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To the Victor…
Mourning arrived on the train platform in Steel canyon wearing a modest dark blue dress. Her hair was done up in a dignified bun and the three dogs were all well groomed and each on their own leash.
Beau had been waiting for some time, but he was not disappointed.
“You look great. I promise, we won’t be here long. I just feel I need to pay my respects, you know?”
“I don’t really feel good about bringin’ the dogs in there, so I’ll just hang around by the door ‘til you come out, okay?”
“Yeah, okay. Looks like a line already. I’ll be fast, I promise.”
She watched him enter the building, along with hundreds of other people. This man definitely made an impact on the city. From what she had heard, not just this city, but many.
A few of the mourners were coming out now, and a few stopped to look at the dogs. Many commented that the dogs seemed to understand what the people were going though. Mourning explained that they probably did. They had a lot of practice in the art of consolation.
After a few minutes she sat on a bench outside. She didn’t really want to be here. She wondered why she had even come in the first place. Beau had asked her, but why was that enough? He’d been growing more distant lately. He’d been acting less like himself. Maybe he was getting too close to her, and it scared him. Maybe he was growing tired of her. That scared her.
Her moment of self doubt and inner reflection came to an end with the hissing of a volley of laser blasts that slashed across the front of the building. People began to panic and run everywhere. Mourning stood on the bench to get a better view. The blasts were coming from a trio of small robots. They were short, and very angular, but sort of bipedal. They were either very poor shots, or were aiming to cause more panic than casualties.
A broadcast went out over the public address system that there were several attacks going on in Steel Canyon at that moment. The most severe activity was taking place in the north. Something wanted out of Boomtown and was making a run on the gate.
Mourning watched as the three robots came closer. She dropped the leashes on the dogs and ran forward to meet the robots. Once they were in range she created a ring of fire around each one to stop it from moving, then ordered everyone to get in the building. She had planned to use the doorway as a choke point if they tried to enter, while others evacuated them to the back. There were a few other heroes present but they were young. They agreed with the plan and began to clear the back of the building while she held the line.
When the fire cages flickered away, the robots returned their march on the building. Mourning waited. They were still out of range. Finally, one crossed the invisible line that allowed her to strike. It was engulfed in a cloud of soot and ash that blocked its sensors and seemed to short it out. The others stopped and stood idly by as their companion was engulfed in alternating waves of fire and smoke. All the while a green cloud of radioactive chemicals swirled around it, weakening its resistance to the heat.
Before that robot could be destroyed, several more arrived. Far more than she thought she could handle. She retreated further into the doorway and keyed her radio.
any Heroes in
Her call was answered by only dead air.
A voice from the back of the building yelled, “Back’s not an option anymore! There are more bots. Big ones. I can’t make a dent in them.”
Over the din of panic came a voice. It was clear and very loud. “Mourning Angel. You are the only one we want. I am sending in a few of my robots to collect you. Do go quietly. I’ve turned off the gas to that building earlier today, just long enough for the pilot lights to go out. I’ve since arranged for the gas lines to be cracked. From the time I turned the gas back on until now, I calculate it to be nearly an eight percent concentration on the ground floor. Interesting thing about natural gas. Did you know that it actually has no smell? It’s true. The smell was added to alert people of leaks. I have found a way to filter out that smell.
“I’ll give you some time to verify that there is indeed gas leaking in to that building. I trust I don’t have to explain what will happen if you set off any fire powers in a room full of natural gas.
“My robots will enter in five minutes. Please don’t make them blow the place up to get you.”
The dogs had found her and were each vying for a hand. She was frozen. This was too much. Her mind raced through options. She had a few until one of the men in the building announced that the voice was telling the truth. The building was full of gas.
Time ticked down and she resigned herself to the only option available to her. She would have to run from the building and tie up as many of the robots as she could before she fell. Maybe, the others would be able to get the people out in time. She explained the plan to those closest to her and handed off the evacuation to the other heroes.
“Beau. Take the dogs. I’d always thought I’d wanted them to go back home if anything happened to me, but I think they’d be happier with you. If you don’t want them, take them back the Harbor. They have friends there.”
“Sweets, no… You can’t go out there. We can fight in here. You can do stuff other than fire. We’ve got other support. We can bash those things.”
“We can’t let them in here. They may have a flame weapon, or they may spark if you bash them with stuff. Look, I’ve only got about thirty seconds to decide, but I don’t need it. I have to meet them out front. They cannot come in here. Watch over the dogs. Get these people out, and get a message to Tog. Where that tunnel comes out is right by the Security Chief for Atlas Park. Tell him what’s happening. Maybe I can hold out ‘til they get here.”
She gave him a kiss and turned for the door. In the doorway she turned back to look at him one last time. “I’m pretty sure I love you. Please remember me well.”
She was gone before he could take a single step or say a word.
Beau jumped up on a table and yelled to the crowd. “Okay, we’re gonna run for the Atlas gate. It’s not far. We hit the doors and windows on this side of the building. Once you hit the street, stick to the war wall and run like hell. If someone falls, grab them. Drag them if you have to.” He grabbed a fire hose from the wall. “I’ll try and keep the ones out back on their shiny metal asses. She’s giving her self up to save us all. Make it worth it!”
The mob moved to the side of the building and began to pour out onto the ground. The robots in the back advanced toward them, but were hit with a jet of water and a few energy blasts. They didn’t seem to be taking much damage, but they weren’t causing any either.
In the front of the building, Mourning had met the line head on. She took a few hits from the lasers, but her healing cloud took care of it. Thirty seconds into the fight, there were five of the little drones rendered helpless and two that were smoking piles of parts. Over two dozen more were held immobile surrounded by flames and radioactive chemical clouds, but they were still able to act. She was fading.
gone, her thoughts drifted back to the first time she had ever been a
hero. She almost died that night. It was only her
thought of her one true friend,
Here she was,
alone in a parking lot, facing death.
Mourning’s thoughts shifted to Lista, and her thoughts of having failed her so many months ago took a physical form and stuck in her throat.
A crushing blow from the arm of a nearby robot hit her leg. It buckled and she dropped to one knee. The fight was lost.
From her position she could see the last of the people from the building carrying some of the others to the gate. At least that worked. No one else would die because of her. She thought if her lapse in concentration that nearly got Entimangler killed the day they all met. The small robot beside her raised its arm. It was close enough to hear the capacitors in the laser charging. She closed her eyes and thought of her parents. She hoped they’d understand.
A sudden growl caught her ear. She opened her eyes to see one of the dogs, one of her dogs, mauling the robot. It was an image that seemed to linger in her mind forever. The dog with its mouth clamped deep into the midsection of the robot that was about to finish her. Could she have been imagining it?
She glanced around and the other two were there as well. As the shock wore off, the horror set in. Her friends. Her babies. The only connection in this whole world she still had to Sparks were about to be slaughtered by the robotic minions of a madman! The horror turned to outrage.
“The hell they will!” she creamed through gritted teeth. A renewed fire burned within her. She sent out a stunning wave of heat that overloaded the circuits of the robots nearest to her. She turned to the closest one and smashed into it with both arms. The adrenaline surge fueled the blow and the robot staggered to the side and collapsed.
She turned to the left to find two more closing on her. A quick wave of her hand stopped one in its tracks. As the other advanced, she surrounded it with a circle of flame, then began to wear it down as she had done with those before. The first one began to move about the same time the second one fell. It raised its arm and charged its weapon, then exploded it a ball of metal fragments and flame.
She looked back to find a single, naked hero had just arrived on the scene. Ice blasts rained down on the remaining robots faster than they could adapt to darting hero. It was over. She made it. She collapsed back on the pavement, too exhausted to stand any longer. Around her the sound of the battle raged, but the balance had tipped decisively in her favor. Her relief changed to alarm as she realized that she was lying on the ground, in the street, alone.
She sat up and looked around. Thoughts she dared not acknowledge raced through her head. There, behind a shrub. Over there by that parked car. Over there, huddled in the shadow of the building they had fled, were the dogs. She raced to each in turn, and puffed out a cloud to each one in an effort to heal them, but it was too late. Even Epim, had she been there, could not have brought them back. She carried two of them to the third, and looked down at their lifeless forms. She tried again to heal them. Then tried again. With each attempt, the power became harder to draw. Her view of them blurred and she resigned herself to the fact that it was hopeless.
Lista landed beside her and realized what had happened.
“Oh god, Angela! I’m so sorry. I’ll try to get Ep!”
Mourning looked up with her tear-stained face and said, “Lista? You’re back? It’s really you? Not a hallucination?”
“I got away. It’s really me.”
“I’m—I’m really glad to see you.” Her tone was flat and devoid of emotion.
“This means, we don’t have to look for you anymore. That means we don’t need to catch people to get information. We don’t need to worry about them killin’ you in retaliation for anything.”
“Hey, you’re freaking me out a bit here.”
Mourning stood up and looked down at her dogs, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.
Lista continued, “Angela! Snap out of it. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You see the dogs? You those wounds on them? Those robots had lasers, not rifles. Whoever killed them used a gun. They could have shot me, but they didn’t.”
A new tear formed and started down her cheek. Half way to her chin, it evaporated in a tiny mist. She made an upward sweeping gesture with both arms, and the bodies of all three dogs burst into flames. After just a few seconds, the flames formed themselves into nearly humanoid shapes that ran to her side.
“They should have.”