Shard marched towards us, a dagger in either hand ready to end us. “Get out of here,” I whispered. This was it—this was what I saw in my vision, playing out like some sick, scripted play. I reached out to my powers, and the glowing cold surged over me. It felt different; it was almost humming. And to my surprise, didn’t show any signs of the exhaustion from earlier.
Ana took a few steps back, but what broke my heart was how she looked at me; she was scared…of me.
“I didn’t know you could do…”
“This isn’t the time, now run!” I shouted. If she was scared of me, fine! I’d rather she stay alive and have nothing to do with me than the alternative.
“What about Ray?”
“I’ll take care of him, get out of here!” I said with as much authority as I could.
Moving Ray would take too long, meaning facing Shard head-on was my only choice. I was alone with my demon; but what was new? For years, I’d kept everything bottled up, pretending to be the good little human.
Don’t make a mess, Nate. Don’t use your powers, Nate. Don’t stand out, Nate. Don’t destroy everything, Nate.
I was so scared of what I was and maybe I had a reason to be, but I was fucking sick of it! As Shard and I walked towards each other, I could feel the hum of my energy reaching a fever pitch. Dim wisps of energy fluttered around Shard as he teleported more of knives into the air around him.
Where was he getting them from?
No, focus! I told myself. A long shadow stretched out from Shard, cast by the glow from my energy. I didn’t think it had ever been this bright before. And something else was…different; not wrong, but different. What was it? Then I realized what it was; my power was flowing through me. I didn’t even have to reach out for it.
“No more holding back.”
Taking mental control of the energy surrounding me, I launched myself forward. Shard’s eyes widened in surprise as my lunge rapidly closed the space between us. Still, he wasn’t stunned for long enough. He waved his hand and threw me off to the side with his powers.
I tumbled to the ground, but the impact didn’t hurt at all. If my glowing armor was tougher too, maybe all my powers were overcharged. To test my theory, I snapped up and effortlessly fired a beam of light at the villain.
Shard teleported, reappearing a few feet the left. I couldn’t give him a chance to breath. Before he could launch his volley of blades, I followed up my blast with another. Again, and again he teleported, but I kept up my attack. He wasn’t teleporting far, only a few feet at a time. Was he trying to pace himself?
Stupidly, I focused too much on the villain’s movements and dropped my guard. Shard capitalized on the lull in my firing pattern and teleported directly behind me. But then I was blinded by a momentary flash. Except, I was aware of what I was doing. I spun around and drove my fist into Shard’s gut before he could react.
I couldn’t help but smile under my energy when I saw his face twist into pain. Suddenly, I realized I was back in control, so I swung a wild punch at his head, but Shard dissolved into the tell-tale whips as he teleported away.
This was fantastic; my powers felt…almost new. Fighting for my life with a murderous psychopath was about as far from ideal as this situation could be but feeling that I was finally in control of my powers was almost overwhelming.
I wanted to use them; I wanted to make Shard pay. He was the kind of meta that made people afraid of us, the kind of monster that though he was a god, the kind that was the reason a young boy cried himself to sleep because he thought the world hated him.
“You’ve been holding back.” Shard snarled.
As I was turning to face him, a tidal wave of debris slammed into me. My footing gave way and the river of rocks, asphalt, and extremely sharp knives swept me up. Most of it glanced off, but the largest chunks of asphalt smarted as they broke apart against my shell.
“Fuck off!” I yelled, firing an energy blast that didn’t come anywhere close to hitting the villain.
Shard’s grin returned as he watched me struggle, and I didn’t like the gleam of malice that seeped into his eyes. He jerked his hand downwards, and I felt his powers slam me into the ground. Shit, he was trying to crack me open again.
He lifted me back into the air and let me hang there for a second before throwing me down again. I knew I had to find a way out of this fast before he wore me down. The ground wasn’t waiting for me to come up with a grand plan, so I went with my gut and tore open a portal underneath me.
I fell through the swirling sphere, but when I came out the other side, I unexpectedly kept my momentum. That would have been an issue on its own, but I flew out in a standing position heading straight for a tree. “Shit!” I shouted, rapidly opening an exit portal. I covered my face just in case the portal didn’t open in time. Luckily, I sailed through the opening and back to Earth.
Landings were getting easier, that was for certain. I slid to a stop and scanned everywhere for my opponent. Instead of finding him, I found a knife sailing towards me. My energy shell flashed into place just in time save face. Literally.
“Why won’t you die?” Shard yelled.
“Go whine with your friends,” I said, turning to face the monster. “Why are you listening to that ‘Chess’ creep anyways? Maybe you’re just a little bitch that likes being kept on a leash.”
The glowing coals in the villain’s sockets turned a deeper shade of red as his face contorted into a scowl. “I am going to tear you to pieces.”
“Really? Because you’ve been trying, and I’m still breathing.” I didn’t think Shard’s face could look more enraged, but I was wrong. I wasn’t done yet. “You’re just a science experiment gone wrong,” I taunted, a flash of precognition easily moving me out of the way of another flying knife. “You were made; designed by some asshole in a white coat and you can barely give me a bruise on your own.”
Shard stopped, coaxed into silent rage. He touched something on his wrist, and Euclid’s black goo began creeping up the sleeve of his suit. It stopped before it spread past his elbow; what was going on? Shard seemed to stand a little taller as the glowing lines that covered the goo began to fade.
A sinking suspicion crept its way into my gut. I stole a sideways glance back to the gas station, and sure enough, the lights were flickering like crazy. The look on Shard’s face melting into a predatory smile as his eyes began to burn brighter.
“I learned my lesson from Ohio,” Shard said mysteriously. Like smoke off a fire, the energy that remained after he teleported began to swirl around him. “I’ll give you more than a bruise this time.”
Shard didn’t make any attempt to move, but the effects of his powers were obvious. The street erupted into a web of cracks under the force of his telekinesis. Chunks the sizes of cars rose into the air and I suddenly wasn’t very sure about the fight anymore.
On Shard’s unseen command, the boulders began moving. They formed a swirling vortex of blunt for trauma. I readied myself to move—or fight. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what the better option was. I was about to find out, though.
Without any warning, they all came flying at me. I blasted the first one to smithereens, but I quickly realized it was going to be a losing battle. The beams coming from my hands dispatched another two chunks in quick succession, but the next one made it through my paltry excuse of a defense. It slammed me to the ground before moving so another could pummel me in deeper.
Shit, why’d I piss him off? I wondered. My energy was just barely keeping me from breaking bones with the jarring impacts. He was going to kill me…damn it, stop being so fucking worthless. I focused on controlling the energy frantically swirling around me and drove me fist upward, letting it meet the next boulder head-on.
Shard only seemed to grow more determined at my efforts. He made a crushing motion with his hand which sent all the chunks in the air hurtle towards me at once. I couldn’t hit them all, so I dove out of the way, using my control over the energy to carry me the extra feet to safety.
I fired another blast at the villain, but he didn’t even bother to teleport. A wall of Earth raised into the air, blocking my attack. Fine. Putting my hands together, I fired a continuous beam, bleaching the crater-laden battleground of any color. This time, he teleported away to save his sorry ass.
How much more Is this going to take? My body was starting to ache, and I wasn’t sure if was from Shard’s assault, or from channeling all my power for this long. I had to end this, but how? If I shot at him, he teleports. If I tried to punch him, he’d teleport. I couldn’t beat him on my own. So, what if I ran?
A boulder slammed into my back and knocked me to the ground for what felt like the millionth time that week. I staggered back to my feet, but Shard wasn’t done. Another me-sized chunk of asphalt sailed towards me. “Fuck. Off!” I shouted, firing another blast. Shard expected it, though. The entire piece of road teleported, reappearing inches from my face.
I staggered back, not even my energy shell saving me from being dazed. “Don’t you get it?” Shard asked, stalking towards me. “You can’t beat me.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said, eyeing the car Ray was in. If I was going to run, I couldn’t leave him behind.
“Decide to curl up and die?”
“Not exactly,” I said, firing a blast at shard. Just as expected, he teleported to safety. I sprinted towards the car knowing that Shard wouldn’t give me much time.
“Trying to be a hero?” The car was only a few feet away, but Shard threw me into the air before making me face-plant the ground. No—I didn’t have time for this. I opened another portal around myself, willing the exit to open next to the car.
I ran out of swirling vortex and had Ray directly in front of me. He was just starting to come-to and look at the glowing man running towards him with a mix of panic and confusion. Just as I was about to reach him, I saw something small out of the corner of my eye. The knife shattered the rear window and speared Ray in the back of his head.
“NO!” What could I do? There had to be something! Maybe I could heal, I’d never tried that before…
Thoughts ran though my head in the mere steps it took me to reach Ray, but there wasn’t anything I could do to save him now. Blood ran down his back, soaking the car he used trying to get my sister to safety from something he had no idea was after him.
“Now it’s your turn,” Shard called out from somewhere to my right. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Ray, the image searing itself into my mind.
I couldn’t save him…
“Fuck you,” I said through gritted teeth, turning to face the villain. He was…smiling? Something shifted, a door that had been closed for a long time opened, and I felt the Forest reached out, matching my rage and pain. Against my will, my mind went back to a small house being consumed by sapphire flames, to a kid who did something terrible.
“What kind of hero can’t save one measly person?” Shard asked, twisting the emotional dagger.
I felt a swell of energy rising up inside me, and it was going to be a damn big one.