Ch. 6.2 – Max

Maxwell Voronov darted from shadow to shadow, circling behind the Complex agents through the trees. A direct assault clearly stupid given the odds, Max slashed from stealth at fragments of their Anima. Each slice stole a trickle of power before he vanished again. Max indulged in a smile as he watched the quartet spin regularly, blaster rifles quivering just a touch as they moved. I’m pretty sure the suits are Mandate goons, but the creeps on the flying sleds are definitely Gray Company. He flew through the darkness, a blend of Blaze and Rift carrying him through the idea-space of shadow.

One of them whirled on Max, firing his rifle, and Max grunted. The burst threw him out of the Rift-shadow and back into the physical world. “Got you, freak!” the Mandate thug shouted, taking aim again.

Max snarled and flowed past the suit, appearing behind him and grabbing his arms. “Freak, yes,” he whispered in the trembling bully’s ear. “Got? No.” He bit down on the agent’s shoulder. The scream that followed was satisfying. Wimp. I didn’t even break the skin. Predictably, the other three agents turned their weapons on Max, but he just put the agent between himself and them. The Anima drain wasn’t dangerous to Max’s captive, but it left the man trembling and weak, and he dropped his rifle. Max looked up, growing fangs and letting a trickle of his own blood coat his lips. He licked them slowly, and the three agents stared in horror. “You’re in the wrong movie, kids. We’re the awesome rebels, and you are the mooks we drop to show the audience how amazing we are.”

“Dream on, you-” one of the trio began.

The air seemed to explode around them. Alex was suddenly there, his armor surrounded by thousands of tiny spheres of cobalt blue power. He pointed his hand at the Mandate agents, fingers parallel and just slightly spread, and hundreds of the spheres slammed into them. All three flew across the grass, unconscious when they landed. “You all right, Max?”

For a few seconds, Max could only stare. Nothing human could see it, but nearly half of Alex’s power was still flowing to Sara and Alice. The sound of hammer on metal echoed in the distance. That wasn’t even a fight. It was a time-out. Max shook his head, stuck a tiny claw into the base of his captive’s neck, and knocked him out. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” Alex nodded and shot away. There wasn’t a hint of Rift talent in the energies he’d used. Alex had almost literally Blazed to the next group.

*Molly, we’ve got backup,* Max sent.

No response. Molly? Max wondered, shifting almost involuntarily to gender-neutral and swimming through dark earth toward the Ghost Dragon. Less than halfway to the next team, however, Max’s Vision picked up her response. Molly laughed, though only in their minds. *I noticed. He just appeared, hammered the team into the ground, and moved on.*

Max emerged by Molly’s side. All four were unconscious, pressed into the ground. None suffered lasting injuries. *What is this guy?* Max asked, incredulous. Molly stepped back, disappearing to all but their Vision bond. Max still couldn’t follow how she did it, but it appeared to be a mix of all five Elements, blended together in careful and subtle Conduct.

*An excellent question,* Molly admitted, her mental voice more subdued. *Until and unless he becomes a problem, however, I will simply be grateful that he’s on our side.* Instantly, her thoughts were like tempered steel, forged into implacability. *Keep moving. There are still two teams, and the Gray Company observers will almost certainly call in backup.*

Max forced himself to become male, concentrating on intimidating features, then used the trees’ shadows to flow in behind the final group of Mandate enforcers. They were already shaken, moving slowly through the woods, back-to-back with guns at the ready. *Molly, you on Mandate or Grayboys?*

*Gray Company,* Molly replied. *I am ready if you need backup.*

Max nodded, then flashed past them, claws tearing the very space around the quartet. They all spun in the direction he’d gone to ground, ducked behind and beneath a boulder. Two rifles literally fell apart, sliced into neat chunks by his slashes. “Oh God!” one of them blurted. Max grinned.

“Focus, noob,” a gravelly voice shot back, and the oldest of the four took point, sheathing his weapon with invisible Blaze energies. Who’s going to notice, Max wondered with contempt, the squirrels?

Then a burst of power surged up around the Gray Company team. Except for the one pointing his weapon at Max, the Mandate group turned, staring in shock. The Reanimate risked a look of his own, emerging from shadow like a swimmer taking a breath.

Alex was dragging all four platforms to earth. They were firing on him with their SF-looking blasters – and he was ignoring them. Holy…I’ve been hit by those before. Guy’s at half power, and he’s just taking it? What the hell did you call up, Sara?! Alex walked almost calmly towards the woman on point, who somehow looked less surprised than Max. “You’re trespassing,” he said, voice crackling faintly from the power surging around him.

“And you’re harboring a fugitive,” the woman replied dryly.

“Show me your badge,” Alex said, eyes sparking, “and a warrant.” The woman didn’t reply. “That’s about what I thought. Walk away now, while I still have a few scraps of patience to glue together.” Max glanced at the four remaining Mandate enforcers. All distracted, he decided, then dove through darkness to move closer to Alex, while keeping an eye on “his” enemies.

The Graygirl scowled and folded her arms. “Taylor’s not a member of any of your little debate societies. We’re taking her in.”

“Neither am I,” Alex said, his voice low, Vision aura as furious as the Blaze roaring around him, “and no, you’re not.” The woman’s arms unfolded reflexively, and Max felt her carefully controlled fear spike through her aura.

That’s when a shaft of light appeared between Alex and the cabin, a slender man appearing within it. “Heed the Prime, mortal,” he said, and Max had to bite back a groan. As Max expected, the figure that emerged was tall, Japanese, and impeccably dressed in a silver-gray suit. The light he’d emerged from didn’t so much fade as gather around him, becoming an image of wings. The Reanimate’s hearing let him pick up Alice’s joyful squee.

Great, it’s angel-boy, Max thought wearily. Well, it’s been that kind of day.

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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