The List Episode 19: Martial Law (Part 2)


“So are we going to just stare at each other’s muscles all day,” I said, “Or can we get on with killing each other?”

My insides itched in a not unpleasant way from the rejuv still coursing through my veins.  Staring down my opponents made me wish I had brought more.  I had two magazines for my Seiver.  My beam blade wouldn’t be functional for another few minutes.  Even then it would only have enough juice for a few seconds.  I still had plenty of nades, but few that would let me out of this fight alive.  I had to hide the fact that it sort of made me a little giddy.

The Mayor finally acknowledged my presence and shifted his weight in a way that was barely perceptible, yet it brought me into his field of vision and line of attack.  So he wasn’t just all show – this man had some actual training.  Whether it would keep him alive or not in the following moments was another question.

Arachnos stood with his arms crossed, chest puffed out.  “It took you long enough, but be patient,” Arachnos said, his voice so low and monotone, I almost had to strain to hear it – while at the same time the words he said formed clear images in my mind.  “Just waiting for all the pieces to fall into place.”

“And what about you, Corrosion?  I knew you were dirty, but this?”

Corrosion seemed to stare right through.  A few seconds of awkward silence passed, and a modicum of recognition flickered across his dull eyes.  “You wouldn’t understand it, Levi.  I see the big picture here.  I know how this system works, and what it takes to make it in this city.  Your vision is limited to the space right in front of you.”’

“I would argue that it’s kept me alive until this point,” I said, “but please continue your wonderful speech on how you’re better than me.”

Corrosion glanced over to Arachnos, whose clean-shaved yet battle scarred face somehow showed less emotion than Shell’s ever did, and then shifted his eyes back to me. “My point has been made, Levi.  It’d be pointless debating it any further.  I’m on the winning side, which you’ll see soon enough.”

“You keep your puppets on a tight leash, Arachnos.  But I have to ask,” I said, raising my hands to shrug, “Why go through all this?  Surely you could kill The Mayor with a much less convoluted plan.”

The Mayor snickered.  “Something funny?” I asked, suddenly wondering if I had just walked into the biggest set up ever.

“You’re assuming a lot by thinking they could have just killed me.  You are greatly underestimating my strength.”  He nodded to Arachnos.  “But I don’t need to prove anything to you.  I’ll let him do the explaining.”

“I owe you at least that, Levi.  After all, I’m going to pin this on you in the end.  So I’ll do better than explain it,” Arachnos said, closing his eyes.  “I’ll demonstrate.”

Suddenly the room darkened – no, it only appeared to in contrast with the light gathering around Arachnos.  From there, beads of light ran in lines outward from him in all directions, tracing an invisible web.  Strands stuck to the back Corrosion’s head, neck, and wrists, showing the real puppet master behind the Sin Coaltion. No shock there.

The web spun outward, the gossamer threads etching patterns across the room, creating a cocoon around me, but never attempting to capture me.  Through the gaps I could see the web as it coated the giant room, slithering, reaching, and terminating a foot from the Mayor.  The invisible web gathered around him, unable to pass an equally invisible wall.  And from there the light reverse its flow, emanating from the Mayor and spreading back out.  It traced its way to Arachnos, trying to catch him in his own web.

Arachnos’s eyes snapped open. The image he had projected into our brains faded until every last strand dissapeared.

“He doesn’t publicize it, but I hear he secretely calls the power ‘Taxation’,” Arachnos said.  “Needless to say, it’s a bitch to deal with.”

I’d heard rumors about the Mayor’s powers – a telepathic power created to turn other telepathic powers back on their masters.  It seemed too good to be true, something he’d had his PR guys write up and spread to make the other freaks back off.  Now it was apparent that it worked, or at least well enough at least to keep Arachnos from digging his venomous fangs into his brain.

“So why don’t you capture me in that web of yours?” I asked.

A smile split across Arachnos’s war worn face.  “And take away the fun of watching you struggle and fail?” he laughed, but I sensed something in his eyes, and in the way he hadn’t let his web get even close to me.  While I didn’t doubt he’d gain pleasure from my failings, there was a deeper reason.  What I sensed here was fear.

And to be honest, that made me feel quite good about myself.

“I want to say you’ll regret that,” I said, “but I bet you would either way.”

Arachnos held up his index finger, calling for silence.  “The last piece is falling into place.”

A section of the floor folded upwards, changing from smooth marble to layer after layer of sharp edged steel that rose like pyramids.  It split down the center as the slender pyramids continued to grow, and  Cortege leapt out of the crevice.  She lunged, hands outspread, and the steel points followed her outstretched fingers, which all aimed for Arachnos.

“You’ll die today, Arachnos!” Cortege yelled.

“Corrosion, if you would,” Arachnos said, without batting an eye at the monstrosity of metal fangs.  Corrosion stepped in front of Arachnos and planted his hands on the ground.  The chemicals secreted from his pores were mixing with one another, turning the ground into highly combustible material.  The jagged mess of metal came down like a dragon, its jaws ready to devour its prey.  Corrosion stood, and a wall of debris exploded upward, collapsing the metal beast.

A recessed door in the wall behind Arachnos opened up, revealing a fleet of hovertanks.  Every single barrel and turret was lined up to obliterate the gargantuan office, and everything in it.  “I’ll leave it to you to sort this out,” Arachnos half saluted, then jumped onto the hull of the closest tank.

Cortege shot past Corrosion and dove at the tank as it veered out of reach.  The next moment half the building was following her, creating a gantry underneath her feet as she chased the tank.

“Yeah, you take care of him while I get these two, no problem,” I said, but she was already on her path for vengence.  “Mayor, it might be in your best interests if we team-”

“I will not join forces with scum like you,” the Mayor said, and launched himself at me.  I dodged at the last second, and his fist crushed a hole into the ground where I had been standing.  From the other direction came Corrosion, the tail of his long jacket fanning out behind him.

I drew my gun and unloaded the magazine.  He flipped into a front handspring, palms leaking out the chemicals, creating a springboard explosion that propelled him out of the trajectory of my bullets.  I diverted my attention to the Mayor’s oncoming fist.  The air snapped as it blew past my face.

I spun and grabbed the massive arm with both hands, so that it rested on my shoulder like a lever.  I estimated his weight at a solid 300 pounds, but it felt like I was trying to move a tank.  My body strained just to lift him off the ground, but once he was off balance it was just a matter of shifting my weight to topple him completely.

Palms pattered up my back and slapped my arm.  Corrosion smiled at me as the handprints on the fabric glowed neon green.  What he didn’t know was that I could whip my jacket off in less than 0.02 seconds.  It’s not a skill I usually brag about, since it’s not something that comes up in normal conversation.  But it proved to be a good one to have.

At 0.03 seconds, my jacket combusted, along with the arsenal of nades that lined the inside.  Flames licked my skin.  The blast caught me and tossed me across the room.  The remnants of the Rejuv tried healing the burns, but its effects were petering out.

A cool breeze lapped at my raw skin.  I turned my head and was staring straight at the line of tanks that hovered almost silently in the air, keeping watch.  I’d come inches from being thrown out through the open door to pick a fight with gravity.  Considering my options, it didn’t seem so bad compared to having my face exploded or my chest caved in by my opponents.

The room was scorched, the desk charred splinters and the flags and paper now dust.  The Mayor and Corrosion were fumbling around, but still alive.  I tried to line up a shot on Corrosion, but he skittered behind a pile of debris.  So I changed my tactics and placed a few shots at the feet of the Mayor.

He jerked his head up in my direction, suddenly regaining battle awareness.  His cape became a blue streak behind him as he charged.  I tucked and rolled backwards, out onto the wobbly bridge Cortege had left, and the Mayor shot past me.

I fought to gain my balance, and the makeshift bridge hissed and creaked as Corrosion landed on it.  Behind me, the path that Cortege had weaved collapsed a segment at a time.  I edged back and drew Corrosion farther out onto the crumbling structure.

If he’d been smart, he would have stayed inside and blown up the bridge from there, letting me fall to my death.  But I knew he couldn’t resist the opportunity of destroying me piece by piece.

When I was ready, I drew my gun.  He lunged, aiming to take off my arm.  I slapped the barrel of the Seiver into his hand.  The gun turned an effervescent green, and I jerked it from his grip and flung it at our feet.  The bridge disintegrated in the blast, and rubble fell from the sky, taking Corrosion and myself with it.

The Mayor could fly.  However, neither Corrosion nor I had that ability.  Which is why I had to use my brains, and plan ahead – such as making sure a hover tank would lie directly in my path of decent.

I snatched hold of the turret and hoisted myself up onto the outer hull.  The Mayor perched on the dome roof of City Hall.  I looked down, expecting to see Corrosion in full flailing mode, followed soon by his body splating on the pavement.

Instead he looked to be in deep concentration, palms and heels spread towards the ground.  He let out a roar, which was drowned out by the cacophony of explosions that engulfed him.  The explosions shot out from his hands and feet, slowing his fall and shredding the legs of his pants and overcoat.  Then his drop came to a sudden halt.  The explosions sparked out again, launching him upward.

Well, that ruined my plan.  So I did the next best thing – ruined his.  As Corrosion rocketed by, I pushed off from the turret and latched my arms around his neck and legs around his torso.  My exposed skin instantly started to bubble and melt.  He continued to rise, overshooting the Mayor and the dome roof.  Once he was a good distance above, he aimed himself at the dome and leaned into a nose dive.  I tried to pull away, and in the process tore off chunks of skin that had fused with whatever it was that coated Corrosion’s body to keep him from burning up.

The Mayor simply flew out of the way, and Corrosion and I slammed into the dome.  The thick granite concaved and cracked, along with a majority of my bones.

I wheezed and flopped to my side as I spewed blood and pieces of my respiratory system.  The sirens of the city became a low pitched hum.  Corrosion loomed over me, blocking out the sun.  I could see now, through half swollen shut eyes, why Arachos had picked him.  His skin was charred, mostly from where my own skin had been cooked, but other than that he was virtually unscathed.

“I’ll deal with you next,” he said, or at least that’s what I read on his lips, and he turned away.

The Mayor launched his attack, coming at Corrosion with a flying uppercut.  Corrosion met it with an explosion that consumed them both, and then they took to the sky.

I tried to crawl out of the crater.  Darkness flickered over my vision.  The fight boomed overhead.  I dug my elbows in.  Another flicker.  I stood before myself – no, a mirror image of myself.  Another crack of thunder – no, of blows being exchanged.  I shoved with my feet and knees.  And then darkness again.

The statue of the Mayor crumbled under the weight of the real Mayor.  Corrosion landed what was left of the statue’s feet, where his battered opponent lay embedded in the rock.  From my position, I couldn’t see the look of fear that was surely distorting the Mayor’s face.  Corrosion raised his illuminated fist, a smile cut across his mouth.

The flicker of darkness blotted out the world.  I came face to face with myself.  He wore a look of confidence that bordered on arrogance.  To be honest, it kind of pissed me off.  “You’re not finished yet,” he said.  “You have a job to do.  So do it.”

A beeping, somewhere, pulled me back to reality.

The beam blade on my wrist.  Fully reset, and ready to be deployed.

The thin white streak sliced the air, removing Corrosion’s fist from his arm.  A flick of the wrist, and his entire arm was gone.  Another, and his head went soaring.  His parts tumbled down the dome, harmlessly exploding on their way.

The beam, depleted of power once again, powered down.  I allowed myself to breathe a rattly sigh of relief.

The Mayor dislodged himself from the crushed remains of his statue and stumbled to his knees.  I could see now the damage he had taken in his fight.  The mangled fingers of his right hand.  The patches in his costume where exposed muscle showed through.  And don’t forget the blood, which spurted in such a frequency that wouldn’t inspire most voters’ confidence.

“You…” he gurgled, face pale, as he clambered along towards me.

I had no choice but to lay there as he closed in.  “I didn’t vote for you, but no hard feelings, right?”  If I was going to die, I was at least going to get one last quip in.

“You…” he said again, gritting his teeth this time as he said it.  “Levi.  You saved me.”  His face looked like it was in pain – for reasons other than the extreme blood loss.  “I promise you this, I’ll repay my debt to you.”

I hadn’t expected that.  I let out a chuckle, unable to think of what to do next.

The soft patter of feet touching down on the dome caught both of our attention.  Cortege stepped forward, almost as battle torn as either the Mayor or me.  Blood streaked down the side of her face.  Her dress was some odd fusion of lace and razor wire.  Lacerations ran up and down her legs and arms.

“Don’t tell me you finished Arachnos off without me,” I said with a smile.  “This may sound odd from where I’m laying, but I’ve got the situation here under control.”

She didn’t reply.  Only continued walking.  Only kept staring ahead.  Her eyes a dull empty gaze.

“Shit,” I said.  Before I could warn the Mayor, blades protruded from the ground, spiking to the skies.  The tips impaled his arms and legs and torso and neck, and carried him upward, where it held him frozen above the city.

And then I heard his voice – Arachnos’s voice – rise throughout the city, and that’s when I knew I had lost.