Here we go again, writing novels even on lazy Saturdays. This brings us to just over 10k words, just slightly more than a fifth of the goal.
In this episode: MORE FIGHTING, MORE EXPLOSIONS, MORE DEATH
“That'll do!” She streaked downward, feeling the G-forces as she swooped to only a few feet from the ground and then pulled up, getting a good angle on the web, flying within arm's reach of one of the buildings it was anchored to. The edge of the blades on her arms hit the strands. She prepared herself for pain and a sudden stop. Instead there was only a slight suggestion of resistance and then she was past the web. She looked back to see her handiwork.
She had cut cleanly through two of the major anchor lines like they were nothing. The web started to slump from the weight of the Verbesserte and its victims. Tilda pulled a tight turn in the street, rattling the windows of the buildings around her. She couldn't hear it much through the helmet – some kind of noise dampening must have been canceling it out – but she could distantly hear the sound of an engine unlike any that she'd ever heard before.
Tilda rushed at another support line, a shell streaking behind her, the spider monster unable to get a bead on her thanks to her high speed. She slashed through two more supports. The others started to stretch as they had to take on more weight. They pulled away from the buildings, unable to cling to the brick and mortar, and finally failed.
The web came crashing down. The Verbesserte slammed into the asphalt with a clang of steel. The wrapped figures, thankfully, came down somewhat more gently. Tilda decided to worry about them later. It wouldn't matter if she saved them now if the monster killed them five minutes later.
Tilda landed awkwardly, stumbling a few paces as she slowed down.
“That was excellent!” Arma said, clapping. “Now just finish the Verbesserte. Once it's dead maybe we can have some time to ourselves to talk about things.” Tilda rolled her eyes. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to that woman.
Tilda walked over to the prone form of the monster. It had landed pretty hard. Maybe it was already finished, or at least knocked out. Just as she got within arm's reach, it sprung into motion, treads on its legs spinning as it leapt up. Steel claws came down towards Tilda's face. She raised her arms defensively.
“Aah!” She barely managed to hold it back. However strong she was, the Verbesserte was a lot stronger. The claws came down slowly but inexorably. The monster hissed in her face, spraying a drizzle of some vile liquid on her. Tilda could almost see down its throat. She really didn't want a better look at that.
“You can't win a straight contest of strength like that!” Arma shouted.
“Yeah, thanks for the advice!” Tilda felt herself being forced down. She struggled to keep on her feet. The Verbesserte's treads inched forwards. Tilda stumbled. The claws broke through her defense, tearing at her chest. The armor exploded with blue sparks as the talons ripped at it. Tilda screamed and fell back. That had hurt!
She looked down at herself. There were rents in the armor. Blue light slowly filled them, like blood welling up and forming a scab. The Verbesserte charged at her, turret spinning. Tilda jumped up over it, then flew to what seemed like a safe distance.
“I'll just have to avoid being stuck in close combat,” Tilda said to herself. The Verbessert reared up and spat a string of webbing at her. She dodged to the side, but not quickly enough. It caught her left arm. The creature pulled, trying to drag her out of the sky. Tilda gasped as she was dragged down, the sound of the engines growing louder as she attempted to pull away. The cannon on the spider's back rose up to fix on her.
Tilda slashed at the string holding her, breaking away with an elastic jerk just as the monster fired. The shot clipped her leg, spinning her around. She forced herself away, trying to stabilize, and slammed into a building, bouncing off. A line of webbing impacted the building, and the spider-tank jumped after it, using the line like some kind of reverse-bungee cable to aim its powerful jump. It crashed into the brick facing of the building and stuck there, clamping down onto it and hanging there impossibly.
Tilda managed to arrest her fall before she hit the ground, her head spinning. Flying was more difficult than she had thought. A warning showed up on her display. She didn't understand what the red text said, but the arrow was obvious enough. She got out of the way just in time before the massive form of the Verbesserte crashed down in the street where she had been.
“I think I really made it angry!” Tilda shouted. She flew down the street, away from it. She was going to have to keep moving or she'd just be easy prey for the monster. She had to go faster. A speedometer popped up in her vision.
She got a few blocks away then turned over for a tight turn. She had a plan, now. Hit it as hard and fast as she could and hope it was enough. She swooped at the monster, jinking left and right to throw off shots of web and cannonfire as she approached. Her blade hit its armor, scraping along it and digging a shallow cut. Not hard enough.
“Not fast enough,” Tilda muttered, correcting herself. She needed more room to speed up. She flew up and away, continuing as she went past the Verbesserte. Tilda was already going a mile every six seconds. Something in her gut told her she could go faster. The city streets were just a blur under her as she passed them, windows shaking as the roar of her engines split the night air.
The buildings thinned under her as she reached the edge of the city and kept going, then turned to fly straight up. She reached the clouds, and paused to look. The entire world seemed so small. She felt a surge of vertigo as she looked down. She had never flown before – there hadn't ever been a need for it. Not many people flew anymore.
In the helmet display, she could see the Verbesserte's location as a red dot. She took a deep breath. This was going to be one hell of a way to test out how good she was with this thing. She pushed herself as hard as she could, right towards the ground. The roar of the engines was loud in her ears. A speedometer in the corner of her vision edged up towards a red line.
“Come on...” She willed herself to go faster, pulling up just before hitting the ground. The grass and pavement blurred. She watched the red dot get closer as her speed rose. She zipped past a house, the windows rattling in their frames. Buildings came closer together as she got into the city proper. Blocks flashed by in the blink of an eye.
She could see the web. Only seconds until she hit the monster. She put on one final burst of speed. A white halo of vapor formed around her. The windows in the street shattered behind her from the shockwave of her supersonic passage. The Verbesserte never heard it coming.
Her blades slammed into the monster. The resistance almost tore her arms from their sockets. She slowed down almost to a stop as she passed the creature. She stumbled to a halt. The shockwave of the sonic boom rushed past her. The Verbesserte was knocked off its feet. Tilda turned to look. Two huge rents had been made in its armor, and blue arcs of lightning crackled from the wounds.
“Holy crap...” Tilda muttered. “Did I do that?” She looked around. Broken glass rained into the street like sharp rain. She'd caused more damage than the Verbesserte had. The monster tried to stand up, roaring in pain. The arcs of energy from its wounds grounded themselves in the street. Its turret jerkily faced Tilda.
She raised her arms up to defend herself, expecting another shell to slam into her. There was a coughing sound from the cannon. There was a spurt of flame and dark smoke from the barrel, but no thundering shot. Tilda blinked. Then the entire turret assembly exploded from within. Shards of chitinous armor bounced from the red plates protecting her body.
The Verbesserte screamed and roared, its back a mass of sickly blue and orange flames. Tilda backed up a step. For a moment she expected it to attack again, but it just collapsed, falling to the ground in a heap. It started to glow with a bright blue light. Bolts of energy shot out, the air filling with static power like an electrical storm.
A bolt hit Tilda, but the energy just grounded itself through her. She watched it dance along her body harmlessly. It was amazing. The Verbesserte started to melt, its armor actually beginning to drip and deform. It swelled up from within, light shining through cracks, and then there was a bright, silent flash of light. It didn't explode, but instead seemed to almost dissolve, its body flaking into ashes and dust and spiraling upwards. A pillar of light soared into the sky, breaking through the clouds and to the stars above.
Tilda watched as it faded away, smiling. The thrill of victory was electrifying, almost as exciting and amazing as free flight. She felt like she was standing in the center of a thunderstorm. The streetlamps blinked off for a moment, and the only light was the pure blue light from the destruction of the Verbesserte. As it faded, the lights came back on.
“Well, that was adequate,” Arma said, stepping out from wherever she had been. “I made the right decision to choose you instead of that other one. You will definitely amount to something.” She walked over to Tilda, hands on her hips.
“What now?” Tilda asked. She watched the web dissolve, the strands just fading away.
“Now we can go home.” She waved at the Kreig device. “You can go ahead and turn that thing off. It will need a full charge for the next time a Verbesserte appears.”
“The- the next time?” Tilda uncovered the switch and flipped it. The red armor dispersed, expanding outward and popping harmlessly like a soap bubble. The body suit unraveled and tore away, vanishing into nothing. Tilda dialed Krieg down, and the eagle's eye went dark.
“Well of course. You can't really think that was the only one. The other secret masters will have to make their moves soon. They can't afford to be the last to have a pawn in this game. If you want to keep people from dying, you'll have to stop them. No one else here has the ability.”
Tilda bit her lip. She didn't want to admit it so easily, but it had been... exciting. Fun, even. She couldn't wait to try using it again, even if that meant fighting a monster. A stray thought nagged at her.
“So what was that thing supposed to be, anyway?” She looked at where it had been and gasped. A man lay there, covered in burns, with two deep cuts across his chest. “W-why-”
“The Verbesserte. The 'enhanced'. They are people who are given great power by the secret masters. Don't feel sorry for him. He asked for this. He let the power control him, and became a monster.” Arma pointed at Tilda. “You had a taste of power and you used it to save people. That control means you're the right one to win this game.”