Descant crouched behind the median block, watching the small, alien-looking “demon” as it crawled and slunk around the midsection of the great suspension bridge, moving smoothly yet swiftly, almost too fast to see when it made a sudden leap. One moment it was to her left, another it was to her right and somebody was crying out in pain. Not only that, but after her first two attacks, the power of her sonic screams had little effect. It was almost as though it could develop an instant immunity to anything it was attacked with. DreamWeaver had already said she could find no clear way into its mind. Crystallis’ searing bursts of light hardly fazed it now, and Kora Blue was doing her best just to match its speed and avoid blows. The Defenders were swiftly running out of options. Kreegar’s creation was obviously not a “demon”, but it was certainly a nightmare!
Worse yet, Shonin, whose tough, resilient skin had never yet been broken in a fight, was still bleeding. Her teammate had stopped howling in shock and agony, but he still had the pain-filled and dangerous look in his eyes of a wounded animal. Descant had no idea how badly the simple-minded hero was hurt, or how swiftly he would heal… or even what the monster might do to him in the meantime. No… Descant caught herself mentally. Not a monster. I think like that, and I’ll kill him, whoever he is… or was. No matter what bizarre mutation Dr. Evan Kreegar had forced upon the beast with his twisted serums, it was once a person. If luck was with them, it could be again… if they could stop it first. Already the bridge they were standing on had suffered serious structural damage. No telling what the creature was capable of if they all landed in the water.
Shonin looked considerably wearied and angered by his injury as well. Then again, Descant was beginning to realize as she watched, that was just the odd thing about it: Shonin wasn’t looking quite angry, so much as afraid and confused. It almost looked like the normally gentle giant was beginning to lose his grip on reality. A savage, defensive expression began to light in his eyes, and, for a man who normally moved so slowly and deliberately, Shonin was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. Adrenaline, thought Descant in horror. Holy shit, he’s losing it… “Shonin!” Descant called, trying to snap him out of whatever he was victim to, but a sudden shake of the bridge flung the word back into her throat as she struggled not to fall backward.
The section of the side guardrail that Shonin had been using for support in his shock was still in his hands, but he was now standing upright. The foundation of the rail was beginning to pull free of the sidewalk when Shonin drove his heel once more into the concrete, rattling the bridge again. This time, it cracked, sending a small fault line running along the interior rail for what looked like a couple dozen yards. A few cables that had been seriously protesting since the initial damage had been done finally let go with a simultaneous, loud snap. Chunks of concrete and asphalt could be heard splashing into the water below, and, as Descant watched in silent horror, Shonin began to pull the steel under-cabling of the bridge walk toward him. An entire section of the bridge came loose in one shaky piece of mangled concrete and steel and wrought iron. Had Descant owned a mouth that was truly as big as the one with which she’d been credited, her jaw would have hit the blacktop.
Stray curls dripping sweat onto his furrowed brow, Shonin heaved his immense shoulders and swung the giant concrete club like a baseball bat. With almost Hollywood slowness, it began to swing the other way, as Shonin let out a cry of rage. Descant hit the deck, brushing her black hair back from her eyes and looking over her shoulder in horror as the sound of crunching cement and shuddering wires met her ears. Then she heard a familiar scream from further down the bridge. Oh, God… she thought. Kora! The iron in that alone could kill her! And with Shonin’s strength… Her frantic thoughts were cut short by the sound of multi-pitched snapping wires, like a giant harp being pulled apart. Shonin’s blow must have taken out the support for the entire east side of this section! The giant slab passed over her head by only a few feet, cutting though the air with a low-pitched, eerie whistle. As soon as she was clear, she turned and peered over the barricade again.
The slab contacted the “demon”, sending it flying over the railing and far out into the Seacouver Sound. It landed with a splash even Descant could barely hear. The slab, which had barely been holding together under the stress, met the other suspension cables, snapping two of them and crumbling into sections like brutally sliced cheese. The resulting shock to his footing knocked Shonin off the bridge, now bereft of a railing, and into the water below.
The groan of distressed metal was beginning to be drowned out by a stone-shattering crack, and the entire midsection of the great suspension bridge began to sway and tilt. The section on which they stood had nearly no vertical cabling left on one side. The uncanny mix of deep sub-bass tones and high-pitched creaks and whines met Descant’s ears as gigantic cables, already stretched taut, twisted and snapped under the unusual, displaced tension. Shaken by the incredible tremor and barely able to keep her footing, Descant glanced over to where Kora Blue had been flung.
She way lying perfectly still on the other side of the nearby support tower, out of immediate danger, but still badly hurt. Any contact with iron, even that which she picked up herself, burned her; the blow she had just taken was very possibly lethal. If she didn’t get help soon… Another tremendous shudder rocked the concrete, and the road beneath Descant’s feet made a sudden sickening drop.
Crystallis was still hovering over the bridge, a flare of brilliant sapphire light, looking as though he didn’t know where to go first, who to save. “Don’t mind me!” Descant called. “I can jump! Pull Shonin out of the water, then get Kora to safety!” Crys looked as though pulling Shonin to safety was the last thing on his mind. Damn you, you stubborn ass, let his past go for right now! He needs you! “Hurry!” she called. Where Kora was concerned, the crystalline man didn’t have to be told twice. Diving swiftly from where he had been hovering, he was halfway to the water by the time the midsection let go.
Descant let out a cry and sonically leapt into the air, letting the bridge section hit the water long before she did. Ending her fall with a cushion of sound, she immediately leapt up to the remains of the bridge in time to see Crys drop Shonin off by the barricades where DreamWeaver was recovering, and hopefully calling for PRIMUS to help. In a shot of blue light, he struck out for the far side of the bridge, barely paused to scoop Kora into his arms, and was arcing over the city like a shooting star, presumably in the direction of the new St. Jonathan Hospital and Medical Institute. The trauma center would have a surprise in store tonight. She hoped with all her heart Kora would be okay.
Without another thought, Descant leapt toward the barricades, wondering what the hell was up with PRIMUS. They never seemed to show up until the battle was over. Always so self-important, they never wanted to give any credit to the ultras who did their jobs for them on a daily basis. She sneered. What would their excuse be this time? She got her answer immediately upon landing.
DreamWeaver had managed to sit up, and it looked like her injuries were going to heal, given time. She was glancing around, her green Irish eyes filled with worry. All around them, scattered like soldiers in a war zone, were battered PRIMUS agents. Many of them had gaping wounds, broken bones, and a few even sustained life-threatening injuries. Unconscious agents sporting bruises and lacerations were the most common victims, however, and it looked like most of them would likely be treated and released from wherever they received the necessary medical attention. Regardless, Descant had never seen such a large team of PRIMUS agents take such a beating. Did the creature do all this? She walked over to one agent who was at least conscious, holding what looked like a compound fracture in his forearm and looking at the still form of a compatriot lying next to him. Blood pooled slowly near the back of her head. At her approach, the agent looked up at her, his one unswollen eye wide in inexplicable shock. “It… it was totally… unexpected…” he rasped brokenly. “The creature was… just suddenly… There was… no time… nothing we… could do…” The horror beginning to pass, the man’s words were eventually choked back by halting sobs.
Madison Black, a.k.a. “Descant”, was speechless. For the first time in her life, she found herself feeling quite deeply for the men and women of PRIMUS. They had been at the ready, and it turned out that they’d been little more than a distraction. The “demon” had most likely gotten to them even before it had found the Defenders.
Madison’s eyes narrowed. That greedy, deceptive, despicable, megalomaniac son-of-a-bitch! Evan Kreegar deserved to die for everything he’d done! Deep down, she knew she could never attempt to have such a thing carried out, especially at her word. There had already been too many deaths in her life, especially at the hands of her own blood… but if any living human beings had created enough misery and death and twisted horror in the world to deserve to be permanently removed from it, she felt Kreegar would currently top that list.
Swiftly, Madison radioed Major Thomas. “What’s going on down there?” he responded. She told him the short version of everything that she saw, of what the beast did to the agents that lay waiting in support. After a stunned silence, he returned, “So where is it now?”
Madison sighed, closed her eyes. “Somewhere out in Seacouver Sound.”
After that, she told him before signing off that to radio local hospitals to get their trauma teams and ambulances to the scene to save the lives that could be saved, and count any casualties. She hoped there were none, and she didn’t see any dead, but all that would depend on the next few moments. It wouldn’t be the first time Kreegar had blood on his hands…
At the sudden tap on her shoulder, Madison whirled around. Chad Bastian, in his torn red and gray “Shonin” costume, stood behind her, holding his side and looking tired. His soft eyes registered confusion, concern. “What… happened?” the big man asked slowly, kneeling down to rest.
Madison looked down at her feet. Kora. He obviously had no clear memory of what happened. Looking back to him, she asked, “What’s the last thing you can remember?”
Chad rubbed his head. “I… got cut,” he said slowly, looking down at his side and then back to her.
Sighing heavily, she looked around. “The Warlock’s ‘demon’ did this to PRIMUS while we were talking on the bridge. It’s somewhere out in the water right now.”
She looked over Chad’s shoulder out to the Sound. Fog curled on the shoreline, partially obscuring the skyline from being reflected on the water. Diffused moonlight hit the surface, shimmering softly, innocently, almost belying the horror that so few Seacouver citizens knew lurked beneath the surface… somewhere.
“You were the one who knocked it out there,” she continued. Wrestling with her thoughts, she figured that he deserved to know about the rest of it. She would want to know, had it been her fault. And if Crystallis saw him first… well, Madison figured she’d likely put it more delicately. “Kora also got pretty badly hurt…” she tried to sort through her words. “You see, you… picked up a whole part of the bridge to hit the demon with, and she was… in the way. Crystallis has already taken her to…”
She stopped. Chad was looking at her with a very strange expression. “I… hurt Kora?” he said softly, almost as if he didn’t want to believe it. He stared at her.
“Chad, look…” she sighed, “it wasn’t your fault.” Madison placed a hand against his huge arm. “You were hurt. You didn’t know what you were doing…”
Chad’s glance fell to the ground for a moment, as though his mind was fighting to take this in. He looked back at Madison again, eyes filled with tears, searching her face. “I… hurt Kora…” He began to look around wildly. “Where… where is she?” He looked like he might panic again.
As calmly as she could, she stated the only logical possibility. “She’s going to be okay… Crys took her to the hospital.”
He mouthed the word ‘hospital’, as a tear finally tracked down his cheek. The look of regret on his face nearly broke Madison’s heart. She understood regret, knew how it was…
Suddenly, Chad stepped back. Calling Kora’s name, Chad leapt away from the pier, heading down the street, in the same direction Crys had flown. Overwhelmed with concern, Madison took off after him, though her leaps didn’t carry her as far. The sounds of sirens were drawing closer… help was on the way for PRIMUS.
Behind them, the waters of the Sound had resumed their natural, calm lapping against the sturdy columns of the bridge that now stood awkwardly, its broken ends reaching out sharply from either shore, cables loose and curling, nearly touching the surface of the waters they once spanned. The small waves near the water’s edge shimmered in ever increasing shades of reflected red and blue as the thrumming of helicopter blades and the flashing of searchlights drew ever closer to the pier near the ruined remains of the ‘Couver Narrows Bridge.