I coughed at him.
“Stop with the Reagan jokes, and save us,” I choked. His grin faded and he walked over to me.
“Man, what the hell happened to you, Billy?” He looked down at me piteously, and I spat up a glob of blood.
“Don’t fucking call me that. How are you not roadkill?”
“Third power. Flight. Woke up in the middle of a falling truck. Now, who tried to kill me?”
“Shadow fucker. Ice and lightning and solid shadows. No rational thought. Enhanced.” He winced.
“Ooh. That’s gonna be h-” He was cut off as his shadow came alive under him and knocked him on his ass. The shadowfiend was standing above him, and plunged a sword at his head. Zeta rolled to the side, and it missed him by an inch. “Woah. Watch it, man.” The other sword plunged into the ground, trapping Zeta. But, instead of curling into a fetal position, he grabbed a blade in each hand, and drove what must have been a few million volts into the shadowfiend. While he was convulsing, Zeta rolled out from under him. At that, I saw that Zeta wasn’t exactly mint condition himself. He was hurting bad, and one of his hands was covered in ice. He fixed that pretty quickly, though. His hand went up in a small inferno, and water splattered the ground. By then, the shadowfiend was up again. He ran at Zeta, lunging with a razor sharp blade. Zeta saw it coming and jumped, flipping himself up and over the shadowfiend, using his newfound flight to make himself turn in midair, landing right behind the shadowfiend with an arm around its neck. He jumped up, pulling it with him high, way up into the sky. I turned my gaze upwards, but couldn’t see much. I saw a few bright red flashes, then one constant one, steadily growing larger. All of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t growing larger… it was falling. Fast. The body hit the ground hard and fast enough to make it bounce a few feet in the air. Zeta landed softly, and didn’t take his eyes off of him. For good reason, it turns out. Half a second later, it stood up, looking as if it had just stepped off the production line. Zeta, keeping his eyes on his enemy, said, “Dagny. I know you’re there. Link me and this asshole up.” There was a pause. “Yes, I know what I’m doing. I meant what I said! Establish a mental link between me, and the guy who’s been attacking all of us! And cut yourself off from it.” Then, all of a sudden, the shadowfiend’s back straightened, and he and Zeta started walking towards each other. They stopped… maybe an inch apart, and didn’t move. Until, that is, Zeta socked him in the face. The shadowfiend danced backwards, swords windmilling at his sides, and adopted a fighting stance before charging forward, spinning both swords in a whirlwind. Zeta shot flames out at him, but they froze and sputtered out before they could get close to the cyclone of death around the other combatant. Leaping backwards, all fire from Zeta ceased and electricity began spilling down his arms. He focused a moment and let lose a steady stream of electricity at his adversary. The shadowfiend dropped one of his swords and grasped the other with both, taking the full blast head on, which simply dissipated, absorbed into the blade. Arching over, he retrieved his second blade before jamming it back into the ground, sending a rapidly quickening trail of ice towards Zeta. Flames began billowing out again, and the ice stopped in its tracks, but Zeta was breathing hard and sweat was pouring down his face. Using his powers so much was beginning to cost him. He dashed forward, but was repelled by the blades. He tried for a sweep kick, but the enemy simply jumped backwards to evade. Finally,with a primal roar, Zeta charged recklessly forward.
The shadowfiend leveled his blades.
And Zeta was run through.
My eyes widened in shock as Zeta’s quavering arms raised up and grasped his enemy’s face.
“Burn in hell, with the rest of your kind, you bastard.”
And with that, Zeta and the shadowfiend went up in flames. Then, all we could hear was laughter.
It took almost a minute for them to finally calm down. Zeta was collapsed on all fours, but the shadowfiend was oozing darkness as if it was blood, and its swords dragged on the ground, like it barely had the strength to lift them.
Slowly standing while clutching his wounded chest, Zeta kicked the shadowfiend in the jaw with a sickening crunch, then clutched both hands into a ball and brought them down on its head, hard. Gazing at his now defenseless opponent, he shook his head and chuckled.
Zeta, still standing straight, plunged his hand hard and fast at the shadowfiend’s head. There was a sickening crack and squish, as if someone took a sledgehammer to a clay pot full of live flesh. All I could see was Zeta crouching over the body, moving his hand around like he was looking for something. When he stood up, I could see what he had found. He was holding a small, black remora. It was flopping in his hand, and he looked at it with contempt, then quickly closed his hand. When he opened it, there was just a black powder that blew away. Right after he killed the small fish, the shadowfiend stirred, and sat up. I expected its face would be mangled and destroyed, but no. There was no sign of the terrible… demon… that had been attacking us. Instead, there was a thin kid, with long brown hair. His face was unharmed, and the mask was gone. With it went the swords and the shadow that seemed to surround him. He lost all of the ominous aura surrounding him. Zeta gave him a hand and helped him up. They spoke, too quietly for me to hear, and then they shook hands. Zeta turned and started walking towards me. From behind him, I saw a black silhouette appear. At first, I thought it was a back up hero who had just arrived a little late. It was only when he pulled a spear out of his mouth that I got worried. The figure spun around briefly, then lobbed the spear straight at Zeta’s back, then disappeared. I tried to shout a warning, but no sound came out. The spear was going… I have no idea. Faster than I could ever throw one. I thought Zeta was a goner. Already wounded as he was, I doubt he could have dodged. Instead, a change rippled through the kid who had been possessed by a demon. The mask reformed on his face, and two swords appeared in his hands. I didn’t feel that scared, though. There were no shadows around him, and he had lost almost all of the … whatever made me scared of him. If he was still possessed (Well, he was. But, he was only possessed by one thing this time. Exile and Rune later explained that Legion had given him a demonic symbiote with a mind controlling demon inside of it. Demonception. The mask was still there, just not as powerful or driven to kill Zeta), then I was sure he would fall much easier than the first time. However, rather than trying to kill someone again, he just reached out his arm and changed everything. In a different world, perhaps he didn’t, and Zeta died. A lot would be different. Though fate has not yet run its course with us yet, I wonder… maybe the world would be better off.
Regardless of my suspicions, Zeta lived. Legion’s (C’mon, who else could it have been? Legion really has it out for him.) spear hit the guy’s sword and fell. Zeta turned around, and saw what happened. He beckoned the guy over to me, and together, they helped me up. We went around picking up team members, and not saying anything. Everyone was ashamed and angry. While we were trying to wake Everest up, Zeta just collapsed. He had been holding it off as long as he could… but c’mon. It was a bolt of electricity and a ton of abuse. He lay there on the ground, then the guy tried to help him up. Zeta brushed his hand away, and said,
“What’s your name?” The guy, suddenly looking very young, glanced at me and stammered,
“Um, A-Alex. Alex Ro-” Zeta shook his head.
“No. Other name.” He looked at me, continuing, “I want this guy to join the team. He was stronger than all of us. Though I’m sure he’s weaker, he’ll still be useful.” I thought about protesting, but decided against it. Everyone was still alive, after all. Hell, I could even stand again. Besides, Zeta was right. I nodded my head. Alex spoke, more confidently this time.
“Crane. That’s my name. Crane.” All of a sudden, a shadow slunk up against Zeta’s legs. I was worried for a second, but it was just the cat that had appeared earlier, in the van.
“Hey guys. Wonderful job in that fight. Really. Can’t think of a way you could have done that better. Especially you, Everest. God, you’re all a bunch of morons. Still,” it continued, “Crane shows promise. Not just anyone can cut me so badly. To be honest, you all show promise. If Everest can stop being such an idiot, he’ll do fine. Exile… you’ve got guts, brains, and whatever organ magic comes from. Keep it up, and you’ll be leading the team soon. Luna… that was pretty shitty, but we’ll see. That leaves… Apollo and Zeta? No, wait. Dagny. Hm. Make sure that you’re useful for more than just photoshoots. Okay, that’s everyone. Apollo and Zeta, you both are useless assholes.” Zeta and I shared a look, then glared at Zeta’s other self. He looked innocently back at us and purred. Zeta grumbled at him, then said,
“Alright, Crane. Just ignore the talking cat. Now, help me up before the media gets here.” Crane did. Just as he did, the first media van arrived. The camera men jumped out, and the reporters started begging for a sound byte. After that, there isn’t much to say. Rune came back with the ambulances. The attack was called an assassination attempt by Legion (not entirely untrue, I suppose. That’s all Crane ever was to him.) and Crane a concerned civilian who had helped out. The casualties were attributed to Legion, and Rune pulled a few strings to get Crane in the clear. Oh. There is one more thing. As we were all being sent to the hospital, Rune gathered us together and said,
“When you get out of the hospital, we’ll start filling out the paperwork, getting you ready for boot camp, and making sure none of you are undercover criminals. Our files on you are already pretty extensive, but the higher-ups say psychic interviews before you join the team. Company policy, I’m sure you understand. But, we need to talk about your performances in this fight. That was pretty fucking terrible. The only reason you won was because Zeta learned how to punch from picking fights with people bigger than him.” Zeta looked as if he was about to speak up at this, but Exile punched him in the arm and he stopped. “That being said, not bad. I think. My first team did pretty badly too, but we turned out okay. I’m biased though. The real test is how the media reports it. Good luck on your audition, kids.” He waved and walked away, towards the ruins of the police station. we stood for a minute, thinking about what he said. Then, Luna, my dear, sarcastic, wise-ass sister said,
“So, when should we expect a callback?
I coughed at him.