Issue 1, chapter 6: Giving Chase
Panic and survival instinct has taken over as the Prodesapia scientists are attaked by the awakend half-human, half-fungus creatures. The things emit eerily human howls and shrieks, relentlessly attacking their previous captors.
One of the creatures jumps on a Prodesapia scientist, tearing at his face and throat until the man is still, his screaming silenced. Four of the bionically enhanced 'proto-sapians' have formed a defensive line, hoping to contain the mutants, but their defence is futile, as one by one they fall in the fight, overwhelemed by the number and power of these creatures.
Rough Justice looks on at the scene, content that the creatures – these poor victims of cruel experimentation – are giving the scientists exactly what they deserve. Cass, having been left alone, unnoticed in the warehouse with all the other activity going on, snaps his gaze back from the lights, which have felt strangely compelling, as if they pull on his conciousness, drawing him as a moth to a flame. He feels an unusual hum. It's not psychic, he would be more familiar with the sensation if it were. No, this is something different, something unknown, and that unnerves him.
Only two of the Prodesapia group remain in the area, the others either dead or gone. He launches a metallic punch at one of the larger creatures, who simply grabs the limb, absorbing the impact as though it were nothing. One fungal arm holding the scientist's torso in place, the other pulling at the metal arm, angry at its presence and its intentions. With a horrible 'shlock' sound, the arm is loosened and finally removed from its connection point on the mans body, flesh and metal tearing sounds drowned out by the man's screams.
The final scientist, having dispatched one of the creatures, makes a dash for the tunnel through which most of the heroes had a arrived, but is blocked by yet another mutant. After an all-too-brief grappling match, the scientist's limp body falls to the floor, the red lights of his bionic eyes flickering out.
Up to this point, the mutant creatures have paid the group of mismatched men – the broad giant of a man, the muscular hairy man in a biker jacket, the costumed man in his mask and cloak, and the tall, thin, older man in his grey suit – little-to-no attention. Now that their perceived enemy is gone, one of the creatures eyes Rough Justice suspiciously as he approaches.
"We're here to help, you got nothing to fear from us", Rough Justice attempts. The mutant man, fungus covering his left shoulder and running the length of his torso, looks at Rough Justice quizzically, his head cocked to one side, green eyes impassive and unreadable. He pauses for a moment before turning his attention to a nearby lamp-post. He stands under the light and closes his eyes, seemingly content to serenely soak up the light.
As the group look around, they notice many of the creatures are doing the same thing. Others are crouched over cars, public payphones, and other electrical items on the street, small sparks zipping between the items and the creatures' bodies. Where the electricity is absorbed, more and more fungus grows.
"Feeding... they're feeding." Says Fade, horrified at the realisation. "They're draining the electricity!" Sledgehammer furrows his brow as he thinks about this.
"They not escape. They eat city."
"Sledge is right, we need to contain them!", states Rough Justice.
In a curl of purple and black, Fade is gone. "I'm at the city powerstation, they can't feed if they don't have any food", Switchboard relays Fade's voice back to the others. Fade, not knowing his way around the station, hides in the shadows as a couple of employees walk past. Finding a plan of the station affixed to one of the walls by a central set of stairs, he identifies the main control room and teleports there. Looking around, there's nobody currently in the room and he sees a control labelled emergency shutoff, and a diagram of the sectors of the city being supplied with electricity. It's all a little more complicated than he has time for so, he activates what he hopes are the right set of controls.
Back at the docks, the lights flicker on and off, before cutting out altogether. Simultaneously, the mutant creatures emit howls of hunger and rage before dispersing in different directions, feeding off of the residual energy from car batteries and anything else with electricity they can get to. Cass realises that he too is annoyed by the sudden lack of electricity in the area.
"Turn it back on Fade, this is the opposite of containing them, they're scattering!" Comes Rough Justice's voice, relayed by Switchboard. There's no reply, but all the lights in the area are suddenly back on, and the creatures are onces again distracted by the energy around them.
The distraction is only momentary though. As one, the creatures suddenly look west along the coast line, tense and alert. Cass feels something too, a pull from that direction, something buzzing in his mind. The creatures howl again, and charge off in that direction.
Racing after them, Rough Justice asks Switchboard to connect him to Tracer, monitoring the situation from back in his tower.
"Tracer, it's Rough Justice, do we have any intel as to what's out along the coast, west of the South City Docks?"
"I'm looking now. There's not much out that way", comes the psychic reply, "ah... hang on... that's it, they'll be heading for the offshore substation."
"It's an offshore substation!", Rough Justice shouts the information to his colleagues as they dash down the road after the creatures.
"Switchboard, you need to evactuate all personel from the offshore sub station west of the South City Docks, right now!"
"I'm on it RJ, leave it to me", she replies.
As creatures move swiftly down the deserted street, some jump from car to car, absorbing the electricity from the batteries, more patches of fungus appearing on their bodies. Some of the creatures who haven't been feeding start to lag behind and eventually fall back, unconscious. It appears they need to constantly feed in order to survive.
The street runs parallel to the industrial port and harbour that makes up the city's docks. Large industrial cargo ships, and smaller fishing boats and other working ships line the harbour. There's nobody about at this time of night other than a skeleton crew of night watchmen, who gawp at the procession as it passes.
Within the minute, the substation, just visible in the distance, is bathed in the red emergency lighting of its evacuation beacons.
The stronger creatures at the front have now grown in stature and the fungus has started to bind itself together, fusing limbs and body parts, but instead of slowing the creatures down they seem to be gaining strength and speed.
The situation is rapidly spiraling out of control, but the group have now caught up with the creatures at the back of the pack. Sledgehammer bellows at the one nearest to him.
"YOU STOP NOW!" He brings a mighty fist down upon the creature, but instead of crumpling under the blow, she rolls with it, flattening herself in the same direction as the force, bearly slowing her pace. Somehow her body had entirely absorbed the impact of the attack and she now continues her single-minded race to the power station. Sledgehammer howls in frustration and tries again. This time, the creature sense the danger and rolls out of the way before the blow can connect.
"We need a way to contain these creatures, Fade is there anything you can do?"
Fade looks around at his surroundings, and promptly disappears into the ether, reappearing on one of the fishing boats in the harbour. Running over to a large net, Fade rests a hand on it, and man and net curl out of existance, rematerialising in the sky above the running creatures. In a complicated performance of teleportation, Fade dematerialises and materialises in and out of reality, pulling the net with him as he goes, and within seconds the whole thing is spread out into a flat trap, falling from the sky. Three of the creatures are caught underneath the heavy rope, thrashing and howling in fraustration, growing weaker by the minute as they're cut off from their energy source.
Without looking back, the group racing on, their quarry showing no signs of stopping or slowing. Catching up to one of the rearmost things, Cass jumps with surprising agility onto its back, the creature howling in dismay. The man's long bony fingers clasp around the creature's fungus-coated head and a low rumbling groan escapes Cass's lips as he begins to drain the mutant's life force. Cass's face grows drawn and gaunt until he appears a flesh-covered skeleton. The creature stumbles and falls, the force driving him onwards sucked from him by Cass, who looks up from his prey, eyes glowing green and a fungal patch spread across the left cheek of his once-more fleshy face. The hum of energy drawing the creatures to the substation pulls and claws at him, enticing and inviting him to feed.
"We need to get there before they do", he hisses at his comrades, masking his intent. The injection from earlier and the life force drawn from the dispatched creature battle Cass's near-perfect immune system, and even as Rough Justice and Sledgehammer look back at him to acknowledge his words, the fungal patch on his face has nearly faded completely from view; a green smudge on an otherwise clean visage.
Only two creatures now remain in the chase, and both have been feeding on considerably more electricity than the others as they have travelled, bouncing from car to lamppost to pylon, sparks jumping from each into the bodies of the creatures. More than half of the body of each is coated in green fungal matter. One creature's entire left side seems fused together, great clumps of the slimy coating moving almost comically in sychronisation with the thing's gait. Fade is suddenly next to it, and both disappear in a wisp of purple and black.
The two figures re-emerge inside one of the large rectangular cargo containers aboard one of the ship. Fade is glad the container is mostly empty - that could have been pretty crowded. The mutant thrashes and screams at the sudden blackout but already he is weakening. If Fade could see anything in the pitch dark of the container, he would see the fungus receding back into the creature's skin, but there is no light at all, and Fade dematerialises as soon as he can. The creature bangs on the walls in frustration, its insatiable appetite remaining unappeased.
Rough Justice has reached the largest of the creatures, and the only one remaining on the run. His physical attacks have been futile, the mutant ducking and rolling with the blows. The ones that do connect seem to have no impact at all. Fade is suddenly by his side.
"Allow me", he says confidently, reaching out with both arms to the creature, the two vanishing from the street as soon as contact is made. The three men, suddenly without quarry, slow down and stop, looking around for a sign of the whereabouts of the teleporter.
This was a mistake. Fade's immediate thought as he and the creature rematerialised in the same container he'd left the other was one of regret. Sensing his mutant brethren the newly teleported creature flings Fade backwards into the side of the container.
"There!" exlaims Rough Justice, pointing at the source of the noise. The three men hurry over.
Fade's breath catches in his chest, the wind knocked out of him as the stronger of the creatures bends over the weaker, defibrillating it in the way the heroes had seen the things do when they first awoke. The two creatures have enough strength between them to turn and rush at Fade, who teleports out of the container at the last second. He lies, panting, on the pavement of the street they'd been running down, his colleagues looking down at him.
"Switchboard, it's Rough Justice, connect the whole team please."
"It's done RJ, what's up?"
"Those things have been contained, the offshore substation is safe. What would you like us to do with the surviving things?"
"Er.. I'd rather not know."
In a show of initiative that surprises the others, Sledgehammer takes the sentence as a hint.
"Understand", he says softly to himself, jumping onto the container ship moored nearby and pushing the container holding the mutants into the sea. A sad look passes over his face at his actions and he stands for a moment in reflection. The others look on, unsure if that was what Switchboard had meant, or if she really meant that she didn't want to know.
"Well that's that then." Says Rough Justice, unnecessarily, and the group turn their backs on the water, ready to head back to the base.
"GREEN MEN GONE!" Sledgehammer shouts worriedly, pointing back at the net that Fade had used to trap the earlier creatures. The others can see that the big man is right; the creatures they had thought would perish under the net have disappeared.
"Uh... we may have a situa.." Rough Justice's words are interrupted by a gargantuan roar from the distance.
In a small room above a shop, a young, pretty, white-haired woman in a punky teeshirt, jeans and biker gloves jumps up from her window ledge seat and screams.
"Guys, you need to get here like, right now. Please?" Switchboards voice is heard shakily inside the minds of each of the group. It's quiet, frightened, and nothing like her usual confident self. Fade is back in the room before the others can reply.
"What is it?" he says, genuinely worried for the girl. She says nothing, but points a trembling finger out of the window. Looking on, Fade sees the source of the previous sound. A mountain of the fungal substance at least 5 storeys high can be seen in the street. Pulsating as it drains the electricity from people's homes, the electrical conduits and cables in the street. A dark circle surrounds the monster where the energy from the streetlights has been drained. Laying in the creature's wake is the darkened remains of the power station Fade had visited earlier that night. Fade relays what he can see to the others with Switchboard's assistance, and then he is gone again, leaving Switchboard alone once more.
"Go get him, guys". She says to herself. She didn't sign up for this.
"Power station's gotta be 20 minutes away, we need a vehical." Rough Justice yells as the three men sprint in the direction of the Power Station. By the side of the road, Cass notices the bodies of two people, green smudges staining their skin.
"It looks like they gave their lives to their kinsman." He notes to the others. Once the group are a little further into town, they come upon the cars, trucks and lorries of early morning workers starting their day, oblivious to the peril their city is in. As a truck with a vast oil tank attached turns toward them, Rough Justice says,
"That's what we need. Sledge, get in his way would ya?". Sledgehammer dutifully steps into the path of the truck, holding his palm out in the universal stop sign. The driver, wearing an old fashioned white and red baseball cap, slams his break on, a look of fear playing across his face at the big man's size and intent. The truck stops within inches of Sledgehammer's still outstretched arm. The big man looks around at his friend and grins.
"Stopped." He says, cheerfully.
"What the hell is going on?" Demands the man, suddenly angry at the interruption of his morning routine.
"Look, the whole city is in trouble, and we're the ones who're going to stop it from going to hell. We need your truck." The man looks at Rough Justice, suspicion giving away to fear as another monstrous roar breaks the early morning quiet. "Yeah," continues Rough Justice. "That."
"Ok, get in the cab, I'll drive."
"Transport me to the beast. I have no wish to be driven anywhere." Cass's intent rumbles through Fade's psyche. Fade had rematerialised in the Power Station but it was too late, there was no energy here to turn off; the building had been sucked dry by the monster. Cass relays his current location to Fade and dutifully, and a little resentfully, Fade obliges. The two men re-emgerge only a few metres from the base of the creature, who pays them no attention.
Fade teleports on top of the beast and concentrates his energy into draining that of his foe. Purple and black wisps coalesce around his hands, running down the creature's sides, puncturing the fungus and pulling at the life force of the creature. The giant mound flinches as though stung by an annoying insect, and roars in irritation. An impromptu fungal tentacle suddenly protrudes from the creature and swats at the point where fade had been, and he only teleports out of the way just before the impact.
Cass watches on in interest, and Sledgehammer and Rough Justice hurtle towards the Power Station in the truck driven by the man in the baseball cap, who sweats in concentration. They're less than ten minutes away at this pace.
Fade is straight back up on top of the creature and draining it once more, but this time the creature is a little more prepared, and catches Fade by surprise with a tentacle that has emerged behind him. Fade is swatted off the creature as if it were nothing. He flies in an awkward trajectory through the air and slams into a nearby building, the concrete cracking and crumbling slightly at the force.
Cass walks around to what appears to be the front of the creature and probes at the mental energy contained inside. Such hunger. It is the creature's single focus. As Cass perceives it, it's as though the beast sees using electricity and Cass suddenly realises what must be done. He holds up his hand to Fade; a "wait there" gesture.
"I can give you energy. I can feed you. Follow. I can provide."
Cass pushes his intentions at the creature psychically, hoping to be able to communicate on this more primal level. The creature stops thrashing frantically around and is now focussed single-mindedly on the man. Still, and expectant.
"South City Green. Tell the others" He calls over to Fade, without breaking his psychic concentration on the beast. Fade relays the information through Switchboard to the others, and they alter course slightly, turning onto the three mile stretch of Curfel Road: one of the two roads running South to North the entire length of the lower part of the city. Five minutes away.
Cass latches onto the beast's psychic energy, pushing the constant message at the creature.
"I will provide. Follow. You will feed."
As he walks briskly away from the creature, it dutifully follows, a giant docile shadow of its former destructive self. Fade looks on at the unbelievable scene; monster concentrating wholly on man. He can't think of any other way to help, so he follows the pair. The sky is lightening slighty now, and Fade hears something that breaks his focus on the scene in front of him. Sirens. Just what they need, Law enforcement.
As the truck nears the scene, the ominous shape of the beast is now visible in the distance, following a tiny figure into the lawns of the park.
"Woah woah, I didn't sign up for a kamikaze mission - you guys keep the truck". The driver slams his foot down on the break pedal and the truck screeches to a halt. The man jumps down from the cab. Looks back at the pair and shakes his head in disbelief at the morning's events. "Good luck boys."
Rough Justice shifts over to the driver's seat and they're off again, less than two minutes away.
As the sirens get louder, four police cars round a nearby corner and tyres squeal in protest. Cass feels the creature start slightly, distracted by the noise and energy, but he pushes harder, hypnotising the creature once more into giving him its full concentration. Eight law enforcers jump out of the cars, pistols pointed first at the creature, then to Cass, to Fade, and back again. Fade addresses them, palms forward, attempting to show he comes in peace.
"Hands in the air, don't move!"
"Don't shoot! Please, this creature has caused tonight's massive blackouts, there are injured people in the power station that need assistance. My friend here has the thing under his... spell." In truth, Fade has no idea what Cass is doing, but he knows that it's working, and that they really can't afford to distract it now, especially with all these new energy sources suddenly at the scene. Most of the officers gawp, boggle-eyed at the sight before them. "We need you to get anyone in the area well back – we have the situation under control."
One of the officers, a sergeant with more experience who has dealt with the aftermath of super-power scuffles in the past, knows how these things tend to play out; if they intervene now, the only result will be dead officers and a hostile still at large. She hates knowing that is the truth of the matter, and hates the so called "heroes" for making her feel so rendundant.
"Do as he says." She barks grumpily at the other police officers. "Form a perimeter and get everyone out of the God-damn park."
From the cab of the truck, Rough Justice, seeing the police perimeter forming, yells at Sledgehammer to bail. Sledgehammer obeys, jumping from the speeding tanker, rolling onto the pavement and looking up in time to see a funny tableau that appears nearly frozen in time. The police looking on from behind the park's high fence; the giant creature-mountain curled over in concentration at the small besuited figure in front of him; the tanker crashing through the fence and careening towards the beast.
Fade, seeing what's about to happen, bursts into existance in the cab of the truck, grabbing Rough Justice and dematerialising as the tanker swerves into the beast, sparks first flying from the vehical's electrics to the creature, and then igniting the contents of its tank. A gargantuan fireball envelopes beast and tamer. A great wave of heat is expelled and a shockwave knocks most of the onlookers to the ground (only Sledgehammers remains upright, a giant fist curled in front of his head in automatic defence). The creature and most of the park is gone, disintigrated by the intense heat of the gas-fueled explosion. A few smouldering fungal lumps lay blazing in the crater caused by the blast. Some of the police officers and many of the nearby onlookers cheer in relief; some cry, and some stand in shock.
Rough Justice looks on from where he and Fade have rematerialised: a rooftop nearby. Cass is gone. Vapourised by the explosion.