel the brief arc between the gauntlet and the battery.
And I could see the wave of reality lash through. Downed supers in partial transformations abruptly became normal.
Mary transformed back into an aging mother, her skin pale, bones crooked again., Faraday’s body gleamed with the skin of a normal corpse instead of being radioactive. Rebecca gasped as she fell to the ground. Numbed. Broken. Bleeding.
And the Lost Boy’s brain (growing from it’s neck now) found itself bizarrely unable to heal with Osteor’s bones trapped inside of it, though the bone slowly disappeared, whisked away, impossible in its nature.
The Lost boy let out a confused gargle as reality warred against it, as a way of normalcy battered its form, unwilling to pass on. Was it dead or alive? Did the universe known? It was not at all a normal thing, a normal thing, a normal thing.
It took another step and warred against normalcy, screeched the noise of the dying of the righteous, and hissed and burbled in confusion about everything.
Then another step forward, and started to walk faster. Moving despite the tendrils of reality, that would not let such a beast exist, tearing at skin, boiling away at muscle. Like thousands of hands whipping away at flesh.
It healed, regenerated, even as it smoked and boiled.
Heart sinking, I stared at the beast as, in open defiance of everything we’d thrown at it, it stayed mobile and awake.
The wave of reality had shattered my hip again. I was defenceless and drooling from the pain. Hands was defenceless.
Colton held a single knife in his hand, ribbed from his clothes. He’d learned since Patrickson. He stepped in front of us and nodded. He was up for this. His fingers were shaking. Breath coming out in sharp little noises, wheezes. Had he cracked a rib? But… He was up for this.
He was up for it. After all that. After all that struggle, that effort, the deaths, everything. We had only…
Hands stood up and stared at the beast in front of us. Her fingers curled into fists.
I was bleeding, rather rapidly. I stared down and saw the mess of burns and shrapnel that was my arm. Saw how it hurt. Saw how it stung. Then slowly, very slowly, I stood up and joined them.
Looked down at the clock. Time was up. It was time for a savior.
But none were there to be found.
The creature took another step forward, and tendons snapped under the unexpected burden. Mouths clicked together. Eyes bled from pressure.
“I’m not afraid of you anymore,” I said, blood running down my hand and splattering across my uniform.
“Do your fucking worse.”
It took another step forward. I glared at it. Heart thumping. “I said I’m not fucking afraid of you anymore!”
“WHY WON’T YOU FUCKING DIE?!” I screamed, and then struck out with my left and totally numb arm. My shrapnel covered skin bounced off of the flesh, drawing long scratches down it’s skin.
I was numb.
Colton struck out, drawing a score of flesh like cooked meat. It hung, limply, then slid down, splashing against the floor. I looked away.
It took one last swipe at us that bounced off of the corner of Faraday’s tomb, punctuated by snapping flesh and seizing nervous tissue. Blinded, deafened, screaming. Vacant.
I heard the beast let out a small, startled squeal and looked back up, blood painted Faraday’s tomb, splattered across Colton’s face.
I could smell again, and the creature smelled like death.
But the sword sticking out of its chest, poking out the front turned even that idea of death to baseline reality.
Excelsior stood up from behind the beast and with a single, fluid motion, cut off the lost boy’s brain.
“Time’s up.” He buried his boot in the creature’s side and shoved it.
The beast fell to the ground, dead as my belief in reality. The sword lay stuck inside of the creature’s head, blood black as pitch.
“Call off the bombs,” Excelsior barked into his comm. “Threat has been neutralized.”
The reality where heroes and people threw energy at each other existed outside of that bizarrely tranquil place, where the sky was blue and the sky made sense, and it rained like Mobile had always rained. As we stared back, I could somehow sense that the graveyard was right and wonderful, and that the world I was dragged into, piece by piece, was different. Changed. Wretched. Awful.
The remnants radioactive gauntlet was tugged off of my hand, the glove underneath and the needles, what they could grab, and the skin was pink, red, blistered. I couldn’t feel anything from it, and that worried me, terrified me.
But I’d done it.
We’d done it.
The firebombs weren’t coming. The distant roar of planes had been defeated. The sirens approaching our position, layered ambulances and police cars brought a tiny sliver of hope to me. We might be able to save some of the broken bodies here.
But Rebecca stood up, her face cut up and bloodied, and dragged her broken form to the edge of the zone, her skin pale, drawn, her eyes locked onto mine. Something fierce was written in them, some undying fire. How many disasters had she been through? How many things had her dispassionate eyes seen?
I didn’t know, but as she left the normalizing radius of effect, her bones cracked and popped and healed, skin knitting itself back together. She spat out a tooth and another grew back into place, then she slowly walked over to my side.
The graveyard erupted with the movement of many feet as the EMT’s invaded, rushing the field. The poor broken players littered the field with quiet noises of the dead, or occasionally, more vivid noises.
“Fuck off and someone call my kids,” Mary complained.
“Mary!” I yelped, starting towards her. Excelsior’s hand cramped down around my shoulder and kept me in place.
“Don’t try and run off like that,”
I shot him a hostile look.
“Hand Gale over to me,” She demanded, glaring at Excelsior. My arm slowly sealed as Rebecca’s gaze tore across it, sealing in who knew what, but staunching the bleeding. It hurt. It hurt so much.
Why did Rebecca want me healed when the EMTs were right there? Just let it happen naturally for once.
Stopped me from bleeding out, but angry searing hot down the nerves, down the bone, down the tendons.
“Let me handle my apprentice,” Excelsior said, gruffly.
“Just get me walking, and I’ll do it myself,” I said, looking frantically from both of them. “Is… it dead?” Needed to keep moving. Couldn’t take a break for more than a second.
“Neutralized,” Excelsior said. “Normalized reality is fatal to those creatures… and many others. There’ll be more graves to dig tonight, I’m afraid.”
Hands limped out slowly, followed by Colton.
The woman stopped by my side, and picked me up out of Excelsior’s grip. “Gale’s hip is broken, can you fix it? And that hand…”
Rebecca’s eyes darted over to my side, and her hands slowly slid over the numb burning that marked most of my body. “Gale’s in shock, actually,” Rebecca reported.
Numb, my eyes flicked around the destroyed graveyard. Tasted blood and limestone on my lips.
“Is it a reaction to trauma, or…?”
“Judging by the ashes, I believe Gale managed to call down lightning. Hurricane will be pleased,” Rebecca said. The bones shifted nauseatingly in my legs, responding to her siren’s song, to the slow pull of her power.
My stomach whirred and then I frantically jerked out of Hands’s grip and threw up bile on the ground.
“Normalizing sickness,” Excelsior said. “So definitely at least a B rank in terms of reality.”
“Good choice for a leader,” Rebecca agreed.
Excelsior helped me back to my feet, his scarred left hand gripping my right, and I wiped my mouth off of bile, though my muscles and bones felt like rubber. Rubble crunched underneath of our feet as the lot of us, all five moving in some confusing way, the wind was whispering contrary things and my eyes refused to track well.
“Covered in strains and muscle tears.” Rebecca said.
“Enough talking,” Colton said, stepping in. “What the fuck happened there?”
“Gale created a normalized bubble of reality, which removed the Lost boy’s ability to regenerate efficiently. It burnt through the rest of the energy it had siphoned, and collapsed under a good blow,” Rebecca reported, clinically.
“Radiation burns to the hand, embedded metal. Possible lead poisoning?” Excelsior said, seizing my flopping wrist in his left hand.
“Hospital,” Hands said, nudging me by the hips.
“Hospital,” I slurred, my tongue puffy.
Excelsior clapped me on the back. “You did good.”
“I feel like the dead,” I reported.
“Concussion,” Rebecca said, continuing to list off ailments. “We should probably get Gale somewhere safe. That’s a lot of blood.”
“Actually I can’t feel much of anything,” I slurred back at her. “Do you think that’s a bad sign?”
Rebecca turned and looked at Excelsior. “Contact Montgomery HQ and tell them that we’ve got Mobile handled.”
Excelsior chuckled, looking down at Hands and Colton, and finally myself. “I’ll tell them more than that.” My vision swam as Rebecca handled me. I wanted to pass out, and stop existing for a brief moment, but I suppose, with the concussion, they weren’t risking it.
“Oh?” Rebecca asked, quirking an eyebrow.
Excelsior pulled my Com off of my hip, cracked it open, and typed in a flurry of numbers I didn’t recognize with his thumb. The radio crackled once.
“Permission to retake the gulf region?”