Bedevil sat on the edge of the sky rail station, dangling her legs off the elevated platform so that people driving below would see her red boots swaying. She watched the thunderheads flash and growl as they moved in on the swampy city she hated. The only good thing here was the Underground, and maybe that one gyro joint by her apartment.
Bedevil kicked her feet, trying to ignore her stomach twirling around and around like a carnival ride. Sweat drenched her costume, even to her cape. She was sure she smelled awful, because Jettison was standing on the opposite side of the station platform.
Bedevil hadn’t had a drink since last night, when Gabe fretted over her after the Houston Heroes bullied her. Quitting was harder than she thought it would be, but she was glad she picked a day where she had to focus on something else the whole time.
She knew quitting on her own was a stupid idea, but something in her wanted to prove to OPI and May that she didn’t need their rehab to do it. She wanted to prove she was strong enough to do this on her own. That no matter how bad it got, she was still Bedevil, the telekinetic wonderkid, and she could do anything she set her mind to. No matter how crampy, or smelly, or pukey she got over this, she wouldn’t give up.
Lucky that Gabe didn’t have to smell her right now, either.
Bedevil couldn’t help but worry over him and her new friends. The Underground were all really nice to her. Nicer than most OPI heroes had been lately. She opened her phone, scrolled past her conversation with Epione about Greek Gods, to Gabe’s number. She sent him her GPS location, just so he knew where she was before the fighting started. Maybe he’d come by.
No, that was silly.
She still struggled not to call him Mega or Julian. She’d borrowed Saw Off’s little nickname because it made things easier on her. She still hated herself for calling him Mega in bed, and the very thought of that made her throat tighten and her eyes water.
Gunfire sounded from the north.
“Do you need us?” Jettison asked through their ear comms.
“Not yet, hold position in case you see anything come your way,” Afterthought replied.
“Can’t believe they positioned us so far away,” Jettison said. “You’re not drunk, right?”
“I am not,” Bedevil managed, as politely as she could. News spread quick, and every hero in Houston knew by now that she’d gotten mandated rehab. They were all being mean about it, but she wouldn’t behave like them. She wouldn’t spit on all Megajoule taught her just to clap back at petty bullies.
Rehab wasn’t the worst idea in the world for her, she admitted, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Gabe needed her.
They sat there for a little while longer, listening to random bursts of gunfire. Bedevil’s chest tightened.
An explosion resounded over the ward, the sound of a building collapsing. Bedevil looked for the source of the sound, but couldn’t find anything.
“What was that?” Jettison asked.
This time, Director Marcy May spoke over the comms: “Terrance Elementary School just had a projectile hit it. Someone get an ambulance over there, make sure no one’s hurt.”
“Did you see where it came from?” Afterthought asked.
“Negative,” May replied. “Beyond the drone cover. Nothing on CCTV either.”
Gunfire interrupted their conversation.
“Go ahead and get over there, Fly Team 2,” Afterthought said.
Jettison floated over. “You’re ready, right? You aren’t holding me back.”
“Just fucking go,” Bedevil said. She latched onto him with her telekinesis, and steeled her stomach for the flight.
Jettison lifted into the air and flew north, dragging Bedevil along with him. She struggled with stomach cramps the entire way over.
“EMT down,” May said. “Get officers over there! Now!”
Jettison increased his speed, flying down toward the houses. They soared over a huge patch of small homes painted in bright pastel colors, quiet and sleepy but waking up to the sound of gunfire. Bedevil’s stomach turned over again and again, and she fought to keep from puking.
May spoke over the comms, her voice quiet. “They shapeshifted. If they haven’t changed again they’ll be a male, Caucasian, early 30’s, 6’2, bald, dressed in an EMT uniform.”
Bedevil gasped. Shapeshifter. Gabe told her about that one. Sledge. Last thing she knew, they’d attacked Gabe’s new friends.
A group running down a street caught her eye. Six people, and she cursed as she recognized them: Remise, Epione, Lugs, and three she didn’t know in various costumes that looked like they’d double great as street fashion, so she guessed they were the Street Devils. She looked up to see if Jettison caught sight of them, too.
“Going down! Vigilantes!” Jettison shouted.
Oh boy, he had. Jettison whipped downward to the street, cutting Remise off as he touched down. Bedevil landed next to him, shaking her head at the Remise furiously. Maybe she’d run.
“You’re Home Run’s associates,” Jettison said. He pointed at Epione, and added, “You’re the one that stopped us that day.”
Epione’s mask displayed her pink emoji smile. “Yes, that was fun.”
“Fun?” Jettison’s voice raised. “Fun?” He leaned into his comm. “Command, I have-”
At the last second, Bedevil saw Sledge in the form May described, sprinting toward them while stripping out of an EMT uniform. He hadn’t seen them yet as he was preoccupied with getting out of those clothes. “Sledge!”
Jettison stopped talking, glancing over at Sledge.
“What do you have?” May asked over the comms.
Jettison looked at the vigilantes, then back at Sledge. Bedevil’s chest did loop de loops while the gears turned behind his little domino mask, the only kind of mask OPI heroes were allowed if they didn’t have special need of them. “Sledge,” he said into the comms. “Eyes on Sledge.” Jettison glared at the vigilantes. “Don’t think you’re off the hook.”
Sledge was at that point less then a block away, and now he’d seen them. He banked a hard right down a side street.
Bedevil scowled. “We have to go, he’s making a break for it.”
“Lugs, Carapace, Asperity,” Remise said. “Help them! They’ll need it! We’ll keep going for Maisa and Pandahead.”
“We don’t need your help!” Jettison said.
“Just go, he’s getting away!” Bedevil said, latching her tendrils on him.
Jettison growled and took off. Sledge ran as fast as they could, which was way faster than Bedevil would’ve thought. They breezed down the street at a cool 45 MPH, and Bedevil noticed their legs were swollen up, stretching the EMT pants to their limit, while their arms were puny and weak.
Jettison wheeled toward them and broke into a deadly fast glide, dipping down to street level. Bedevil swung herself using her telekinesis, and released her hold on Jettison. She broke all of her tendrils into dozens of smaller ones, splitting each one as small as it could go. She wrapped the invisible threads around Sledge, seized their wrists and their ankles, and squeezed them around their throat.
Jettison followed up with a jet stream fist, snapping Sledge’s neck back. That had to kill them.
Sledge’s whole body crunched in on itself, rearranging the bones and flesh right out of Bedevil’s telekinetic grip. Their arm stretched and tripled in size, ripping a street sign from the nearby sidewalk. Sledge swung this metal bat right at Bedevil. She caught it with all of her tendrils, but only just. Her head swam, her sweat soaked into her costume.
Lugs and his two friends broke around the corner then. The one named Asperity slid on his feet like he was skating on ice, and the girl Carapace developed a brown-green exoskeleton that covered her entire body through her clothes.
Sledge stretched another arm out of their mass, grabbing at Jettison leg. Their hand found its mark and whipped Jettison into the pavement. Jettison screamed, and Bedevil winced as she saw the leg Sledge had grabbed dangle from his knee at the wrong angle.
Asperity coasted right up to Sledge and kicked him hard in the head, but that did nothing. Sledge’s body slushed together, and then reformed into the EMT’s body, this time with their upper chest and back bulging at a size that would shame bodybuilders.
Sledge twisted into a jab that Asperity ate in the gut. Apserity glided backwards, waving his arms like an ice skater that lost their balance.
Bedevil wrapped her tendrils around Asperity, stopping him in place. Gabe told her about the kid’s power. “High friction!” she shouted. Asperity nodded, and Bedevil yo-yoed off of him with her telekinesis as he became an unmovable anchor. She shot like a bullet at Sledge, and peppered him with slaps from her invisible appendages. A manhole cover sailed right under her, sent from Lugs’ metal arm.
Sledge opened a hole in their stomach to dodge the manhole cover. Bedevil forced her tendrils into the hole, so they couldn’t close their stomach back up, but Sledge shifted around this, warping their entire form around her tendrils.
Carapace ran up in tandem with Asperity, and the pair laid into Sledge. Asperity squirmed all over Sledge with judo techniques assisted by his low friction, and Carapace’s exoskeleton greatly enhanced her strength and speed, so she slammed her fists into Sledge’s joints, trying to break anything she could.
Sledge’s skin bruised, purpled, and blackened from their assault, and then healed to normal again, reverting back to the form Bedevil first saw them in.
Lugs pulled the manhole cover back, smashing it into Sledge’s back. Sledge snarled and grabbed Asperity, snaking their arm around his torso like a harness. Their other arm stretched for Jettison and snagged Jettison’s broken leg. Jettison shouted, threw a jet stream from his hands that staggered Sledge, and struggled to get free.
Sledge would kill them both. Bedevil needed to get them free now. Asperity could fight it for a little with his friction power, but Jettison’s broken leg meant he couldn’t even fly without agony. Carapace fought to free her team mate, but Sledge whipped her off with their leg, sending her an entire block down the street.
Bedevil latched onto Sledge and used them as an anchor to sling herself forward. When Sledge morphed out of her tendrils, she switched to Asperity, trying to pull him free of Sledge’s grasp. Sledge coiled their body around Asperity, keeping him bound, while using the other arm to reel Jettison toward them. Asperity screamed as Sledge’s grip tightened from every angle: his friction power should have let him slip away from a normal grasp, but Sledge wrapped him multiple ways and clamped down hard.
Bedevil landed in between Jettison and Sledge. “Don’t touch him!”
Sledge jumped for her, waving his snake like arm in a hypnotic pattern. Black claws and horns grew along the length of their skin, turning the arm into a lethal weapon.
Bedevil didn’t waste time trying to snare that arm, it was obvious bait for her to use her telekinesis. Instead, she coiled all of her telekinetic tendrils around her right arm, creating an invisible mass that resembled a muscular structure. She’d used this on thugs and punks in lesser forms, never gathering all of her tendrils into one blow. With just a handful of tendrils, she tripled her natural strength. With all of them? She felt she could bench press a semi.
Sledge whipped the black horned arm back, trading out for a kick she saw at the last second. She was right; he’d tried baiting her. Bedevil stepped out of the kick and hit Sledge’s chin with a super powered uppercut.
The telekinetic punch sent Sledge flying into the air, and gravity brought them back down near one of the houses, a yellow one story. A mother and her daughter gawked at the window.
Sledge lunged through that window with Asperity, smashed through the glass, and tackled the screaming family inside.
“We need backup!” Jettison shouted into his comms.
Bedevil slung herself into the house.
Sledge stood there, the weeping mother in one arm, Asperity kicking and struggling in the other. Sledge coiled them both in arms that moved like boa constrictors ready for a meal. He crushed down, both of his captives cried out in pain.
Bedevil snarled, exploded her tendrils out, and launched forward. Even though her body ran with chills and her stomach threatened to spill out of her mouth, she wedged every appendage she could in every weak point of Sledge’s grip, and wrenched hard. She had to save them. Even if she died doing it, that was her job.
Bedevil managed to free the mother from Sledge’s grip, and closed in for another telekinetic punch aimed for his stomach.
Sledge opened a hole in their stomach as Bedevil made contact, and shrunk it down again, caging her in his flesh. They twisted their body, forcing Bedevil to the ground. She shifted her tendrils to her entire body to resist him, and pushed all her strength against Sledge’s muscle.
Neither moved for a second. Bedevil’s heart nearly stopped as she realized Sledge was strong enough to resist her telekinesis. Not just that, but they shifted and morphed in response to where she put her pressure, so she couldn’t find a good hold on their body.
Sledge sighed. “Fine.”
Their arm squirmed all around Asperity, wrapping around his head in a ball of skin, talon, and muscle. Asperity’s muffled screams chilled Bedevil to the bone as the homemade meat grinder made of Sledge’s flesh squeezed and ground Asperity alive.
His screams were cut off in a second, as his headless body fell from Sledge’s grasp with a spray of blood. Gore dribbled from Sledge’s appendage as it became a normal human arm again.
“Fuck!” Bedevil tried to free herself, but her arm was stuck in Sledge’s stomach. Sledge dropped their knee into Bedevil’s chest, forcing her to the ground.
Bedevil couldn’t find the strength to lift him off of her. She’d once lifted a building with Megajoule, but she’d worn herself down so much she couldn’t even resist this person, and quitting drinking was turning her body to mush.
Sledge was going to kill her.
Lugs’ manhole cover smashed into Sledge’s head, shoving him off Bedevil, and freed her arm from his flesh prison. Bedevil dragged herself away, to the mother and daughter, and crouched in front of them defensively.
Lugs jumped into the house, shotgun out, and pumped a round into Sledge’s chest. The scattered wounds bled and rippled across their body, but closed up in seconds. Sledge ripped the shotgun from Lugs’ grip, and Lugs reached his arm out to recall the manhole cover with his power.
Sledge snaked their elastic arms around Lugs’ wrist, kicked their foot into Lugs’ armpit, and rolled like an alligator, ripping the metal arm clean from the socket.
“No!” Bedevil cried, but she was too weak to stop it. She stumbled, her telekinetic tendrils flailing out of her control.
Sledge raised the metal arm up to beat Lugs’ head in. Bedevil sent the tendrils she could control out to stop them.
Snow Owl shot in through the opening and crashed into Sledge, rocketing through the kitchen and out the back end of the house. Gyrfalcon followed, and seconds later, Bedevil saw Empyreal and Lily dashing around the house.
“Are you okay?” Bedevil asked the mother.
The daughter screamed and cried, the mother wept, but she nodded. “We’re not hurt.”
Bedevil crawled past Asperity’s lifeless body to Lugs. Lugs’ eyes rolled back into his head, and his gaping shoulder bled all over the wood floor. Bedevil pressed all of her telekinetic tendrils against Lugs’ wound, and tried to whisper soothing words, saying, “Hang on, hang on. Help’s coming. It’s okay.”
Bedevil didn’t start crying until Carapace made it to the house and saw Asperity’s corpse.