I was really starting to dislike pyros, or at least this one in particular. The fact that he was Whitney’s brother was losing traction as a reason not to unload on this bastard. He seemed completely in his element. I hadn’t seen him shoot fire himself, but it was starting to be painfully obvious—literally—that he could control it on a massive scale.
And now, after his little message to ‘Aurora’, it felt like a star was walking towards us. Every tree around us was on fire, adding fuel to the blaze. I tried to keep my eyes moving so I wouldn’t be lulled to death, but the shifting colors were everywhere.
I turned my head just in time to see a glowing rock sail past us. Halcyon’s eyes widened as Whitney’s powers detonated it less than a foot from him. Whitney herself was hurrying towards us, smoke billowing around her like some sort of walking cloud of fire suppression. She looked damn terrifying.
“How are you two holding up?” She asked, lobbing another explosive fastball towards her brother.
“I’m fine, but Nate needs to pull back,” Erin replied, shielding her eyes from the approaching glow.
“I can…hold on…a bit more…” I panted.
Whitney aimed a hand towards me, and a blast of smoke surrounded me. It didn’t shield me from the heat exactly, but it did extinguish the fire in the area. “Either pull yourself together or go help the others!” Erin shouted as Halcyon lashed out with another torrent of fire.
“Cool it, hothead!” Whitney yelled, chucking another explosive rock.
“Fuck you!” Halcyon screamed. More fire started to gather around him in a defensive wall. Erin charged, disappearing into the fire while Whitney searched for more ammo.
Erin was right, I had to pull myself together. They had him distracted for the moment, so it was now or never. You’re always surprising me with new shit, and now’s a good time, I said to my powers. Reaching out to the presence at the back of my mind, I imagined the energy barrier thickening, getting tougher. It did what I wanted when I tried to move it; maybe it would do something similar now.
It was very cold in the dead forest—Deadwood? —and I hoped that would carry over. More energy flowed through me as I tapped into my powers, and I could feel the energy shift around me. Slowly, I felt the intensity of the heat fade until it was somewhat bearable.
I could finally breathe without feeling like my lungs were getting charbroiled. It was like my energy was cooling the air. The smoke from Whitney was fading, bringing the fire back with it. I couldn’t see the others, but I could hear explosions and the roar of flames.
Before I could reason my way out of it, I charged forward. The flames were hotter than they were before, but with my energy cooperating, I managed to break through to the others. Now that I had a good look at her, I could see Whitney wasn’t doing too well. Her smoke obscured the worst of it, but she was burned pretty badly in some places. I guess her flame resistance couldn’t hold up to prolonged exposure. Erin looked a little fatigued, but Halcyon’s fire couldn’t hurt her in the slightest. That put him on the defense as he kept trying to throw up building-sized blasts of fire to ward off the invulnerable wrecking machine.
Still, Halcyon was faster than he looked. It almost looked like he was using the fire to push himself around. He was on his toes, dodging Whitney’s explosive barrage while keeping distance from Erin. I looked at the burning scene and got an idea. My powers made me faster than Halcyon, even if he was a little cleaver with how he used his; I just had to concentrate.
I took off with a running start, trying to build up some speed before jumping. It was honestly a bit unsettling as the ground disappeared beneath me, but I had to keep my head in the game. For this to work, I had to stay in the air for a bit longer. Willed my energy to move up, and I felt an odd resistance as it slowed my fall.
Then came the next part. I waited for what only felt like a millisecond until I got close enough to one of the burning trees. Pushing off it propelled me higher into the air as I steered myself with my powers until I was over Halcyon.
“Heads up!” I shouted, moving my energy, and me, down.
Halcyon looked up in surprise just before I landed on his shoulder. Something snapped and we crashed to the ground. I barely felt a thing thanks to my energy. Halcyon, however, was howling in pain as I rolled to the side and used my energy to pull myself up. Doing that kinda made me feel like I was a puppet. But I was controlling myself. Still not something I was used to.
“Whitney, get the hell out of here!” I shouted.
“No fucking way!” She yelled back, charging her powers on more rocks.
“Nate’s right, you need to go help the others,” Erin tried to reason with her.
“I’m going to kill him!”
“Like hell!” Halcyon shouted back, launching a swarm of fireballs at Whitney. There was no way I could get to her in time, but I saw Erin turn blue for a split second before turning green again and diving in front of Whitney.
“You’re leaving!” Erin shouted.
I saw Halcyon charging up for another attack, so I reached down and grabbed him by his jacket. With the strength from my energy, he weighed almost nothing as I flung him back. Taking him out now might be our best chance, I thought.
He tumbled when he hit the ground, still clutching his shoulder in pain. Before he could gather himself, I fired a blast of energy that threw him back even further. “I can handle Halcyon, you guys go!”
“You’re going to pay for that, Glowstick.”
“Why does everyone default to glowstick?” I muttered. My energy crackled, ready for whatever he was going to try next.
Halcyon didn’t disappoint either. The first fireball caught me by surprise, slamming into my back and nearly knocking me to the ground as more closed in from every direction. A wall of fire sprung up between me and my opponent; I couldn’t let him get away.
My vision blinked blue and I instinctively ducked under another one of Halcyon’s attacks. Why couldn’t my precog thing be more reliable? I took off running again, shielding my face despite my energy barrier as I dove through the wall of fire only to be met with more burning forest and no sign of Halcyon.
Shit. I scanned the forest, risking being hypnotized, but no to avail. He wasn’t anywhere. The flames in the area kept getting higher, and even though my concentration hadn’t faltered, I could feel the warmth leaching through my energy getting stronger. Was that because of Aurora or Halcyon just trying to kill us in absentia?
Staying here probably wasn’t a good idea. I had at least roughed him up a bit; and they might need be back with the main group. Not to mention I needed to get out of that heat as soon as possible. Okay, my mind was made up as I tore open a portal and stepped though to cool relief.
Traveling through the Forest was always a strange sensation. I seemed to travel further than I’d actually moved when I opened a portal to leave. So, once I guessed I’d moved far enough, I opened another portal and stepped out into sheer chaos. Idyllians were running in every direction, some carrying buckets of water, and others a medley of personal belongings. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what was causing the panic; a ring of fire, taller than most skyscrapers had surrounded the camp. Halcyon was just stalling us…
I looked up to see Corey flying in low. Immediately, the crowd around me seemed to swell as they reached up for the flying hero.
“What’s going on?” I shouted.
“Halcyon cut off Luna’s escape plan, some of us have been trying to fly people out of here, but the flames are high as hell.”
“Where’s Savant? Shouldn’t she be trying to calm everyone down?” I shouted back over the shouting crowd.
“No idea, Ian and Steven are trying to help Quill, but it’s not going too well.”
“What about Edward?” I asked, getting jostled by some of the crowd.
“I think he slipped away,” Corey replied, grabbing a few kids the crowd was shoving towards him and climbing higher into the air so he could fly them to safety.
This wasn’t good. Either Halcyon thought Edward was still here, or he was going to burn this place down for the hell of it; for revenge.
After Corey flew away, most of the crowd had dissolved back into the panicked mess, leaving me alone to watch the chaos. I had to find Halcyon. Suddenly, as I was searching the Woodline, the orange glow in the distance suddenly vanished. The flames weren’t gone by a long shot, but they did seem to lose intensity for a moment.
Did Erin manage to find Aruora? Without any better ideas, I took off in that direction. By the time I pushed through the crowd, I saw Erin coming out of the forest, still glowing green, with a person slung over her shoulder.
“Are you okay?” I shouted?
“I’m fine, but I don’t know about this one,” She replied, gently setting down the person on her back. They were clad in what almost looked like an armored hazmat suit. It was bulky, but it still wasn’t hard to see that whoever was inside didn’t have a large stature.
“Aurora? I don’t know. I found her in the middle of that hell zone, and she was putting off heat like a miniature sun. There are some sort of controls on her suit; I turned one of them up and she seemed to calm down.”
“Hey, are you okay in there?” I asked, crouching down next to the maybe Aurora.
The helmeted head turned to look at me, but they didn’t really seem responsive.
“They haven’t said a word this whole time; I don’t know what their deal is,” Erin said.
“Whatever it is: It hasn’t seemed to do much to stop the fire,” I said.
Ian and Riot were running over, looking like they weren’t quite recovered from the severe heat yet. “Did you stop Halcyon?” Ian asked.
“No, but we may have stopped one of his teammates,” Erin said.
“Well, we need to do something fast; there’s no way we can evacuate everyone in time at the rate we’re going,” Ian said. “Wait…Where’s Whitney?”
“She’s…” Erin started to say before realizing she wasn’t with us.
“Do you think she still tried to go after Halcyon?”
“Yeah, I do,” She sighed.
Before we could try to come up with a plan, the ring of fire surrounding the camp began to rotate and climb into the sky. Slowly, the Idyllians seemed to calm down, staring at the growing vortex of flame.
“He’s hypnotizing them,” I said.
Large torrents of fire started breaking free of the swirling mass before slamming into the camp. “Oh my god.” This just got very real. I felt my stomach sink; people were dying.
“Nate, focus!” Ian shouted, grabbing me by my shoulders and looking me in the eye. “We need a vision to find Halcyon, now!”
“I-I can’t do it on command yet—it’s…”
“Focus!” He nearly screamed. Part of me instinctually wanted to punch him, but he was right. Lots of people were in trouble. I closed my eyes, trying to calm myself. No—scratch that—it wasn’t going to happen. I grabbed the Presence in the back of my mind, trying to find the feeling I had when I had a vision.
The Presence didn’t seem to like my attitude. I felt it shift, but then everything else fell away until I was standing in the middle of a burning field. The sky was dark as night, no it was just choked by smoke, all coming from something burning in the distance. I ran forward, the flat field swelling into hills and valleys until I saw Halcyon. He was laughing maniacally as everything around him burned.
Suddenly, I came-to again in reality. Everyone was looking at me expectantly as I tried blinking to get my eyes to focus again.
“Anything?” Erin asked.
“Yeah, I know where he is,” I said as the information seemed to settle in my mind. It was weird: like remembering something you hadn’t ever learned.
“Then come on, let’s go,” Erin said, pulling me to my feet. “Take care of her,” She shouted over her shoulder to Ian and Riot.
“He’s just inside the fire,” I said, pointing to a gap in the trees. “Do you think she’s—”
“—Don’t think about that,” Erin said, switching to her blue state so she could keep up with me as we charged through the field.
Maybe I should have been worried, though. We didn’t have to go far before Halcyon came walking out to meet us, dragging Whitney behind him. He was holding his other arm at an odd angle, but he had an insane smile on his face. The fucking monster.
I dove forward, using my powers to close the distance. A blast of fire knocked me off course and I sprawled on the ground, scrambling to get up. Erin was charging in, but she wasn’t going to make it in time. I could see him gathering fire to the hand he was pointing towards Whitney.
There wasn’t time to think—or hold back—I fired a blast of energy. The blue beam slammed into Halcyon, throwing him back. I saw his jacket and part of his skin turn gray as he screamed in pain. Using my powers like that usually made me sick or uncomfortable, but this time…
“Fuck you!” Halcyon groaned.
“Put the fire out, now!” Erin yelled, standing over Halcyon.
“Not a chance,” he said with a pained grin, reaching inside the good side of his jacket. Erin tried to grab him, but it was too late: a black and yellow goo quickly began to spread over his body. Erin quickly pulled her hands back as Euclid’s suit completely enveloped Halcyon. There was nothing we could do as the goo shrunk itself smaller than a grain of sand.
“Nate, check Whitney!”
Erin was right; I hurried over, and it wasn’t good. Whitney was even more burned now. She looked unconscious, but at least she was breathing. “We’ve got to get her to a hospital.”
“Easier said than done,” Erin said, motioning to the still present fire.
“Corey might be able to fly her out of here.”
Erin nodded, gently scooping Whitney up.
With Halcyon gone, the massive wall of fire had died down, but on that same token, there wasn’t anyone controlling it. It was spreading across the field, not letting us out of the woods yet.
“Oh my god,” Ian said in surprise as we got closer. “Did you?’
“He got away,” I muttered, “But we’ve gotta get Whitney to a hospital.”
Don’t worry, I managed to get ahold of some backup, they should be here any minute with medical teams.”
We waited for a few minutes that felt like hours until we heard the roar of massive jet engines.
“Who exactly did you call for backup?” Adam asked as Colossus came into view.
It was one thing to see a hero in a mechanical suit flying, but it was another thing entirely when that suit was nearly a hundred feet tall. Several maneuvering jets sprang to life as the behemoth tilted into an upright hover. The gust from its jets seemed to just fan the flames until it touched down with what felt like a small earthquake. This was Colossus’ main suit, clad in red armor with “Rhodes” painted in bold letters going down the arm. It seemed to survey the burning forest for a moment before several jets opened on the arms, spraying fire retardant.
More aircraft quickly started arriving. They were all the same color as the Rhodes with different numbers on their sides. They were sleeker than Argus’ dropships, and much quieter as they touched down at several places around the camp.
Whitney was still hanging in there; if it had been anyone else that didn’t have her powers, I wouldn’t expect them to make it. Still, Halcyon had gotten away, and apparently, Aurora had vanished with Euclid’s gunk at the same time. The Anarchist was right; they were working for Chess, or whoever he was working for. And Edward managed to vanish somewhere in the chaos. It wasn’t exactly a mission success, but more people could have gotten hurt if we were involved.
And what the hell was with Whitney’s family? There was way more going than I’d ever expect.