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 Heartbeats [closed]

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PostSubject: Heartbeats [closed]   Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:26 pm

She had been sitting on needles the entire flight to Seattle. Every jolt, every creak, every voice other than her own almost made her jump in her seat. Trying to hold in the electricity coursing through her was like trying to bottle up tears, and halfway through, drifting over Montanan farmland, the exhaustion had crept up and smashed into her like a freight train. Still, she was too jittery to sleep. They'd put her on a smaller private plane that let her slip around airport security, but she didn't carry anything except the clothes on her back and a special earpiece Blaine had handed off to her just before she boarded.

"This is your link back to Beata," he'd told her. The channel had been dead ever since she'd took off. All she could do was fidget with it as she leaned her head against the window, watching mountains and hills roll away far below. Somewhere between, somehow with all her racing thoughts, she'd nodded off with her face pressed against the glass.

That morning she dreamed of ruby eyes and a small shape dissolving away in liquid. She woke up to overcast skies as they eased into a landing, sparks flitting across her fingers, a cold bead of sweat trickling down behind her ear despite the chill. All at once, it hit her again. Her heartbeat was pounding in her skull.

She swallowed and touched the brim of her hat.




"I take it you are Madame Croft."

Her chauffeur had been waiting for her when she'd first stepped off the plane. The fresh air was welcome after the long ride, cool and refreshing against her skin, with a crispness that preceded a light rain. The man himself was tall and sharp with a nose too big for his face and squinting black eyes. Old. "I have been instructed to accompany you." His car didn't stand out as much as the driver. It was a compact black sedan, sleek but ordinary, with dark windows to match. She started toward the door without much of an introduction.

"Madame, huh?" she laughed, playing off her nerves. With a stiff dip of his head, he turned on his heel and intercepted her with a few long strides to hold open the passenger door. She flashed him a grin that bordered on mocking. "Damn, I wasn't expecting the royal treatment." Kayla, with one last deep breath, swung herself inside. The man closed the door after her and crossed around the front of the car to enter the driver's side.

"It is only courtesy, madame," he assured her as the car started to life, purring low and quiet. "Simply a force of habit. If the formality is uncomfortable, please—..."

"No, no," she said with a wave of her hand, slouching backing in the handsome leather seat. "I like the ring to it. Keep it up." It wasn't every day someone buttered up to her like a butler.

"By all means." he answered as they peeled away.

Kayla stuffed her hands into her pockets, fingers curling around an old arcade token. "So what should I call you?" Blaine had rattled off half a dozen names, random classmates and guardians and a handful of others, but she'd forgotten all of them the moment they'd passed through her head. There was no one she'd ever met or talked to before and that was all she knew. For that, at least, she could be grateful.

"You may call me Wayland."

Wayland. She frowned, rubbing the back of her neck. Something about the name... A hazy image floated to her head like static, but a flash in her head and it was gone. Kayla blinked and sighed, the memory gone. "Well, Wayland," she said with her light grin returning. "I guess we're partners."

The rest of the drive was quiet. She was glad for that, at least. It was amazing how easy all the motions came to her, the easy cocksure facade, when she'd always worn her heart on her sleeve. A pit of dread sat in her gut like a stone, and she could barely sit still without wanting to jump out the car, or take the wheel for herself and slam the gas. I'm going fucking crazy... Every second gnawed and worried away at her, piece by piece, and any moment she felt like she was going to unravel like an old sweater. Every thought wandered back home, to her old apartment. Every thought wandered back to her father, what he'd say if he saw her after these last few years, and all those thoughts led back to her sister. All the questions and worries and little things tumbled through her head like an avalanche, every thing she'd wished she'd done.

It was a year since she last saw a letter. She couldn't say how long it'd been since she last saw her face.

Why didn't she come here the moment she got back from New York? Instead of running to grab her, to keep her safe, why did she burn all her letters before she read them? Why did she think trying to disappear and disconnect would work? Back then, it'd been more painful than any of her sprains or bruises, but she'd thought it'd be best... If they stopped talking, she'd hoped that'd take the target off her back.

But now she was here.

I'm a fucking idiot. She should've followed her gut instinct back then and flown out to grab them both. They could've lived in Rosebury, she could've kept them at a close distance... But maybe inside she'd wanted all along to be a thousand miles away, out of sight and out of mind. At Beata she was someone different. I'm a child. It took all she had not to slam her fist into the dashboard. Electricity traced down along her jaw as she ground at her teeth. I'm a stupid fucking child...

Why did she only have to realize this now? Why did it take this to wake her up to what was important to her? Her hands balled into fists. Wayland didn't say a word.

A gray skyline gave way to evergreens, and then the city. Driving through it, even as a passenger, felt like being plunged back in time. Seabirds circled above the buildings, silhouetted against the clouds, as they rolled past dilapidated shopfronts and houses with boarded up windows. Even here, it was booming with people. After so long living just outside Rosebury, it was almost like a shock being transplanted back somewhere so busy and different. She watched out the window as they rolled through the main street, and then away, through a road flanked with trees. Rain spotted the windshield, a light familiar sprinkle that she hadn't realized she'd missed.

It wasn't long before they were by the ocean. The car slowed by the wharf, cruising past the forest of masts and sails of yachts in the marina, before slowing to a stop at the beachfront. There were no people in sight, not even any cars. "What are we doing here?" she asked. A dock stretched out over the water, lost in fog at the far end.

"Some of the others agreed to meet us here, Madame Croft," he explained. "We shall formulate a plan to move ahead from there."

She wasn't about to argue. After all that sitting, in the car and the plane, it'd be nice to be able to stretch her legs. Maybe the air would clear her head. Kayla popped the door open and followed him down the pier, staring out over the water. It was too long since she'd last tasted the ocean. Gulls cried overhead, buoyed on the sea breeze like kites, as the gray water below churned and lapped at the dock. Ripples broke across the surface from the rain.

Kayla filled her lungs with a deep breath and stopped at the end of the dock. For just a few heartbeats, she could forget everything and let the rain wash it all away.

Rapid footsteps thundered against the wood behind her. She whirled around with lightning cracking down her arms just as Wayland swept at her like an overgrown bat, his black coat billowing behind him. A knife fell from his sleeve and into his gloved hand and he dashed forward, lunging with the blade. Kayla reached out and snatched him by the wrist and twisted until his arm was held out almost behind his back. His eyes met hers, black and beady, glinting with desperation.

Wayland's other hand hammered down onto her shoulder with a swift chop. "Ack...!" Her grip loosened as she almost went crumpling to the planks, and the old man broke free from the hold, kicking out with a black boot. The toe caught her in the ribs and she went flailing backwards, hitting the wood with a dull thunk. The polished metal flashed as he sent it flying toward her with a flick of his arm, leaping back.

Blue sparks raced up her arm and blasted out from her fingers. The small bolt connected with the blade in mid-air, and with a splitting ptang!, the dagger went spinning away. Its hilt bounced against the pier rail and dropped into the heaving waters below. Wayland took a step back, and then another, lean and straight as a spear. Kayla pulled herself upright, leveling her arm and snapping her fingers.

CRACK! A blue spear of electricity sliced through the air. It caught the old man straight in the chest and sent him flying back to the ground. She stood to her feet, marching forward, loosing another bolt toward the figure on the ground with another snap. This time he rolled. The bolt struck where he'd been lying only a second before, rocketing splinters into the air and leaving a stain of soot and ash where it'd hit. Wayland went shooting back to his feet with an uppercut that caught her on the chin.

Stars popped in front of her eyes. Her head whipped back as she stumbled backwards until her back hit the railing. All she could do was slump back as he shot toward her again, just a blur in her vision. Barely thinking, she lifted her foot and kicked out just as he charged toward her, electricity pulsing down her leg.

"Hngh...!" The old man almost crumpled as all his momentum turned against him, electricity crackling across his chest as he staggered and fell back against the rail. Somehow, he was still standing, propped up by the wood behind him.

Kayla snapped her fingers. Another bolt of electricity caught him straight in the chest and he went flipping over the rail, sending up a splash as he plunked into the water headfirst. She sucked in a hoarse breath, flopping to the ground with heavy pants as the rain continued to drizzle down. No... No, no, no, no, why?! Had she really been attacked? Here? By someone she'd thought... she'd thought... She wiped at her face and pulled herself to her feet, adjusting her cap and stumbling to the rail where Wayland had gone over.

There was no sign of him under the seething waves. Just a heavy black coat that had already begun to sink below the surface. She rubbed at her forehead and stepped away, staring up into the clouds. Raindrops brushed at her cheeks, light as kisses.

They knew she was here. They knew, and they...

We know who you are.

We know what you fear.


"Croft?" The mic in her ear crackled to life. "Croft, can you hear me?! Are you okay? Listen, report back immediately, we have to get you out of th—...!"

A spark in her ear. The earpiece fizzled, reducing his voice to a distant buzzing. She pried it out, and with one last look over the ocean, flicked her last link to Beata out into the water like a skipping stone. What a joke.

Come out and play.

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Fri Aug 26, 2016 11:34 pm

He held the blade up to the light, twisting it around in his fingers and admiring the way the sleek steel gleamed and glimmered. 'Yeah,' his eyes flickered away in thought. 'Good enough.' His steps echoed out from the tile as he leaned forward and reached out.

A quiet grating sound could be heard in the kitchen as Preston dragged the dull edge of the butter knife along the edge of the cupcake, aligning the last of the sweet frosting in just the right spot; a perfect white swirl atop a large, moist tower of chocolate. In truth, it was model ready. Every ingredient had been used to it's full potential and not one bit of batter was spilled over the silver wrapping paper.  

He took one last look at it, allowing his gaze to linger.
It was a waste.  

The young man took a step back, tossing the silverware away with careless ease and letting it clatter into the sink. How long had it been? When was the last time the two of them of them had said one word to each-other?

Pres' hand traveled up, brushing uncomfortably up against his neck. "Fucking shit," he cursed under his breath, leaving behind the last of his mess and the special treat abandoned on the counter-top.

He'd had no other plans for the evening. His phone had been left untouched on the coffee table for hours without a making a single sound. The television had been running to try and fill the silence, but the Autumn couldn't say it helped much.  

Pres only had himself to keep company. One of their dorms had been empty for months, their new roommate was rather... flighty, and as for Kayla; fuck if he knew what she were up to...  

Even if she were home, she might as well have been a ghost. She only came out for food when he was out or sleeping, seemed to have no qualms in being late to go anywhere, and the few times he suspected she were in her room – she'd never made a sound.

The young man had realized he had paused in the midst of the living room, staring down her old wooden door. He could leave the cake on her doorstep instead, but the image of her foot crushing through the delicate pastry quickly shot the idea down.  

With a resigned sigh, he stepped around the couch and fell back on to the cushions. What the fuck did he bother for?

He found comfort in a flat glass of soda and reruns of his old favorite cartoon. As much as he wanted to, however, he couldn’t find himself truly lost – his mind buzzing with all sorts of thoughts: of his “friends”, of his brother, of her… Of how nice a real drink was sounding right then and there…

Preston would never have gotten the chance for it. From the small tabletop, his phone finally lit up and started ringing.








He’d never been accustomed to entirely close spaces, even with his large, cramped family’s style. The Autumn was stuck oh-so comfortably between a mother with her two-year old tear factory and a man whose own body was literally spilling over into Preston’s seat.  

Flying wasn’t shit to him. He’d made longer trips to Ireland and that didn’t do shit to bother him. Being stuck where he was now, however, made him want to bang his head into the small, fold out table before his seat.

It’d been trouble enough though to find his way onto the plane in the first place, so he wasn’t about to bitch and moan about it. It hadn’t been that long ago, at least not to him, that his father had called. Kayla wasn’t home at all and she hadn't been for sometime. They’d dragged her ass off to a mission, one that had ended up completely disastrously. They hadn’t a fucking clue where she’d disappeared to, or anyone else they’d sent for that matter.

Preston didn’t think about it. He was on his feet and at the offices in a heartbeat. Even with the news of a good chunk of their force missing – including Pikachu – they weren’t willing to do anything about it.  

“We don’t have enough information yet.”

“We have to secure the school first.”

“We have to prepare a proper force.”


It all sounded like complete bull to him. The young man wasn’t willing to sit around and listen to it all. He’d shoved some shit into a small dufflebag and stormed up to the poor lady at the vacations counter, who clearly hadn't caught wind of the situation.

”I need a ticket to Seattle,” He’d told her, his grip creaking against the counter. Now. Like, right now. Like, why isn't the ticket in my hand already, for fuck's sake? The lady hadn't pushed much on why. The Patriots had a pre-season there, he’d told her, one Pres absolutely couldn’t miss. And she had actually bought it. still had his free vacation saved from the tournament and chosen the extra cash over the potential friend.

His phone had blown up with missed calls and texts the moment he’d stepped onto solid ground. Preston paid no mind, silencing the nuisance and shoving it away into his pocket. He let his eyes travel up, over the towering glass and steal beams, the roar of countless engines blaring out the sounds of the oncoming storm. In the distance, he could see a single strike of lightning, a mere spark from where he stood.

She had to be out there, he told himself, fucking somewhere. The bitch was too damn stubborn to let anything happen to her. The Autumn's mind flashed over a year back, when she couldn't leave her own damn wheel chair, too weak to hold herself up, and of all those gross scars... She'd be fine, but fuck. The sooner he hunted her ass down, the better.

Pres shrugged his back higher onto his shoulder, blinking the mist out of his eyes and facing towards the terminal when an unnatural chill hit his spine. "That was quite the long trip, wasn't it?" A voice echoed in his ear, at the peak of shrillness, but smooth enough to still sound sweet.

The brunette cracked a smile and turned to the source, wondering if his ears were playing tricks on him. Sure enough, however, he met a cool, blue gaze watching him carefully from over their shoulder. Her silver-like hair hung well past her waist, seemingly almost blue in the late moonlight. What stood out to him was her strange, dark outfit. She looked like she'd just stepped out of God-damned funeral. It felt almost familiar.

He hid his slight unease behind a wider grin. "I've had worse," he assured her, shooting the young woman an ever-polite wink and pulling himself away a second time, only worried he would be leaving the girl alone and disappointed.

For a split second, he'd thought he'd seen a smile returned from her, but quickly dismissed the idea. There were important things to focus on than some pretty smile. Probably, anyways.

Preston began his first steps up the ramp-way, shoveling around in his things for his wallet. He was hungry as fuck, and if he were going to get around a big-shot area like this, he sure as hell would need a decent ride.
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:50 am

There was a body in the trunk.

She'd stumbled away from the pier in a daze, barely feeling the droplets of rain that grazed against her skin. It was all a dream. A nightmare. There was no way all of this could've happened to her within the past few hours. No one found themselves a thousand miles away in a situation like this just out of nowhere. But it wasn't. Her nails bit into her palm, but the sting couldn't wake her up. The simple fact was that she was stuck here.

Kayla stalked out of the marina and to the slick black sedan sitting alone in the parking lot. Black, black, black... The color haunted her. She clicked open the door and scoured it from top to bottom, looking over every nook and crevice. A glock in the glove box. Daggers hidden under the console. Crumpled juice boxes under the seats. At some point, she just had to sit there in the passenger seat to catch up to her own racing thoughts, listening to the rain beat down against the hood. This entire time she'd sat here, and... and...

Do I take the car? The keys were long gone, but with her power, she could hot-wire the ignition if she tried. It was a fleeting thought. She'd never been behind the wheel of something like this, and what could she do? Blast through traffic? Her mind wandered back to New York, to the siren lights flashing through the night. That was right. She was on her own, and the last thing she needed was the police.

This was something secret. You couldn't erase an entire city's memory. All she could do was leave it there. Days from then, weeks, it'd be towed away, and that'd be the last trace that Wayland ever existed. She glanced down to the gun in her hand. The steel was cold and heavy in her palm.

That's when she found it. At first, she couldn't comprehend what she was seeing, or maybe that was her own mind trying to shield her from the implication. The body had been wrapped up in bundles and bundles of sheets. She'd reached out, unraveling it little by little, until they turned from white to dark, damp and sticky. He looked pure and peaceful, even with the color drained from his face. She would've guessed that he was sleeping if she'd seen that face anywhere other than here. Of course, she knew better. Kayla reached out, pressing her fingers against his skin. Cold, but not stiff, and the blood spattered on his clothes was still wet.

He couldn't have been dead for longer than a few hours. Wayland must have killed him just before picking her up at the airport. She met his vacant stare, covered him back up in the sheets, and slammed the trunk shut, sealing it with a lightning bolt. SNAP. Electricity rippled across the bumper as she turned away, drawing a deep breath of ocean air into her lungs. The guardian couldn't have been much older than twenty five.

She tossed the gun and knives into the sea and walked away, lightning crackling down her back.




It was dark by the time she'd reached her old apartments. The complex was silhouetted against the sky, still blanketed in dark clouds. Lamp posts flickered as she walked across the lot, silent except for the thrum of traffic just down the hill and the light patter of rain against the asphalt. Headlights lit up the entrance sign in flashes. It was meant to be illuminated, but the bulbs had all burned out years ago. Sparks crackled over her head. A cat shot out from a dark corner as she walked past, a shadow low to the ground, its tail streaming behind it.

She stopped just outside, craning her head to spot her old balcony.

Looking at it now was like a steel weight on her chest. Kayla clenched her jaw, adjusted the brim of her cap, and made her way into the hall, gliding her hand along the rail as she made her way up the flights of stairs. One. Two. Three. The steps themselves were chipped and rotted, and cobwebs hung heavy over the dim lights that lit up the stairwell. It was dank and chilly as a cellar. Four. Five... One last set of steps. Her heart was racing as she stopped outside the door.

The number 206 was fixed on the door in black iron, faded and on the brink of rusting away. Even though it was stupid, it had always been hard to imagine her standing back in this spot again. In some way, it felt like she'd left forever the moment she'd stepped foot on Beata's campus, separated from her old life. This building, these apartments, this town, this state, they were all part of someone else's life, a whole world away. But now she was here. Now she had to confront it all.

Electricity surged down her legs. She just wanted to kick that stupid thing off its hinges. Instead, she just reached out for the knob.

It creaked open at the lightest touch, swinging open to greet her with a wall of darkness. Deep breaths, she said to herself, but it didn't calm her pounding heartbeat. In. Out. In. Out. Inout. Inout. Inoutinoutinoutinout... Kayla threw a hand over her mouth to keep herself from screaming. She didn't want to step inside. She didn't want to find what she knew she'd find. Staring into that pitch blackness, she felt like a little girl again, every muscle and synapse screaming and signaling her to run away and forget it all.

One step. Two step. She threw out a hand on the door frame to catch herself and stay balance. Drawing a breath into her lungs, eyes flicking back and forth, she plunged into the darkness, rushing into the house as the door swung close behind her. "Lain?!" she tried to shout, but her voice cracked as she stumbled through the dark, coming out as a hoarse whimper that was swallowed by the darkness. "Dad? Lain? Lain!"

The air was heavy with the smell of cigarettes. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, electricity whipping around to illuminate the room around her, she could see that the house was the same as when she'd left... If anything, it was worse, like it hadn't been cleaned since the day she'd gone out the front door. Kayla whipped her head around, almost tripping over her own feet as she span around, looking for some sign of life. She rounded the corner, and froze in her tracks.

A shadowed figure was hunched at the table, a cigarette burning between his fingers.

"Dad...?"

She walked forward, her hands balled into fist, her breath hitching in her throat as she approached. There wasn't an answer. With a sudden burst of emotion, or adrenaline, or whatever you could call it, she rushed forward past the table to shake him by the shoulder. "Dad...!"

Thump. The corpse toppled over as soon as she touched it. She stared at the figure sprawled against the floorboards, her knees turning to jelly as she slumped against the chair. For one heartbeat, she couldn't breathe. Electricity flickered across her arm, casting a dim light over his features. Dark skin. It wasn't her father. His head lolled at an unnatural angle, blank eyes staring up at the ceiling.

A black envelope sat on the table in front of him. Half-collapsing onto the floor she ripped it open and tore out the letter. Crushed cigarette butts went spilling out of the paper and into her lap, scattering cold ash over her legs. She ignored it and spread it open, glossing over the looping letters in red ink.

Dear Katherine,
It's so nice to write you again.
Your dear father and sister are alive. They are wonderful company.
It will be a pleasure to meet you face to face.
Open the door. We'll see each other soon.


Kayla stood on shaky legs, lighting the letter with a spark and stumbling away from the kitchen. Every room was empty. She'd checked every single one, slamming each door open with a kick and thrusting her hand in front of her, lightning wreathing around her forearm. The bathroom, where she'd half expected to see a blonde corpse strewn across the floor, her father's room, his toolbox sitting at the foot of his bed stacked with aerosol cans, her sister's room.

She'd stood in the door frame for twenty minutes too long staring into the darkness. Every breath was heightened, every thought hammered at her skull like an ice pick, every flutter of her heart was like a spike of panic through her chest. Both their beds were still there, pushed together into one now that she was gone. Lain's side was as made as best it could be, but hers was a rumpled mess, like someone was still sleeping there all these years later. Stupid... She double-checked, triple-checked, even in the closet and under the bed, but there was no one there. Kayla plopped down on the mattress and dropped her face into her hands, clenching her eyes shut. Stupid...

How bad could someone fuck up?

"What do I do...?" she asked, but the darkness didn't give a reply. It didn't matter if her life was in danger. That was nothing new now. She'd never felt so lost. Every answer in her head was more desperate and hollow than the last. "Lain..."

How did she even get here? It was only in moments like this that she could reflect on the absurdity of it all... Kayla raised her hand in front of her face, watching the electricity dance across her palm. This is all ridiculous...

Her racing thoughts were interrupted by the creak of footsteps coming up the stairs. Sucking in a sharp breath, she stood up, steeling her legs as she left the room and walked into the hall. Kayla held out her palm as she walked past her father's room, and an aerosol can shot through the air and into her hand, drawn by the magnetism. There was more than one pair of feet, that much she could tell, even from down the hall.

Kayla stopped just outside the door and crept forward, inching, inching, until she could peer out the lens. Four figures stood outside in the hall, clad in shadows, their faces obscured in the darkness.

The empty pit in her chest filled with fire as she stepped back, lightning crackling around her arms. They were playing with her. That was it. She'd lost focus, but she knew what she needed to do now, no matter what, no matter what the price... No one would torture her like this. She had to do whatever it took to protect herself.

Drawing strength into her legs, she stepped forward and kicked her foot forward. Puh-ching!!! Electricity leaped out from her shoes, sending the knobs and locks clattering to the ground as the door swung open with a CRACK, smashing into the wall. The people in black all stepped back, and that one window was all she needed.

She threw the can into the hall, watching it spin in the air, and just before it started to drop, snapped her fingers. Lightning streaked through the corridor.

It bent, crumpled, expanded, and then exploded in a burst of flame. One of the black-clad figures went toppling over the rail to fall down the stairwell while the others hit the floor, the sound ringing like metal throughout the room. She stepped into the hall just as one of them picked themselves up from the ground, a blade of radiant green energy extending out of their palm like a spike. She kicked out her foot as they lunged, catching them in the wrist. Their hand whipped at an unnatural angle and the spike shattered into particles of light. Kayla smashed an elbow across their chin, sending them twisting to the floor, and rounded around just as another came springing to their feet with a short sword in their grip. Kayla threw herself back against the wall to avoid the slash, but her attacker kept running, slamming into her with their arm pressed against her throat, pinning her to the wall.

They brought their arm back, the blade gleaming in the light. Her knee shot up to catch them in the gut, and slammed back down to smash their toes. The sword thrust forward. Ting! Electricity shot out from her bangs as she flinched away, and the sword went flinging out of their hands, sparks sizzling at their fingertips. That was all the opening she needed. Kayla shoved forward, slinging a punch across their jaw as they fell to the ground.

Green energy went blasting an inch past her face like a laser, blowing away concrete debris the size of pebbles where it struck the ceiling. She turned, facing her other attacker, and snapped. A shot of electricity caught them in the face this time and their head snapped back. They were limp before they hit the floor. Kayla looked toward the second figure, pawing for the sword just out of reach.

She stomped on their arm and leveled her fingers toward the back of their skull as they screamed out in pain.

Heat filled the hall. She pivoted, crouched, and leapt just as red flames flew forward, spiraling like silk ribbons through the air and scattering glowing embers into the air. Kayla hit the ground with a roll, pulling away from the blast of heat that singed at her skin and clothes. It was like flinging open an oven.

"Not so fast, princess." A figure stepped out under the light, white hair and lilac eyes, a face she'd seen before. Flames danced across his fingertips.

"You," she said, pulling herself to her feet. It tasted like venom when she spoke the word. "You?" Laughter bubbled out from her throat, electricity cracking around her in flashes and coils, flexing her fingers. "They sent you again? I can't believe it."

He gave her a lazy smirk, but she could see the trace of worry in his mouth. "I'm not really thrilled about it either." The boy lowered his stance, the flames and lightning reflected in his lilac eyes. "If we're being honest, I'd hoped I'd never have to see you again after the last time. But if we're getting to know each other, you can call me Ryan. And you're Katherine, right?"

Katherine. Anger swelled up inside her gut, hot as a flame, and she whipped out her hand to send electricity firing through the air. He spread out his palm, fire curling around his arm, and loosed out a cloud of flame. Red and blue collided in a wall of smoke and sulfur that billowed out through the whole corridor. "It's nice to meet you too," a voice strained through the cinders, waving his hand. It cleared, bending away from him. "You can make this easy or hard."

Did he just expect her to lay down and die? After all this? With so much on the line? What kind of sociopaths were these people? She might have deserved a lot of things, but not her sister. Never Lain. If anyone thought that she'd let anything happen to her, then... Spheres of electricity formed in her palm. "I should've killed you when I had the chance."

Beep! Beep! Beep! A sound chirped through the fumes. Ryan's smirk disappeared. On cue, water sprayed down from the blackened ceiling, drenching them both within seconds. Steam rose from his shoulders. He clicked his tongue, taking a step back. "Fuck..."

Sparks crackled across her wet clothes. With a scream of fury, she tossed a ball of lightning, and then another. He vaulted down the stairs faster than she could blink, and the spheres hit the door on the other side of the corridor. It was knocked off its hinges and slid into the darkness of another home. Empty. Kayla dashed down the hall and to the top of the steps. Ryan leaned against the wall, and they both snapped in unison. Flames filled the stairwell and dissipated a moment later as her lightning shot straight through. "Agh...!" It caught him on the shoulder as he tried to slip to the side, and he went spinning to the ground with a grunt of pain. She jumped down the steps three at a time as he crawled to his feet.

Another scream. Ryan spun on his heel, hammering a kick into her ribs as she charged forward. "Arghhh!" she shouted, half in pain, half in fury, catching his foot under her arm even while she sunk to one knee. Off balance, he fell backwards, and she sent volts running up his legs. He gasped, jolted, and slipped his foot out of his soot-stained shoe and out of her grip, fumbling along the ground, and then tumbling down the next set of stairs. She tossed the shoe to the side and scrambled after him, one step, two step, three step, and then leaping the rest of the way in a full-body tackle.

He was still sprawled along the ground when she came flying down on top of him from above. They both rolled, scratching, shoving, grappling, her on top and then him and then her again, fire and lightning and water raining down around them. Pain blazed through her from every angle as she grabbed onto him, trying to wrap her hands around his throat but only grabbing his collar. Buttons on his undershirt came popping off as she ripped away at it.

It was all to sudden. The whole building seemed to lurch. Instead of rolling along the ground, she felt empty air at her back. Gravity set in, the inertia ripping as they both went toppling down stairs, wrapped in each other's arms.

"Ugh...!"

"Auuugh...!"

Pain shot through her waist and up her spine as her back hit the first step at an awkward angle, with all of Ryan's weight on top of her. They both tumbled together, losing each other halfway down the fall, sprawling at the foot of the stairs with stars popping in her vision. Her elbow jabbed against the concrete as she flailed out her arms trying to find her sense of balance again, but the whole stairwell seemed to spin around her in a haze of pain and dizziness. A puddle of water had formed over much of the floor as the sprinklers continued to pour, soaking into her bloody scrapes and bruises.

She pulled herself to her knees, and Ryan was in front of her, unsteady. He kicked out and she flew onto her back, all the wind knocked out of her lungs. Kayla grabbed at her chest where he'd hit her, gasping for breath. His shape loomed over her, a dark blur, as he raised his foot and stomped down toward her face.

Kayla rolled. His foot, with no shoe, was submerged almost ankle deep in the small pool she'd been lying in. She splashed her hand into the water and poured all the voltage she could muster into the puddle.

It was sick how his body shook, electricity twining around him like constricting snakes as he stumbled away, face twisting in pain, jaw clenched from the volts coursing through his body and locking his muscles. He staggered and then fell over the rail. She sucked in air and pulled herself to her feet, leaning over the rail to where his crumpled body should lay. All those stories to smack into concrete. If he wasn't dead, then he should've been in a hospital.

He was lying in something's arms, his eyes clenched shut, twitching. She couldn't call it another man. It was a monster. A sense of death filled the building with a crushing pressure that kept her locked in place. That... It... The thing stood up to a full height, its bulk filling the bottom of the stairwell. Almost comically, Kayla couldn't figure out how it had fit down there in the first place, until she realized it had broken off the overhang. The monster was a colossus, over eight feet tall, a mass of pure muscle with hands that looked like they could crush cars and legs the width of tree trunks. In its other hand was a massive club of stone studded with teeth-like spikes along its edge. Dull black eyes met hers. A human shape, even with a mop of mane-like black hair, but everything about it screamed inhuman.

"Now you big oaf, what do you think you're doing in there?"

A sweet young voice that chimed like a bell. The monster turned away, carrying Ryan, and left the stairwell.

"You're just going to cause issues if—... oh goodness...!"

Kayla staggered away from the rail and put a hand over her chest, her heartbeat drumming. How do I... What do I...

"...Oh?"

The world itself seemed to rumble.

"Very well then. Smash her into a pulp, Surtr!"

A thunderous roar filled the night. Kayla rushed down the corridor toward the first door she saw, lowering her shoulder and smashing into it as electricity fired down her arms. BOOM! The door gave way with a crack as that thing shot back toward the stairwell. She ran through the dark, through someone else's home, lightning bursting around her sneakers. The sliding glass door was right in front of her. There wasn't any time to think.

She snapped her fingers, blasting the glass, and leaped over the balcony. The curtains stirred behind her as she flew, just for a single heartbeat, before Kayla plunged down to the earth below.

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:20 pm

The area seemed to be still and silent as he pulled up to the motel lot, parking under the most secure spot he found, an orange light that flickered in and out every other second. It'd been too damned long since he'd actually driven and he'd barely managed to park between the stall's white lines. It was an embarrassingly sloppy job but he couldn't have been bothered to give much of a shit then. So long as he returned the car in one piece, that was all that mattered.

With a quick flick of his wrist, he shut the engine off, pulling out the key and leaning back into the driver's seat with a hefty sigh. There was so much shit going on, it was retarded to think about his driving skills. Preston's blue-green eyes drifted lazily over to the rear-view mirror, admiring the fresh bags that were quickly darkening under his eyes. The thought of a warm, comfortable bed seemed indignantly tempting then, but he doubted that he could sleep no matter how much he wanted to.

The world seemed so quiet and still outside. He had grown used to Beata's silence. They'd all practically lived in the wilderness there, that was to be expected, but here in the city - it was jarring that he thought he might even hear a pin drop.

He took a quick look around, spotting the few rooms with the windows still lit. There wasn't anyone else around outside that he could notice, and he took that as a blessing. The less people he had to deal with, the better.

The young man reached over to the passenger's seat, pulling his duffle-bag up and older his shoulder as he swung open the door, letting it slam behind him as he stepped out and stretched his legs out. He'd never been in the area, much less the entire west coast. He held back another sigh, grabbing at brown locks of hair.

There had to be some decent place to start. Gifted, he knew, tended to leave a mess behind wherever they went; and Kayla especially of all people. He thought back to tournament shows alone, the disaster of a walk-in fridge, the number of times the poor janitor had to come fix parts and pieces of their dorm back together... Sometimes he wonder how the place still stood the number of times he'd pissed her off.

"You here for something?!"

Preston turned and looked behind him, only having just realized he was just standing there, smiling. Some tall, pimply guy with curls was sticking himself half-way out the office door. He stared, shoving his hands in his pocket and waiting for his sluggish mind to catch up and throw back some response. Anything. "A place to crash, preferably." And whilst he put on his best grin, and a far less creepy appearance (or so he hoped), the gangling man didn't seem to care much either way and swung back inside.

The exchange went rather quick and smoothly. Whilst he turned to count off Preston's money in front of the register, his eyes caught hold of a police scanner on the back counter, the size of small walkie, doing nothing but gathering dust.

"Just don't leave to much of a mess behind. Tell it to your friend too. We still have to pick up after." He murmured, sorting the ones away.

Preston raised an eyebrow, a bit caught off guard as he stuck his hand out. "... Friend?" He shot a quick look behind him, as if there might have been a ghost standing there. Of course, it was only the two of them. Whatever.

Sparks flew thinly from his finger tips and the scanner rocked and rattled around, the plastic cover making tapping sounds against the counter tile, but it went seemingly unnoticed. Not one moment before the man turned away from the register did the scanner go quickly soaring across the room and into his hand. Pres quickly shoved it into his pocket, coughing loudly into his other hand and playing off a bad itch in his throat until he was well enough to take his change.

"Fuck - Must have caught something nasty -" He heaved once more for good measure.

The attendant cringed back, seeming somewhat surprised that Preston was there supposedly alone at such a late hour. He shot a glance through the window and across the street where a few women stood just under the dim light of a bus stop.

The Autumn had only laughed, taking his key along with him out the door. "Maybe next time."

He flipped the small key-chain around in his one hand, his other thumbing at the radio in his pocket as he walked. 'Take out a big ass bridge or something,' Pres dared her silently. 'Make it easy for me, for once.'

His eyes darted over the shape of a man he hadn't quite noticed before. The stranger still had a phone to his ear and a newly lit cigarette hanging between his fingers, which he guessed was the reason he was out so late - not even cheap motels wanted to deal with cigarette stains. He was in a nice outfit, a flat ironed white shirt and a dark suit and tie, and had left Preston with the eerie impression that he was being watched - even well after he had walked away. It had been impossible to tell where his attention was past the jet black shades he had been wearing.

'What had they come here for in the first place? Some assholes in black?' Douche-bags with a terrible dress code that had been enough to take out several guardians, he'd heard. His mind took him back to that evening in the snow, the sick fuck with the cougar fedora who'd tried to take his ass down... Was it the same deal? Would that fucker be here?

A sick, heavy feeling dropped in his stomach and he told himself to calm down and not be a little bitch. There was no chance in hell they could have known he was coming, and even less of a chance they managed to take all of Beata's Guardians out. They weren't hired for being weak sons of bitches, right?

Still, he couldn't shake the paranoia of having a target off his back. As he finally reached his door, he'd had trouble fitting the key inside, his hand fueled with a slight tremble before he'd finally held his breath and managed to unlock the room. As soon as he stepped in, the bolt went up and the curtains closed.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Preston muttered to himself, tossing his bag onto the floor. It echoed out an ugly sound, almost as if he had dropped a bucket of nails. Or Legoes, even more loud and deadly.

He fell back up on the bed, shutting his eyes and facing up towards the ceiling, savoring what small peace the room could afford to provide. Even as he tried to ignore it, he could feel his own scars eat away at him, at his leg, across his chest; he raised his hand up and admired the ugly mended gash across the inside of his palm where he'd been forced to grab that overblown obsidian blade, and he realized how his hand still shook.

The young man chuckled despite himself. "I'm a god-damned idiot..."

Just laying there doing absolutely did nothing to rid of the feeling of pins and needles eating away at him. He knew he couldn't afford to fucking waste time, groaning as he pulled himself back up and looking quickly to the end table drawer. There wasn't much there other than a light and a telephone that looked about as old as his grandmother. Preston reached in the drawer, pulling out an outdated phone-book and a ragged bible, tossing both aside onto the bed. Nothing useful.

He let himself slide onto the floor, reaching for his bag now and undoing the zipper, holding it by the bottom and dumping the entire contents out across the carpet - nothing but crumpled clothes for the most part. At the end, a heavy metal safe finally made it's appearance after getting stuck awkwardly inside the corners of the bag.

With little time to waste, he undid the lock and revealed the intricate insides; rows and rows of sleek silver-colored metals, cut into strange ways, much like pieces of a puzzle. Pres slowed his breathing then. It had been far too long since he'd memorized each piece and had been able to put it together, there had never been any need for it then, but now... He knew he would have to relax and concentrate.

He let out a long exhale, reaching his hands out over the steel. He counted to himself slowly. One, imagining every small piece in it's exact position. His father had made him memorize the exact order... Two, picturing the finished shape at hand, which he knew all too well. It was practically a part of him. Three...

Blue light illuminated the room as his power surged down, lapping at the slick pieces and raising them up to his grasp at once. They swerved and swarmed around and over each-other, delicately interlocking and forming a lengthy cylinder just below his touch. Lightning traced and swerved around the joined pieces, suturing each mold together tightly under his control. By the time his work was done, his glaive was fully formed in his hands, with it bringing a warm, reassuring feeling.

It had been made especially for him, if ever he bothered to actually go out on missions, it would be easier to transport and less obvious to attention; yet he'd never found a need for it, never with a desire to throw himself into blind danger, not until now anyways. Fuck.

For some time, he'd let it lay beside him, magnetized to his side as he flit through his phone, searching out a map of the surrounding area. Her hometown, it's name he barely recognized, was hardly a drive away from where he was staying. All it would take was a short ride over. And after that...

Yolo. He pulled himself up, breaking the glaive apart and tucking it under his jacket close to him - being particularly mindful of the sharp blades. He kicked his shit aside and grabbed his key, not bothering to turn his light off as he left the room behind him. As he fumbled around for the keys to his card, a shrill, sudden noise pierced his ears. He cringed, his eyes darting back towards what he thought was the source, an alleyway leading behind the building.

He froze in his spot, his eyes dashing from his car to the alley to the car and back to the alley again. The sound cut at him again, a woman's scream. It reminded him nothing of her, and he thought how easy it would be to just ignore it, to get in his car and drive away then - especially when he stopped to thing how she might have needed him more out there then. It wasn't until the third cry that he dragged his feet away, picking himself up and breaking off into a run around the Motel's side.

He ran his hand along the gritty walls, turning the corner and staring down into the long corridor. There were no lights, what little he could make out coming from the lanterns across the way, or from the dim moonlight shining above them. "What the fuck?" His voice echoed as well as his steps, shards of glass and cheap plastic crunching under his feet as he drew himself in further. "Where the ... Lady, you dead now? ... " Grim reaper got her? Spooky killer? Bigfoot? He paused, waiting for another scream. Nothing.

He took a step back. "Yeah, you're fucked..." He was imagining shit. Or there were dumb-asses in the area fooling around. Either way, his conscious was clear. He tri-

Preston froze, the sudden breeze at his back turned ice cold. "That was simple. You're quite the white knight, aren't you?" The voice, it came from above his head. He twisted and turned, trying to get a better peak at the rooftops, but it didn't do jack shit for him. "Try to keep this easy, won't you? They want him alive."

"What...?" It was the only word he could sputter out.

A shadow stirred at the corner of his eye. He turned, staring down the end of the alley as out stepped a man, his hair, his jacket, his eyes... all dark as the night sky. It wasn't the furry. This man was as tall as a giant. He had no weapon on him, and yet he loomed over him, even at a distance.

Pres grit his teeth, his body turning colder as his foot slid another step back. He needed to run. He needed to get the fuck out of there.

"As long as he's breathing?" The man stared the Autumn down, his face blank.

The woman's laugh echoed, bouncing off the hollow surroundings. "That, and so long as you avoid his face."

The man in black raised his arm and Preston gave him no time for a show. He felt his heart leap into his throat as he lashed his hand out, a streak of thunder bursting out of his fingers and flying straight for him. It snapped through his arm, slicing through and sending tissues of skin and blood and raw meat across the floor and over the brick walls. It painted Preston himself as he raised his arms up, shielding himself from the warm blast.

... Was that it?

The color on him was hot and sickening, and he hardly thought to move for a moment, not wanting to look down at himself, not wanting to look of the mess that was bound to be not a few meters away...

But then, the bastard laughed. No, not the mystery woman. He laughed. The bile rose continuously in his throat as he pulled his arm down, seeing the giant still stand there - all black and red and steam rolling off the area where his arm once was. What looked like bone and puss began to form bubbles in the wound's place as his body twisted and contorted, the muscle and guts and all of his being leaving his legs and surging upwards, crawling under the surface of his skin and protruding out.

It clustered together, twisting around and weaving into itself until his new limb was reformed, large, pulsating and engorged compared to the rest of his body. His surviving arm and legs had whittled away to nearly nothing, truly a miracle this man, this monster, could hold up it's own weight.

'Oh fuck no, oh fuck no...

Preston waved his arm out, his weapon slipping out and snapping together almost instantly as the man's arm surged forward. It lashed out towards him, it's fist propelling forward in a heart beat. He'd barely managed to sweep aside, the limb stretching past. He grabbed the tip of his glaive into it's skin, surging a blast of energy into it's flesh and expecting it to burst like before.

It hardly sliced through, caught on thick strips of ligaments and bone shards. The end came flying back towards him like elastic, it's enormous grasp latching onto his head and shoulder. His feet rose from the ground, and he flew along with it, anticipating the worst. He was ready to feel himself join the splatters against the wall or to be crushed like a mere bug.

He was soaring now. He was screaming. The thing had let loose it's grasp and send him crashing against the pavement, tumbling out onto an empty street. Preston rolled and gasped for air, his vision a blur as he reached out for his glaive - his only protection then, now shattered pieces across the ground.

"How disappointing." The man in black rasped... If you could even call him a man anymore... It was slow to move, each step it took shaky and fragile as it lugged it's hideous arm behind it.

He hadn't the time to recover himself or stop and ponder on the sick grin this freak was surely wearing. With quick glance around, he latched onto the first thing he saw; an old dumpster, not fucking much, but it might as well have been his saving fucking grace at that point. Hissing through his teeth, he reached out for it, pulling the heavy metal towards with a hideous screech as it dragged across the road, sending up showers of sparks as it barrelled into the bastard - sending it crashing to the floor.

Preston's chest heaved as he pushed himself up onto his feet, fighting through the burning pain in his lungs, in his limbs, in his head; that familiar rush of adrenaline was the only thing keeping him going then. As his gaze cleared, he looked around at the scattered pieces - and had no mind to try and fit it back all together now.

It wasn't in his taste to be sloppy, but he wasn't concerned with style now. He thought about her, he thought about the asshole in the tournament he'd face, and he thought back on the feeling of having a bullet pierce through and singe your skin. The dumpster let out a large creek before it was suddenly heaved, sent flying over his head and into some poor asshole's estate.

In the mess of his shattered glaive, he spotted the slick blade, summoning it towards him and resting it on the back of his hand. The rest he wasted no time in raising, narrowing in on where the freak stood and - with one whip-lashed of lightning - sent them bolting towards the man from near every angle.

For a split second, he felt almost hopeful that that would have been the end of it, but in his weakness, he hadn't been quick enough. It's arm had surged out, taking the blunt of the attack as it swung at the many pieces. Preston bared his teeth, watching as he still stood, catching those beady black eyes of his. "God dammit!"

He pulled back what pieces he could, springing forward and pulling out his small blade, blue electricity surging out of the slick metal - much like a column of fire. This wasn't how he wasn't going to go. He wasn't going to let himself be stolen by some Lovecraft wanna-be.

The man's twisted arm swung towards him from the side, sweeping across through the air and Pres immediately let himself fall, hitting the ground rolling and scrambling for his feet again. Before it could rubber band back like a bitch, he swung, slicing through each of Freak-Show's knee-caps, one after another. Unlike his steroid arm, the blade sliced through his legs like butter.

It made no sound, but Preston could see his eyes as he fell back towards the ground, wide as the sky above them. As he hit the ground, his arm soared above the student's head, crashing into the trash of the alley to it's back. His body began to shudder and pulse again, the body parts moving from his arm back towards his lower limbs for a quick recovery.

He couldn't give this fucker the chance, raising his blade up again and spotting, under the black and red torn fabric still clinging onto him, a heavy, pulsating shape where his heart might have been. Preston didn't look, he couldn't look, as he stabbed the blade down into it's chest. And now, finally, he heard the man's screams. What was left of his arm swung into the Autumn's side and sent him to the ground, sending a stabbing pain through his shoulder and near knocking the wind out of him again.

In his frenzied thoughts, Pres had half-a-mind to start praying then and there, expecting the end as he twisted himself around. What was the man before was now a still body, red oozing out and creating a deep pool across the pavement.

'I'm okay... How the fuck... I'm alive...' He pushed any and all thoughts out of his mind, his heart still racing and his head still clouded. Slowly, Preston found his way back up onto his feet, pulling the sharp edge of his glaive out of the main - wiping the bits left behind off on his already dirtied clothes, and pulled the bits of his weapon back towards them, piecing together what he could and shoving it back under his jacket.

He didn't think. He just ran, his feet carrying him away, far away, as he could manage then; all other sounds a complete blur to him, except one, that last familiar voice.

"Disappointing indeed."
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:48 pm

She'd seen monsters. She'd met killers. But nothing radiated death like that thing did. Kayla flipped, vertigo ripping and tearing at her from the inside as she hung in the air, just for one moment. Then gravity set in and she plummeted to the ground like a sack of bricks. Thickets scratched at her arms, her legs, her back, her waist, and she hit the bushes with a crushing shock that reverberated up her spine. Branches creaked and snapped under her weight as she rolled out onto the grass of the sloped apartment lawn, still carried by the momentum of her running leap.

The world was spinning around her by the time she rolled to a stop. Her vision blurred, wobbled, clouded as all her pain caught up with her all at once. Bruises, scrapes, fresh cuts from hits she didn't remember taking. Electricity flickered around her body as she flipped onto her stomach, the grass slick and wet from the rain. I can't just lay here... Even out here, she could hear that thing, through the ringing in her ears. It was like a bulldozer put in the shape of a human body, with a roar like a jet engine.

She sucked in one scratchy breath, filling her lungs with air.

Her arms wobbled as she pushed herself onto her hands and knees, spreading up her shoulders and down her back until her whole body was shaking. She wretched, spitting blood out on the grass, but managed not to puke. I have to get, I have to... Kayla's throat was closing up, detached from the chaos around her. It felt like the lawn was spinning underneath her at a thousand miles per hour. Lain. I can't leave Lain. I have to save Lain. She pushed herself upright, skin damp with a chilled sweat, breathing three times too fast as her heart. Her heart was pounding like she'd just run a marathon.

Another roar. A pillar of flames burst out from a lower-level window, snapping her out of her own personal reality. I have to find her, I have to... She didn't know what to do. Every direction felt like a stab in the dark, and right behind her was inevitable, inexorable, inescapable death. Kayla stood up on her own two feet, reeling and staggering away down the lawn toward the side of the road. Her knees felt like jelly. Her feet felt like two lead weights. The asphalt beneath her feet felt like a whole different dimension than the lawn, streetlights flickering as she toddled past, the whole road blurring around her as it span.

Once she'd rounded around a wooded corner, the flames of her old apartment disappearing, she slumped against a bus stop pole bench to catch her breath. The back of her shirt was streaked with mud from her roll through the grass, with splotches on her palms, knees, shorts, all mixed with dabs of blood and soot and grime. She swiped off her hat to shake the leaves and twigs out of her hair, and staggered further down the road, panting. Where do I go...? Kayla wracked her brain trying to rake up some kind of hint, clue, anything valuable from all those fucking letters, but they all just blurred together in a haze of red ink. They were just there to taunt her. Torture her. Electricity coursed around her, lighting up the night, a torrent of emotions swelling up in her chest. I'll fucking kill them... I'll fucking kill them... I'll fucking kill everyone in this fucking city if I have to... It didn't matter to her if it all burned to the ground, if the world found out their secret, if Beata and everyone in it were caught up in the explosion. She wasn't making any sacrifices for fucking Beata. If it was the last thing she had to do, if she had to give up her arm or leg or life to do it, she was going to get to Lain, no matter what it took.

Electricity cracked across her shoulder. She stopped in her tracks, broken out of her trance. Basked in the orange glow of a streetlamp, two shadows stood in the middle of the road. They'd frozen too, their features indistinct in the gloom. One took a step back and threw a hand over their ear.

"We've found her!"

A phone?! Kayla flicked her hand through the air, loosing a whip of lightning, but a slab of concrete rose out of the street to block it. The bolt scattered against the stone, bursting into sparks. When they pulled themselves into the light, she could make out their faces. A taller boy, a few years older than her, and a girl with amber hair, her hand still over her ear, younger.

There wasn't any time to hesitate. It didn't matter what happened next or if anybody would see. She charged forward, electricity whipping around her, screaming at the top of her lungs. The redhead fell back, shouting directions, and the boy stepped forward waving his hands. One, two, three spears of lightning went streaking down the road, whizzing, and the concrete rose up like a black wave to block them.

Kayla didn't stop, electricity crackling like blue fire in her palms.

The boy leapt on top of his barrier, curling his hands into fists, and chunks of asphalt the size of basketballs tore themselves out of the street around him. One, two, three, four. The first rocketed out, smashing into the ground by her feet, and she hurtled past, shooting another bolt his way. He sidestepped, sending the next two careening toward her. She leaped to dodge the first, hearing it crack against the street behind her, and somersaulted along the ground as the next came flying just above it. Another rock smashed against the ground half a foot away as she rolled onto her feet, still not stopping.

She was close enough now to see the fear in his eyes. He stepped back, slashing out his arm, and a stone spike jettisoned out of the concrete barrier. If she hadn't seen that trick before, he might've stood a chance. Kayla slipped past it, the spike shooting out under her outstretched arm, grazing past her waist as she leapt onto the blockade, right in front of him.

There wasn't enough room on this narrow wall for the both of them. He stepped back, and she stepped forward, carried by a momentum fueled by adrenaline. Electricity crackled around her fist as she brought her arm back, winding up, screaming. The boy in black screamed too. Rocks rose up around him, spinning around his head like a halo.

Her fist connected to his jaw with a crack. He spun from the impact, flying, and hit the ground with a violent tumble. She leapt from the roadblock and stumbled to a stop beside him, panting, kicking him onto his back. His eyes were hazy and unfocused as they stared up at her, but wide. No time. No chance. Kayla brought her foot down on his face, once, twice, three times, until her shoes were stained with blood and he stopped moving.

"Stop!" a voice screamed, shrill, desperate, on the brink of tears. Kayla stepped away from the corpse, pulling in ragged breaths, and looked up. Her eyes met the girl in black's on the other side of the street. She shrunk away, stumbling a few more steps away, her hand still pressed to her ear. "Yes, please, hurry...!"

Kayla held out her hand, black dust stirring out of the shattered stones on the road, extending into the shadow of a blade in her hand. Footsteps echoed across the asphalt. No matter what, she couldn't let them all swarm her here. Not here. Not with that monster nearby.

"Again?! We're on Cher—...!"

The sword in her hand, a writhing mass of iron particles, swung up and severed her hand from the wrist. It cut through skin, tissue, and bone like a hot knife through butter. Her words faded off into a shrill, piercing scream that rang around in the night as the girl stumbled away, clutching the bloody stump. Another swing sliced across her chest, sending a spray of scarlet across that black coat.

She fell to the ground, the scream dying in her throat.

Silence settled over the empty stretch of road as the sword of iron dust dissipated into the air. Kayla panted, staring down at her shoes, caked in blood and dust and cinders and mud, her clothes soaked and plastered to her body. The rain had lessened up to a faint drizzle.

No matter what, she thought to herself, eyes dull as she walked past the corpse, a girl young enough to be her classmate. I'll keep pressing forward. I have to. I don't have any choice...

"Lain..." she breathed, soft as the rain against her skin.

"How sentimental. How very disappointing."

Kayla froze. A chill, like an icy finger, slipped up her spine, filling the air with a dangerous pressure. Electricity whipped around her as she glanced  to one side, and then the other, behind her, whirling around to find the source of the noise. Nothing. Only darkness. She put her back to a street lamp, clenching her jaw. "Who the hell—...?!"

"You're getting sloppy, dear Katherine. Listen closer."

It was coming from the ground. She dragged her gaze along the asphalt, to the severed hand lying on the sidewalk. No phone. No earpiece. Red string looped around the fingers. Kayla knelt down beside it, swallowing the dread rising in her throat. "What is...?"

"A terribly bizarre power, isn't it? Some mutation of telepathy. There are some gifted who think of humans as unclean, but look what happens when you breed gifted together... Impurities form. The blood is diluted and the power is weakened." There was a small symbol engraved into the palm, almost like a brand. The voice resonated from the bloody hand like a speaker, fluctuating with every word. She couldn't place a gender, or an age, or any kind of tone or accent, and it was masked by a low droning that sounded almost like static. "But I must give credit that the signal has not died with the gift's bearer. It won't be long before this connection fades."

Could she really accept what she was seeing? What she was hearing? She wasn't sure if she should shock the hand until it was a pile of ash or if it was smarter to just start running until she hit the heart of the city. All she knew was that she couldn't sit there on the ground with that monster nearby.

Instead, she picked it up out of the congealing pool of blood, holding back vomit. Something, a hazy miasma, flitted along the ribbon. Was it just a trick on her eyes in the dark? What kind of power kept working after death? "Who is this?"

"You wound me, Katherine. After all our letters?"

It was like ice being plunged into her heart. She almost threw the hand into the trees. Electricity coursed across her body as she fought against hyperventilation. "You fucking bastard, who are you?!"

"You know me better than anyone. It is so nice to hear your voice again, but I'd prefer it if you didn't shout."

She wanted to sink to her knees. She wanted to scream until her voice gave out. She wanted to do so much, but she couldn't do anything but press her shoes against the pavement, walking into the darkness with the severed hand. "What the fuck do you want? Why are you doing this?"

"Ahh, now isn't that an interesting question. This conversation has been a long time coming, Katherine."

"Don't string me along anymore, tell me what the fuck you want!" She was tired of all the riddles and the hints. Just once, just this once, she wanted someone to give her a straight answer about all of this. "What is this all for? Why are you trying to kill me?"

She could almost feel the mockery emanating from the hand, but there wasn't any laughter. Just the same cool monotone voice as before. "Kill you? Is that what you think?"

It was her turn for incredulity. Bitter laughter, hot and harsh, escaped her throat, but her voice was strained with fury. "What the fuck else?" After all they'd put her through, what else could they want out of her? But she couldn't wrap her head around it all, the motive, the fixation, any of it. What did they even do? Even the Headmaster had left her with more questions than answers... It all just seemed so senseless.

"You have a special kind of arrogance, Katherine. I could end your life right now if I chose to." Her grip tightened on the hand until she could hear bones creak. "I could have ended it on any day in the past year."

"Don't fuck with me..." she growled.

"Do you really think you're breathing right now because of your own skill?" the voice continued. "The filth sent after you are nothing more than fodder set up for you to mow down. They displeased Agrona and she disposed of them."

The name almost made her trip.

"If they can eliminate you, they will regain her favor. If they are killed, then their judgment has been sealed. Either outcome is a victory." Black blood dripped from the hand, leaving a trail behind her. "Of course, they were not ever expected to succeed. As I said, if your death was necessary... Well, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we, Katherine?"

Liar. The word choked in her throat.

"Let me put this another way. Why do you take hostages?"

Lain. Her father. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep herself from screaming out.

"They're pointless for assassinations. You take hostages to keep the living in check."

"Then why don't you kill me?" she spat out, electricity spurting out from her bangs, rippling down her arms. This couldn't all be for nothing. "If it was so easy there wouldn't be any need for them to be involved...!"

"Katherine, Katherine, Katherine... You're slow to follow. The point is that we have no desire to kill you."

Her head was reeling. What the fuck was that supposed to mean? Were they trying to get into her head? She couldn't take any more of this. In the distance, a dark building loomed. "Then what...?"

"We'll have that conversation face-to-face, Katherine. I'm afraid the telepathic connection has begun to falter. It seems it's been stretched to its limits."

"You're fucking joking me, you bastard!"

"Don't worry, Katherine. You won't be kept in the dark for much longer." They were right. The static-like droning had grown, almost swallowing the voice in the hand, and the flesh had grown stiff as stone. "But let's play one last game before we finally meet, Katherine. More of the filth will be on your way. You get to choose the battlefield."

"Where's my dad?" she snapped, as the voice dwindled more and more. "Where's my sister?!"

"Safe. Sound. Nothing will harm them." A pause. "But if you don't survive this, I'll have no reason to keep them alive any longer. They've seen far too much."

"I'll kill you..."

"Until next time, Katherine. I do hope we speak again soon."

The scarlet ribbon unraveled around the dead fingers, floating off into the wind, and all the noise died away. She was just walking alone through an empty parking lot now with a mass of dead flesh in her hands. Kayla dropped it on the concrete, flicking the blood off her fingers, eyes glazing over the dimmed lights of the sign visible from the road.

Mt. Rainier High School
Home of the Rams
WELCOME BACK
2036-2037


She crossed the parking lot to the front entrance, pushing past the double doors. The padlocked chain fell away with an electric current, snapped like string, opening into wide white halls lined with lockers.

This wasn't just a fight for her life. It was for her family's. If she survived this, Lain survived this. If she survived this, her father survived this. If she survived this, she'd finally get her answers. There wasn't any more running away or cowering, any more paranoia or nightmares, any more questioning any of it. She only had one path in front of her.

Her footsteps echoed down the hall, leaving wet shoe prints on the tile, electricity twining around her arms. Sparks burned in her eyes.

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:54 am

He hadn't the slightest clue where he was running to, the world around him nothing but a blur and the cold air doing nothing to ease the fire eating away at his lungs. Preston flew, refusing to look behind him, unable to bear the thought of turning back, not where he knew were waiting; not where that hideous corpse lay in that old, dirty-ass alley.

Every bone and muscle of his body ached, the blind rush of adrenaline slowly easing away and leaving him crawling to a slow halt. He propped himself against an old rusted fence, under the shade and shelter of dark overpass. "J-Jesus..." The young man clenched at his chest, his breaths frustratingly ragged and shallow as he gasped. They knew that he was there. How the fuck could they have known?

As he managed to get what little wind he could back, the sharp stench of steel hit his nose, and he became more and more aware of the deep red seeping through his clothes, sticking uncomfortable against his skin. 'That man...' Preston lifted his hands, staring at the deep strains they held, leaking from his sleeves. 'He's... I fucking...' Needles turned his skin numb as he turns his arms over. The blood, it was everywhere.

The bile rising in his throat forbid him from making a sound. In a frenzy, his focus was lost and his glaive went clattering to the ground. He tore at his jacket as if it were poison, throwing it aside and collapsing onto his knees. Pres could still feel the ghost of the blade of his hand still and the warmth of the man's life that had followed.

He spit up a bowel of acid, remnants of coffee and airline pretzels painting the sidewalk.

Preston couldn't have said for certain how long he knelt there, pulling what was left of himself back slowly onto his feet. The distance sound of a car propelled him forward. He couldn't be caught in one spot for too long, he thought. For a moment, he was careless, burst of sparks erupting around him as he lit the area, pulling his dear weapon to his side again.

The Autumn wandered for some time, longing for a place to rest, for a shower to wash away the stickiness that seemed glued to him now, for anyone to help him. In the still of the night, as he hid in the shadows, he realized he had never felt more alone. 'I can't die yet...' He slid behind the comfort of a dumpster as another pick-up passed him by, leaning up against a dirt-stained wall. He eyed it carefully and watched it until it was out of sight.

His fist clenched up, curses riding under his breath, ashamed of his own cowardice. 'I still have to find her.' There had to be some sure way. For a moment, Preston recalled the radio scanner on the office boy's table. Shit, it felt light and out of batteries, but it was nothing a little kick of juice couldn't fix. Immediately, he made a reach into the jacket of his pocket - and just as immediately after, finding nothing but emptiness and crashing his hand awkwardly into his shirt.

"You're shitting me." Preston grumbled to himself, agony stabbing him through the chest as he patted around pitifully for the tiny radio. He tore away at his pockets and continued to find nothing.  He was so stupid. He was so god dammed stupid! "Shit!" The back of his fist met the cold, grimy steel behind him - the bang that followed near deafening.

Snakes of lightning crawled down his skin as he shuttered, shutting his eyes and pinching at the bridge of his nose. God, how could thinks turn to complete shit so incredibly fast? He was starting to wonder if would have been worth it to take that cheap motel bible along with him. All he could think of was how wonderful a miracle was sounding then. His gaze trailed upwards as a jet soared overhead, a humorous grin cracking at the corner of his mouth. His phone, his keys, they were all in that fucking piece of shit fabric. It was unbelievable.

He wiped his forehead on the cleanest bit of his sleeve, his grip tightening onto his glaive, the one thing of his he was determined to not be stupid enough to lose and set off again, coming out of the canopy of the building and stepping out into a large lot. On a whim, he let his gaze turn towards the stars again, thinking how completely ordinary it seem - at least compared to Beata. There were so many lights missing in the city.

And that's when he saw it, perhaps by that precious or miracle or sheer dumb luck, he saw a tower of smoke billowing in the distance. The clouds were a sparse dark, ugly gray; it had to have been burning for quite some time. It wasn't much, but it may as well been the only fucking hope that he had to go on. It looked no more than a few blocks away.

As he took a few steps forward, his entire body itching to burst into yet another sprint, he heard the ground shift behind him. His breath caught in his throat as he turned, a blur of white soaring towards his face. The boy ducked back, a sleek blade whizzing past and slicing through stray hairs, disappearing onto the earth behind him.

"I'm impressed," called a voice from the shadows where he once stood, eerie and all-too familiar. "You've made quite the distance from your suite." The woman who spoke left him little more time to fuel his imagination. Out, she finally stepped, her dim eyes glimmering in the moonlight; pale hair swaying just past her waist. She stood precariously, curling her hands around waist, running her fingers against the jet black fabric - seemingly hugging herself. "Are you so frequently a runner?"

Preston gritted his teeth, sliding a step back as she took it upon herself to glide several feet forward. "Shut up," He barked, holding the end of his blade up on level with his body, aiming it precisely between her eyes. "I took care of your friend... I can take your ass too."

She laughed behind the back of her hand, tilting her head and sweeping aside, looking him over curiously. "Do you consider yourself proud?" she asked, running a finger through her hair. "He was... What is the word...?" The woman paused, snapping her fingers once, twice, staring at the ground seemingly lost before she quickly perked up again. "Uforsvarlig... Dum... He was an idiot."

Giggles escaped her again. "After all, I told him to make things painless, and look at the mess he left behind!" As she waved her hand around, the stranger took one step too close for his comfort. His blade pressed up against her collar, digging ever-so-gently into her skin; and yet she did not fret, and Preston swore he could feel chills radiating down from his glaive.

'Do me a favor and don't fucking move." He muttered, narrowing his ocean-like eyes, searching her face for any hesitation, any weakness. Of course, there was none that would be given away so easily.

"Ah," She ran her finger along the soft edge of the blade. "The way you tremble, it is rather cute."

His grip tightened, turning his knuckles a ghostly white as lightning erupted around him in the blink of his eye. Don't say that he didn't warn the bitch, he thought, pulling his glaive back and jabbing. With light feet, she stepped back before him, a jagged block of ice appearing between them with a wave of her hand.

The tip of the blade creaked into the glass with an ugly shriek.  

"Now, now. I would hate it so to be the one to kill you. It would be such a great bother indeed..."

Steam seared through the solid ice, crumbling into shards as he broke his weapon away. "What's the matter, deary?" Another step forward. He sliced through the air, a ribbon of blue light following and soaring towards the girl. Yet again, her glass barrier arose, sprinkling to shards not a moment soon after. "Am I really not worth your time?"

Her smile was wide enough for the both of them. "On the contrary," she mused, cold ice growing from the tips of her fingers. Thin blades appeared, poised for use at any moment. "I look forward to the long pleasure of your company."

"If you think you can drag me around, you're as stupid as your old buddy." Preston's gaze fell towards the ground, noticing the strange, sheen that slowly began enveloping the black pavement.

She shrugged, seemingly careless to the manner. "In truth, that may not even be necessary." The stranger's bravery grew delicately, her light waltz around him growing closer again.

He dared to shoot a glance towards the sky again, noting the color of the smoke pillar far away. It remained the same. "And why is that?" The young man took another step back, shooting a quick glance around him and gluing his eyes back to her. "The fuck are you chasing me for?"

"Someone has to keep watch for such interference, du dumm mann." She paused again, drawing her hand back. "You are a distraction."

The shards of ice went flying for his throat. He snapped at them, swinging his blade and knocking them away into dust, one after the other, his arm and staff surprisingly fluid. "What the fuck are you going on about?" Bits and pieces of cracked ice fell against his skin, yet it was only her next words that were enough to turn his blood cold.

"You are here for the Miss Croft, are you not?"

For a split-second, he froze. "You a fucking mind reader too?" The words nearly fumbled out of his mouth as he lunged. His spear broke into two in his hands, soaring towards her one after the other, narrowing in on the girl as she threw her walls again; the sharp steel embedded deep in the frozen water, mere inches from her skin. With one quick surge, the shields crumbled and the weapon drew back towards it's master. "Where the fuck are you hiding her?!"

"Worry not, would you?" She near finished her dance, coming full circle around him. "She's quite well and on her own." With a smile too kind, she offered a hand out to the young man. "If you truly wished it, I could take you to see her now, provided you would be behaving."

She must have thought he was some special brand of fuck-wad if she thought for a single moment he would give in like that so easily. He shifted around on his heels, straightening his back and masking his fear away, ignoring every wince and ache and pain. There wasn't an ounce more of weakness he couldn't afford to show then. "Or you step aside and we can avoid scratching up your pretty face."

Perhaps she was truly flattered judging by the laugh that followed. He might have liked to think so, but Preston could see the pity in her eyes. "What a sad decision you've made."

As she took a step forward, a column of ice rose around them, trapping them within a ring and towering high up towards the sky; effectively caging the both of them in. The Autumn got down low, his eyes shifting around looking for any chance of escaping, but there was none he could see; the horizon was gone and the was no sign of smoke in that oh-so close distance.

Fuck. c: This is fine.
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:53 am

Coffee boiling on the counter top. A smoking vending machine. She crushed the plastic bottle in her hand and tossed it to the floor, letting it bounce away into the darkness, kicking her feet up onto the table. The teacher's lounge. They had it good here. Kayla hadn't realized she'd been starving until the moment she'd sat down, and all the emotion and adrenaline that kept her bound together broke down to let her unravel. Dizzy spells. She'd barely slept the night before, and ever since she'd gotten off the plane, she'd been running, fighting, pushing herself and her gift to the brink. Sitting down just opened the flood gates, and all her pain and exhaustion went pouring through her at once. It was like crashing after a sugar high.

She'd eaten. The vending machine fizzled, spitting out sparks and smoke from the broken glass. Now she just had to wait. Kayla leaned her head back, staring up at the ceiling. My school. When Blaine had found her, it'd been the summer after seventh grade. If he hadn't, if she hadn't been born with this gift, she would've ended up here instead of Beata. Fucking ridiculous. How many of her old classmates went here? How many wondered where'd she'd disappeared off to? Did they think about her at all? Trying to imagine herself here, living every day life in some place so mundane... She might as well have been trying to picture herself walking on the sun. That was someone else's life, a whole dimension away. It didn't feel like she even shared the same reality with people like that.

"Do you know how many volts are in a lightning bolt?" he'd asked her. "Do you know what would happen to a human body if you put that power through another person?"

They were in bed, and she was fighting monsters. That was the rift between them. It couldn't be crossed or repaired. Even her sister, her father... They could never live her life. They could never occupy her world. If they ever saw each other again, would they even recognize her anymore?

The day they'd found her. Kayla couldn't remember it as well as people would expect. She hadn't been home for days. Ever since the day she'd been struck in that field, the electricity had started to flow more and more through her body, until months later, and she'd constantly spark... It was almost a little painful back then. Electricity flickered along her fingers, a dull tingle that had become all too natural. When she closed her eyes, she could feel the power hum through her, a numbing buzz spreading out from her core all the way to her fingertips, flashing and spiking with every twitch and jolt. It was all too ordinary for her now. Give me a break. She still had to remind herself it wasn't normal, but she'd gotten so used to the sensation that she'd almost forgotten what life was like before it.

"You have a rare blessing."

Her gift was what brought her here. If it wasn't for that, who knew what she'd be doing right now... Safe in bed, or just another body in a burned out apartment, collateral damage from an invisible war. Would her sister be any safer had life continued the way it was before? She didn't pretend to know why everything turned out the way they did. If there was a God, or fate, or whatever bullshit you could come up with, then she couldn't begin to guess at any greater reason for any of it. But maybe, if she'd never gone to Beata, then...

Kayla clenched her hands into fists. Her power was all she had. Without it, she was... nothing. Just another gutter rat.

Voices. Footsteps. Sounds filtered down the hall, a whole group. She stood up, electricity winding around her arms. One last time. This was it. Just for Lain... Her life was on the line too, but that was nothing. By now she'd almost gotten used to it in some ways. There were new stakes now. Kayla drew in a breath, fixed her cap, and turned to face the door.

They were coming closer. Kayla closed her eyes. Three pairs of footsteps... Four? Five? It was hard to tell.

"Hey, do you hear that?"

She heard them freeze outside the door. One second. Two seconds. The coffee was still boiling. Breathe in. Breathe out. Kayla took a step back. Three seconds. On cue, the door burst into splinters. All at once, it was like the room started to blur around her, adrenaline flooding through her veins.

A metal sphere the size of a pinball bounced through the open frame, glowing white hot, bending and sucking in the air around it as it began to condense into a mini-singularity. Kayla flicked her arm around her and it repelled back into the hallway like a bullet.

"Watch out!"

The pinball folded in on itself until it was a glowing orb the size of a pinprick. Then it exploded.

Shoom! Air and heat expanded with an explosive shock wave, tearing through the corridor, and five people in black coats all hit the floor at once. Blowback from the blast filled the lounge, pulling and tugging at her clothes like a scorching wind, but she just walked through the gale, snatching the coffee pot from the brewer.

Another trick she'd seen before.

Four of the shapes on the ground were stirring. The fifth had been caught too close to the blast, their limbs splayed at awkward angles, a broken doll on the soot-stained floor. One of them shot to their feet, a bone blade extending out from their sleeve like a sword, the razor edge sharpened like a chainsaw. They leapt toward her, lunging, and she swung the pot open.

Boiling coffee splashed over their face with a sickening fizzle and a cloud of steam. They staggered to their knees, screaming, and she smashed the glass pot over the top of their skull. The screams stopped.

Two more stood, a blonde and a brunette. Kayla twitched her fingers, her eyes shadowed under the brim of her hat. A pair of scissors that had been sitting on the table behind her shot through the air over her shoulder and buried itself in the brunette's eye before either of them could blink. They wobbled, grabbing at the handles of the shears, and toppled over with a dull thud. The blonde let out a choked cry, throwing a hand over their mouth.

That was all the opening she needed. Kayla hurtled forward, jumping over the burned corpse on the ground, and grabbed the golden haired girl by the throat, slamming them into the wall behind her. Electricity, one billion volts, pulsed through her hand and into their skin, lighting up the dark hallway in white and blue flashes. The blonde's whimper seemed to burn to ash in her mouth, fading into a cracked, hoarse gasp for breath. Blood trickled down from the corner of the girl's mouth, and then down her cheeks like red tears, blood vessels bursting in the whites of her eyes.

Kayla slackened her grip, and the corpse slumped down against the wall, still convulsing from the volts coursing through their body. She turned away, electricity rippling down her back.

One left. A boy stood fifteen feet away, his black clothes ripped and torn, almost as short as her, blood and soot staining his face. He held a gun out in front of him, the pistol shaking in his grip. "Just die!" he screamed, voice cracking.

A metallic twang reverberated through the hallway, the blast of a gunshot. She heard the clash of metal on metal behind her, the bullet sinking into a locker door. He missed... An incredulous grin spread across her face and she waved her hand. Another crack, but the bullet went curving away in a bright blue streak, looping into the wall beside him. He fucking missed...

The voice had been right. This was too easy. If they'd wanted to kill her...

Another crack rang through the hall. No, an explosion. The wall caved in behind him like it was plowed through by a bulldozer, flinging out chunks of concrete the size of bowling balls. She flew back, hitting the ground with a tumble as thick white dust went flooding through the aisle. What...? Dust stung at her eyes, her cuts, coating her in another layer of grime as she pulled herself to her knees, coughing. The boy was gone, just a cloud of red mist dissipating in the air where he'd been standing just a second before.

That didn't make sense. There was a gaping hole in the wall next to where he'd been, but... Then her eyes drifted over to the other wall. Splattered, like ground hamburger meat, scraps of bloody black cloth clinging to the ravaged flesh and muscle. Bile rose up in the back of her throat. She stood up, but her knees were shaking. Kayla swallowed vomit, sucking in a dry breath as the dust cleared.

A hulking silhouette rose up in the hall, lugging a stone club the size of a motorcycle. Her heart almost stopped right there from the spike of cold fear that shot through her like a steel blade in her spine. She reeled backwards, almost tripping over the other corpses piled outside the lounge, her breathing quickening. Another tiny shape stepped through the gap in the wall, with silver hair that hung just past her shoulders, gloved hands clasped behind her back. "Surtr..." She sounded like a child chiding a dog. "You smashed the wrong one. It looks like we guessed incorrectly, but there were two heat signatures... Well, I suppose that's inevitable when you take a chance."

The monster didn't answer. It just stood, a dark statue in the hall, the top of its head almost brushing the ceiling. They killed their comrade? Just like that? Without an ounce of remorse? How could a thing like that even be controlled? A shudder ran through her body. Her life had rest on a coin toss. If it'd gone the other way, it would've been her smashed against the wall like a bug.

"But it doesn't matter. We've found her, haven't we, Surtr? She's been a slippery little roach."

Wind whistled through the halls, blowing in from the hole in the wall.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Kill her."

It bunched up the muscles in its back legs, like a sprinter, and then sprung forward through the hall, its legs pounding the tiles into dust with every step. BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM. The whole building seemed to shake with every powerful stomp. How could something so big be so fast? There wasn't any time to think. She turned and ran, bolting past the lounge and down past the rows of lockers, her heart beating in time with each step of the monster behind her.

How had it almost caught up with her? It'd closed the gap between them in less than ten seconds. She could hear the stone club tearing up the floor behind them, and then scraping against the walls as it swung toward her.

If she didn't move, she'd die.

I can't run any faster.

If she didn't move, her body would burst like a balloon.

I can't run any faster.

If she didn't move, that club would tear her into ribbons of fat and tissue.

I can't run any faster.

Metal on both sides. Rows of lockers stretching to the end of the hallway and a flight of stairs. She leapt through the air, electricity crackling in a bubble around her, flipping. An unnatural revolution. It was like all weight left her body as gravity dissipated. All at once, she rocketed down the hallway like a bullet, careening through the air, the lockers crumpling around her as she flew. Her vision blurred, narrowed, twisting. Kayla saw the monster swing that club, saw how it tore through metal like it was aluminum foil, sending scrap bouncing along the floor. He shrunk as the gap widened between them.

Kayla clapped her hands together, drawing the electricity back into her body, and flew to the ground as gravity kicked back into effect. She slid along the floor on her back, leaving a trail of sparks before slamming to a stop against the bottom of the steps. She'd run out of hallway and that monster was still coming.

Three snaps, and three bolts went streaking down the hall, one after another. One smashed him in the shoulder, the others struck his waist, his leg. They exploded in bursts of light, harmless. He didn't even react. She might as well have hit him with pebbles. It was approaching, every step bringing it that much closer, long and powerful strides that could step over cars. Kayla pulled herself to her feet and ran up the steps, three at a time, panting. The stairs wound up, around and around, up to a second floor. Glass on one side, stretching all the way down the hall to overlook the dark parking lot, and classrooms on the other, still closed for the summer.

She was halfway down the corridor when it'd appeared over the top of the steps, leaping with inhuman agility and coming down with a crash.

"Hwwwwrroaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh . . . ! ! !"

The roar filled her ears like a jet engine, rattling her to her core like thunder. She was a leaf and he was a colossus. One swipe would splatter her against the walls like gelatin. He could rip her apart like she could rip paper. His club smashed down against the floor, obliterating the tile beneath it. BWOOOOOM! A quake rippled through the hallway, shattering the glass, knocking doors of their hinges, with a shock wave that felt like it'd tear apart the entire building's foundations. Kayla went sprawling to the floor, knocked into the air as the ground shifted beneath her.

Get up... She scrambled to her feet, stumbled, and fell again. Get up, damn it! Kayla pushed herself to her feet as the monster tore its spiked cudgel out of the floor, scampering around the corner and down another hall toward another flight of stairs. The roar rumbled through the building, death right behind her. Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry...

Up to the third floor, around, down the corridor. She was gasping for air by the time she was sprinting down the final hallway, pitch black except for the faint glow of the streetlights filtering in through the shattered windows. All at once, she skidded to a stop, her shoes squeaking against the tile. Kayla glanced to the left, to the right, over her shoulder. "No..." she breathed, a hard lump in her throat. "No, no, no, no...."

It was a dead end. It was a fucking dead end. There wasn't anywhere else to go. She turned around, back against the wall, listening to the rumbling approach. Her heart felt like it was going to burst in her chest. Coins and scrap change jingled in her pocket, cold steel through the fabric.

The monster burst out from the top of the stairs, a wave of death with a bulk that filled the hallway, the stone cudgel raised in front of him. It rushed forward, fast as a speeding car with all the strength of a freight train. Kayla flung out a coin, watching it flip in front of her, and flicked it as it came back down.

BOOM. A laser-like spear of lightning went firing through the hall, propelling the quarter through the air at three times the speed of sound. It struck the beast's shoulder, blowing away a chunk of flesh like a bullet, burrowing deep into gray muscle.

It stumbled, and kept running.

BOOM. Another beam fired out, shooting out into its abdomen. It raised its cudgel into the air. She flipped out another coin, electrical discharge cracking across her fingers, and smacked it. BOOM. The bolt smashed into the spiked weapon as he swung it, and a clap rang out that made her ears rang. For a second, it was like she was caught in a hurricane, lightning and wind filling the hallway, and then it all blew away.

An explosive gale howled around her as the force of the impact blew out the walls and ceiling. She fell to one knee, mind racing, heart pumping, that monster pounding out from the dust. It let go of its ruined weapon, little more than a spire of cracked and crumbling rock.

Kayla grabbed at the last coin in her pocket, picked it up, and dropped it. It bounced with a metallic ching! and fell away, bouncing out over the edge of the destroyed floor and out into the parking lot.

No...

She flung out her hand, electricity crackling down her arm, shooting a toppled locker through the air to smash into the monster's face. It reeled, just for a second, the steel crumpling like a beer can, and recovered, tossing the locker away into the abyss below.

I can't die here. The rain had begun to pour again. If she died they'd kill Lain.

It was in killing distance. The monster brought back its fist, tensing up the muscles in its arm, twisting its body as it wound up.

Kayla shot to her feet, stepping forward, electricity crackling around her whole body.

I have to live. I need to be stronger.

More power. More power. More power. She strained until it felt like her veins would burst, white light flashing around her, whipping like snakes, but it wasn't enough. More power. More power. More power.

She'd be dead in three seconds.

I won't lose.

More power. Scraps of loose metal around them began to glow, then melt. Her body was burning. She could feel something inside her core crumbling, and then burn away. A furnace blazed in her gut.

I won͝'ţ ͜loşe.

It was like a seal inside her chest incinerated, and everything locked inside burst out in a blinding explosion of heat and light. Power blew away at her from the inside out, burning out her nerves and flowing through her synapses. White fire spread through her limbs, coursing through her like blood.

I̲̭͇͈ͅ ̪͚̜͈w̸̻̰̦ͅó̮̘͖͎̗͎n͝'̧̪̩̺͕͕̱̪t̸͔̩̞ ͎͚͈͎̞̺̭l̬̜͓ͅo̘̙̦s̵͓͓͍̟̻e̻̼͓͔͚̦.̞

She ground her heel into the ground and pushed off. Gasoline filled her chest, gushing through her veins. Ignition. A firing hammer cracked down in her skull. One of her teeth shattered into dust in her mouth.

The sharp scent of iron filled her senses.

I ̢̯̞̺͎̑̏͐ͯẃ͇͔̱͍̲̬ͅo̦͓̘̬͕̹͑̀ͅñ͎̇ͪ̀͂̆̎'̪̺̭̜͑̓̐͛̔̉͑͘t͈̮͊̒ ̭͔͇l͖͚ͤ̋̂̉͗̐o̲̻s̏͌e̡̳̯͓͖̘̬̓̄̈́̾ͨͪ͗.͈̫̝̭ͧ̀

Bones creaking. Her consciousness was melting into the white heat.

Three seconds. She had three seconds. Lightning flooded through her arm.

Kayla pulled back her hand, screaming, and smashed her fist into the giant's chest. She could feel the bones in her hand shatter like glass. Lightning shot up her arm like a cannon, capillaries rupturing down her arm all the way up from her shoulder. It fired out from her fist in a beam of pure concentrated energy, shooting through thick walls of muscle, tissue, bones, and organs and out the other side in a fountain of dark blood, firing up into the sky and tearing a hole through the rain clouds far above.

Silence.

One. Two. Three seconds.

Thunder rumbled across the night sky. She'd blasted a hole the size of a beach ball through his torso, with her fist still extended out where his heart should've been. The monster's head lolled back as it toppled away and toward the parking lot below, crumbling into ash before it could hit the ground. Kayla sucked air into her singed lungs and stood up straight, letting her tattered arm fall limp to her side, blood dripping from her fingers. Twitches of sparks appeared around her head, electricity snapping around her ankles.

She stumbled down the ruined hall, her skull full of static, lights popping in her vision.

"̴I ̶thou̢ght ̵s͞o. ̶M̶e̕e̢t ͝me͜ the̢n. M҉y̡ ̵na̛m̸e̡'̀s ͢Way͢lánd̛. D͟o͟n'͝t ͝f̶o͘r͠g͝—"

Huh? When did she get on the rooftop? She blinked, staring over the parking lot and the dark treeline, the rain soaking into her hair. Her hat was in her hands. When did she take it—...?

"K̢u̶tab̀are͜.̶"

Kayla rubbed at her temples, clenching her eyes shut. Dammit. Where's ███████? I have to get up for class...

"Oh ́no̡, ̷Mis̷s̸ █͟█͘█̨██̵. I ͟a҉m ͡not he̡re̶ to ̕s̀c͟ol̵d ͡y̷o̷ų - I ́c͡ame heŕe ͟to̷ ̴b͠e͏ąt̛ ̢yo͠u͟.͝ ͡I̷ am҉ áll͝ ҉fo͝r ҉fi̴gh̵t̢i͜ng̵ wh͢en ͠it d̀oesn̨'t l̴ea̴ve҉ ͞a las̛t͏i͞ng͡ e̢ffe͡ct."

Huh? When did she get on the rooftop? She blinked, staring over the parking lot and the dark treeline, the rain soaking into her hair. Her hat was in her hands. When did she take it—...?

"I̧ g͘u̧es̛s͟ I can̕'̕t͏ ͏f͟orçe yoú.͞ ͟A ͜m̶ongre̕l̨ ͜is ̧a̛ ̛mo̶n̷grel, a͠ńd I was̵ ̀silĺy̢ ̸t͏o ̀except̡ so͡m̢eth͠i͏ng ̸more from҉ y̨ou͏."

"T͘he͘re̵'͝s no̸ way͞ ͝to ͞b͟e̢ b̨ơthe͢re͟d̕ up here̕."̛

"̨I ̀wa̧nt, ̨for͏ y͡ơu t̨o͜ ̢l͠e͜a҉r͢n̛ ̨y̛oųr͢ ͢p̨lacę. ҉You ̨a͝ct ̶so ̕c̛onfi̢de͢nt҉, ̴so ͡c̨ock͝y͘.҉ I guesş ̢whe͠n͜ ̀y҉o͢u're ̀fr҉o͟m̨ ̢a͡ f͠amil̀y l̷ik̛ȩ yo͏ur͞s͢, ҉you͜ ̡h̨ave t͠o p̡u͞t óǹ ̛th̷e͏ ̡tou͜g͏h̶ ͏act.̸ ͢I'̡m͘ ͟s̨uŕe̴ ̧you'̧d h̢a͞t͘e fo̧r̵ ̀peop̡le t̶o th͞in̶k y̶o҉u'r̡è ̀cu̶t f̕rom t́he͠ s͠ame h͡eroiņ a̴d͠dl͘ed̢ cl̡ot̛h͢ as y͘o͏u͘r ̢m̵ám̷a͝."

"Le͢t͝ ̶mé c͠om͞e͘, ͏Miss ͘██̵███͏."

"F̡igh̛t̕ ̛me."

"͢The ̧b̵a͘g͘ was͠ al͠re͡a̢dy ̀de̸a̸d.͡"̛

"̧I m͏i͘gh̸t ̡be, b̛u͜t͘ tha̴t̡ ͘wa͡s̷ ̷a ͠long̛ ͏t̵ime͠ aģo͢!"

"D͞o ̴y̵o҉ų ̶kno̢w ͠how ̶m͡a͡ny̕ volt҉s͝ arȩ ͜i̴n ̴á ͟l̶ig̷htniǹg b̕o͝l͢t́?͞"̕

"H͜e҉y!͞ Whàt͞ t̛he ̧hȩl͝l w̢as̨ ̕th͡a̷t!̀?"͘

"Y͢o̢ų ̨c͠ou͘ld͏ ̢s͠ay, y̷o͞u'r͘e beaut͟y͜ ҉is͢ ̢q͜úitȩ ͠s͝hock̡i͡ng.҉"

"͞I ̷gue̸ss̵ I̴.̷.̷.̸ I̢'m҉ nót ͢t͜he̵ o̶n͏l͏y ̶w̧ḩo͢'̀s ͏h̨elpl͢ess̶, ́th̨e̕n."͝

"̶B͟u̧t͡ ̨g̷u͡ess͡ w͜ha͏t █͢██͠██͜, I I͏ ͏re̕al̕l̸y̨ l̶ike yo̶u̷, ͝o͘ka҉y?̡"

"You'r͠e v͢e͝r̛y̕ b̨o͝l͏d ̛f̛or yo҉u̢r ͝a̴ge."

"͢Pl̢e͡asu̴re ́t̸o meet͢ ͜you̢, ̴M͏i̴ss̛ ̵█████.͡"̶

"That's ͢not ̕faaaa̕air̢.͝"̧

"I̕t's a pl̡e̸a͝s͞ure͏,͡ █҉█͝█̛██. ̕I̧ c̴a̶n ̛a҉lr͏e͘ad̨y͞ te͜l̢l̸ t͝h͢e͢r̨e͝'s̨ s͢pa͞r͠k͢s͏ flyìng bet͡w̛e͜ęn̴ ̵u̷s.̢"


Huh? When did she get on the rooftop? She blinked, staring over the parking lot and the dark treeline, the rain soaking into her hair. Her hat was in her hands. When did she take it—...?

"͢W̕hat̢'̡s ҉yo͘ur nam̀e anyw͜ay̶s̢?̧"

"Hello, Katherine."

That voice snapped her out of her daze. It all came pouring back at once. An icy chill crept down her back, locking her in place, an inescapable aura of death flooding across the rooftop. The wind howled through the rain, rattling the fence.

"It's so nice to see you again. I've been looking forward to this meeting. Have you?"

She turned around, a lead weight in her gut, every signal in her body screaming at her to flee.

But there wasn't any other place to flee.

Ruby eyes bored into hers, hypnotic. Eyes the color of blood.

"What's the matter? You haven't forgotten our conversation, have you?"

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:22 am

Preston darted his eyes around; to the left, to the right, up above, assessing every angle around him, trying to pin-point some weak point to exploit, anywhere he could break straight through and make a run for it. Of course, there didn't seem to be much of anything there. The structure seemed practically impenetrable, a solid wall of crystal so thick it warped the view of the outside world into nothingness.

He'd fallen flat on his face into her trap and his mistake was already beginning to bite away at him. In a matter of moments, he was puffing out fluffy white clouds, a terrible cold creeping through him and chilling him to the bone. In the soft moonlight, it might have seemed beautiful to him, hadn't it been for the woman in the center of it all.

She just stood there, her expression near completely solemn, save for the glimmer of mild amusement in her eyes, like a predator who had just cornered her prey. "It's too late to be changing your mind," she called, tracing her fingers lights across the veins of her free hand; another set of glass-like needles forming beneath her touch.

The young man forced his best grin, small sparks making leaps across his skin, warding off what cold it could. "Won't you tell me your name, or at least buy me a drink before you fuck me over?" He asked.

Another laughed escaped her. She bit at her thumb to hide her smile away. "Nadia," the girl chimed, brushing the stiff bangs out of her eyes. "Don't worry. I am not normally the type to cause you to suffer."

He found himself holding his breath, not bothering to answer as he stared down the pins in her hands, waiting for her to strike the first move. Sure enough, once a weary look crossed her face from the prolonged silence, she striked, spreading the slick ice between her fingers and sending them flying his way, one after another.

Pres threw himself to the side without a moments hesitation. In the stillness of their arena, he almost thought he could hear the needles slice through the air themselves before they shattered into the wall behind him. He raised glaive on level with the rest of his arm, staring down the end of his blade like the barrel of a gun and aiming it dead-center on Nadia's torso.

She moved just as his weapon blazed to life, blue lightning streaking down the silver steel and bolting straight in her direction. The thunder was deafening in that echo-chamber of theirs, mixing with the horrid cracking and fizzle as a fissure was carved into the side of the wall. It screamed out a storm of steam, masking away the girl in black within a thick fog.

The Autumn pulled his weapon back, holding it up protectively as he waited for mist to clear. He felt a heavy bead of sweat run down the back of his neck, eyes peered for any surprise pins or needles to come and slit through his throat. "Well? Don't keep me waiting!" Preston taunted.

He was on the edge, his arms and legs shaking in anticipation; or from the cold, he told himself. A walking mutant sticky hand had tried to kill him not an hour before. Compared to that, this bitch was nothing, but fuck; she did love to take her sweet as time. Why was that? What the fuck was she planning? His breath caught as he thought he saw a shape stir in the thick white, but nothing happened.

Pres had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he'd hardly noticed the low rumbling behind him, and he hardly managed to turn an eye to face it, instinct nagging to look whilst common sense told him to not take his eyes away from her.

The ice behind him had began to thorn it's way out of the wall's side. His heart leaped up into his throat as the wall spike out, a skewer as thick as his own body cutting just across his back and taking his poor shirt victim as he sprang forward. 'That's...' His eyes faced forward again and Nadia was running at him, glass needles poised in both hands. 'That's some cheating bullshit!'

He stumbled a step back, falling back against the thick ice and making a lap for it, sliding over and seeking cover on the other side. Pres could hear the pins break like porcelain behind him and saw them soar over head, unfulfilled as they turned to dust across the pavement.

The wall spat and crackled again as another jagged chunk aimed to take his heart out, another from behind towards the back of his head. He snapped up, pushing himself up on one foot and making a leap for it, slicing the end of his glaive at the frozen spear before him. Light traveled windingly through the top of the ice and shattered in instant, the trap behind him piercing through the cement.

He struggled to find balance as the cold crystal hissed and melted away between his feet, holding his arms out precariously whilst trying to keep his eyes open and look around him. Sure enough, the world shook and a spike came again towards his side. Preston leaped again, jabbing his blade into the wall and catching what stability he could before an icicle jabbed out from the opposite way. He pulled himself to the side, kicking out and splintering end of the ice again before pulling his weapon back to him, continuing his climb on higher.

Nadia gave him no rest as the stakes continued after him, one after another, forcing him higher and higher up towards the sky. The few moments he had to look down at her and see her receding shape, he could make out the white of her teeth, her grin growing with each passing moment. His ocean-like eyes looked ahead, above him as he moved, staring towards the top of the tower. At this rate, if he got close enough, he jump over the ledge and make a run for it.

He knew though, as he near reached eye level at the peak of the crystal structure, that things would never be that easy. Preston stood precariously, staring up through the roof. The night sky was just within his grasp and he could feel the warm air rushing in and brushing past his skin before it all caved in. Spikes poured in from every angle, closing quickly in on the small spot he stood.

It was a good fucking thing he had no quarrels with heights.

Preston let him slip down the side, falling rapidly back to the earth and narrowly avoiding wearing the entire roof as a crown. The air seemed to still in his lungs and the sharp wind whistled in his ear, but it was all familiar to him, almost comforting; but he knew better than to lose his focus. Few unbroken slabs shot out to skewer him mid-air, but there was a fat-chance he'd let that happen, bashing the blunt of his glaive through the glass and breaking through; halting bits and pieces of his momentum.

As he reached closer and closer towards the bottom, he stabbed the end of his blade into the closest black of ice, scraping his arms over the slick surface and hoping anything would stick. It didn't, and it took no longer than a rapid heartbeats that he could make out the look in Nadia's eyes, the cracks in the pavement, and the hundred - no - thousands of thin needles, poised all around to cut through him the moment he hit the ground. Overkill.

His blood ran cold. There was no time to think. He let go of the steel, both hands towards the ground beneath him, forcing the air between to snap to life, blazing white and hot. The cement crumbled under his touch, debris shooting into the air and digging into his skin; searing pain shot up his arms and down the length of his body, but he could barely pay it any mind.

The light enveloped blindingly from head to toe, leaving him stuck in the air, suspended and staring up at the crystal wonder above them; for a split second, admiring the way it filtered away the night sky; giving the entire place a ghastly glow. It might have served for an amazing last sight, if it had come to that. It wouldn't.

In that moment, adrenaline had it's full grip on him. He felt unreal, invincible; even as the glass pins whistled towards him, he couldn't be touched. Preston shut his eyes.

"Nerf this!"

It erupted all at once. Lightning burst from him, splintering from the air at every angle, lashing out at every thing in sight. The world around him began to crumble. A horrendous rumble echoed from all around him, a high-pitched scream barely breaking past the barrier of thunder and spitting steam. Fuck. He wanted to scream himself, but all the air had long since fled away. A stabbing pain shot through his ears, tearing through his neck and breaking into his head.

That had to have done it, didn't it?

He hit the ground a crumpled mess, gasping for air and suffocating on the humid air around him. The world around him was blurred, nothing but gray and white, and eerily quiet. 'Damn...' He cast a look aside and saw a piece of white break away. It must have been heavy as shit. He could feel the gravel beneath him shake ever so slightly as it disappeared. 'Did I over-do it?'

That woman, with the blue hair, and the blue eyes... she was slacking in her job. He frowned through the hazy thoughts. Shouldn't she have tried to kill him again by now?

Preston wasn't sure how long he had been laying there, but for the time being, he was content in staying there forever. His body felt disgusting, wet, and heavy, tied down to the world behind him. Another piece of the bright nothing fell away. He could see it drop from above, feel it crush the space just beside his hand.

'Get your ass moving, genius...'

Much of the fog was starting to drain away. Now was his chance to move.

He was slow to pull himself up, every fiber of his being stiff and stubborn to relent as he forced himself forward. Hands first, then shoulders, he could move his back dammit, he could crawl on his knees, there was no fucking way he was leaving any other way than on his own two feet...

The Autumn ground his teeth together. He was covered in dirt and rubble, bits of iron, useless steel, broken wires, abandoned change, the left-overs of an over-aged lot clinging onto every inch of him. As he tried to brush it off, it stuck to him stubbornly, piling up on his hand and refusing to part. So fucking be it.

Bolts of lightning slithered around still as he trudged forward. At some point he found his glaive again in pieces, or it found him, the scratched up bits that remained forming a cluster at his feet. He managed the time the reach down and pick up his blade, bent and jagged from use. Poor thing.

The world shook around him again. As he reached the edge of the circle, he could make out a faint dark shape, crumbled against the floor. 'Is... she...?' He dragged himself towards her, narrowing his eyes and doing best to focus on her shape.

Nadia was a ragged disaster, maybe enough of a mess to even rival his own. Her clothes and sleek hair, so proper before, were now singed; her skin was a burning red and, as he leaned in closer, he could just make out the gashed trails where it was bound to scar... Were she even still alive...

He couldn't could tell for shit and there was only one way to be certain.

His gaze fell to the mangled steel in his hands. It would have been easy, he told himself, raising the blade up. Fuck, it might have even been a mercy. The bitch looked dead already. A familiar cold overtook him, leaving him feeling hollow. Thank fucking God his stomach was already empty.

Preston stared a moment longer, staring at his own broken reflection in the dim light of the steel.

There was no fucking way, he told himself. He'd done enough.

The young man dragged himself aside, pushing himself up against the icy-structure, now fractured and fragile. He took in a deep, shaky breath, counting slowly to himself. On three, the voltage escape him, crumbling the overwhelming wall around him into nothing but melted snow and splinters.

What a fucking night.


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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:34 am

Her knees almost buckled from underneath her. Kayla reached out and gripped the fence behind her, electricity sparking underneath her fingers and spreading across the metal links. "You..." she forced out, barely heard above the rain. "You..." A face from her nightmares. It was almost hard to think of her as real... After all this time, sometimes she'd started to wonder if she'd dreamed her up, a hallucination, a demon, just fear and delusion manifested in a human shape. But she was here. Either she was here, or she really had lost her mind. Her hat fell to the ground.

"Me," she answered, the word slick and piercing on her lips, curled in that smile she couldn't read. "I have to congratulate you, Katherine. You soared above my expectations for you." Her black dress rippled in the wind and the rain, a shadow. She clasped her hands together, a quiet clap that rung in her ears like thunder. "When I heard that ingrate had defied my wishes and attacked you, I'd feared this would all be a waste, but certainly, you've proven yourself..."

"You're the one who wrote the letters..."

"Oh?" she tilted her head. "Yes, a girl did pen some messages on my behalf..."

The chain links warped under Kayla's grip. Whips of electricity sliced through the air, snapping and biting like snakes. "Then I'll... You'll..."

She stood, unmoving, the lightning reflected in her eyes. "It seems you've surpassed your limits, Katherine."

"Shut up..." Blood trickled from her nose, from her mouth, staining her teeth red. She wiped it away with  the back of her hand. "I don't want to hear another fucking word from your god damn mouth...!" Kayla ripped her hand through the air, electricity crackling down her arm, fiery pain shooting up her knuckles. "I'll...!"

A bolt fired through the air like a laser, slicing an inch past the woman's cheek. She... missed? "Agh...!" Pain shot up her spine, clinching her guts, and Kayla fell to her knees, coughing. Blood flecked the concrete.

Her expression hadn't changed. "The human body is an unworthy vessel for the gifted," she lamented, with the slightest hint of a sigh. "Your power is a rare example of exponential growth, but the mind restrains you. Beata Academy would call you undisciplined, but rather, your gift cannot be contained. If you were to overcome your subconscious shackles, you would burn yourself to a crisp."

Kayla clutched at her stomach, gasping, and vomited blood. Red fern-like scars had formed along the length of her arm, burning, burning, burning. Stand up, stand up...

"You've caused significant internal damage. Much more and your organs would burst. It is a humiliating cap on our kind's potential."

Anger blazed through her, but no matter how hard she strained, no matter how hard she clenched her jaw, she couldn't stand. Her shoulders shook, sparks popping around the fabric. "Are you going to talk all day...?"

The woman sighed, closing her eyes. "Yes, I suppose I do indulge in mindless prattle... It's one of my last few pleasures. But that's what we've come here to do, isn't it, Katherine?"

Kayla mustered up all the strength in her neck just to raise her head. Electricity coursed through her hair, and the tie holding her ponytail together snapped. Her hair fell down around her face, almost brushing her shoulders, the tips singed black.

"I promised to answer all your questions if you lived, and here I am. Just don't push yourself much farther. I'll be beyond disappointed if you kill yourself here."

None of this made sense to her... No, none of it had made any sense to begin with. Kayla inhaled, needles of pain sliding down her throat, and blew out. The rain felt as hard as bullets and heavy as rocks against her skin. "Who are you...?" she finally breathed. "What do you want from me...?"

Even the Headmaster wouldn't tell her that, if he even could.

"We are nothing more than gifted, Katherine." She walked forward, small, measured strides across the rooftop, closer and closer, as sure and steady as death. "Agrona is shaping a new world in her image, a beautiful vision..." When she stood over her, the woman with no name knelt, and for the first time, Kayla thought she could hear a hint of true rapture in her voice. Pale fingers glided over her face, as soft as a lover's. "Tell me, Katherine... Do you believe in angels?"

Angels...? She'd never gone to church, and she'd never believed in any kind of religion, but...

"Forget all your narrow preconceptions of cherubs with wings and halos. Let me ask again. Do you believe in evolution?"

The woman's smile was soft and subtle, but Kayla could glimpse ecstasy deep in her eyes.

"We are something so much more than human, Katherine Croft. Agrona will elevate us into the territory of God. I've seen it... A glittering oasis..." The scent of death flowed off her like perfume.

Finally, she found her voice. "You're not making any fucking sense..." she murmured, gulping for air.

She paused, then sighed, closing her eyes. "No, I suppose not. Then in terms you'll understand, Agrona is a wish granter. All of her faithful followers will be rewarded during the appointed time, when she builds her new order... What is it you desire, Katherine? Recognition? Power? Wealth?" The woman clasped her face, brushing away the blood on her lips. "Love?"

"Where's Lain...?"

"Safe," the woman whispered. "Your sister and father are now both a thousand miles away."

Her words hit her like a ton of bricks. Kayla tensed up, her expression dropping, a mixture of relief and anger and doubt and confusion flooding through her all at once. "What do you mean...?"

"It's far too dangerous to keep them here. They're on their way to a hidden safe haven where they will be cared for and protected."

"Bullshit..." That didn't make any fucking sense. Nothing this fucking bitch had said had made any sense since she'd started talking... Her head was spinning. Why couldn't she just get a straight answer?

"I thought I explained this to you. Hostages keep the living in check." The woman stood, looming over her, a pale shadow, and offered her hand. "We're asking you to join us. Your sister will never live in fear again. She'll never go hungry. You can give her a life of luxury. Fight for us, and you'll gain more power than you ever dreamed of. Ask for it, and you'll have more money than you could ever spend in a lifetime. Cast off your shackles and join us, Katherine."

No. No. No. That was a lie. Those were all lies. It felt like the rooftop was crumbling beneath her. Kayla stared up at her, eyes as wide as dinner plates, teeth clenched in cold fury. "You're lying. You're trying to trick me, you're..." Her voice shook.

Something like a sneer twitched at the corner of the woman's lips. "What a futile exercise. Tell me one reason I'd have to waste on something so pointless."

"I don't know!" she snapped, electricity bursting from her shoulders. "All I know is that you're a pack of fucking psychopaths...!"

"Do you believe others exist to torment you?" the woman cut in. "Such self-importance is the hallmark of a child."

"You tried to kill me...!" she screamed, electricity flaring around her. Tokyo, New York, and now... "Why should I believe anything you say?!"

The woman slapped her across the face. It was just one swiped, the same motion you'd make to swat away an annoying fly, a pale blur faster than she could've ever registered. Kayla went flying, tumbling, bouncing along the roof, rolling twenty feet away before crashing to a stop against the fence. Pain pulsed through her, from her skull to her knees, splotches of blood staining the wet stone where she'd been sent sprawling. She choked out a low gasp of pain, pulling herself back up onto her knees, pain shaking through her whole body.

"I could kill you at any time." There wasn't any hint of mockery or boasting in her voice. It was just a cold, simple fact. "If, at any moment, my master wished for you to be killed, it would have been done. There would've been nothing you could have done to stop it. Do you have the arrogance to think that you'd still be breathing if I desired your death? You do not even possess the strength to stand."

Kayla spat out another cracked tooth in a glob of blood, wiping her mouth. "Then why...?"

"You are a troublesome child, full of impulsion, but you and many others are of great interest to Agrona..." she said, staring into the rain. "My master rewards those faithful to her vision, but fear is all she understands. You had to be made to realize there was no room for rebellion."

What kind of fucked up thinking was that?

"In Tokyo, the first time we met... Do you remember?"

A corpse with no head. A body dissolving into fluid. How could she ever forget?

"Ken Noboru. Rei Noboru. Nicola Kresnik. Hieta Kresnik. Katherine Croft." She listed the names off one by one. "We realized your intention to disrupt our operation ahead of time, but even still, we let you into the facility... Our recruits in Japan moved in to defend it, and were outmatched. I saw your worth that day myself."

She clenched her teeth. "You bitch, you're saying..."

"You piqued our interest then," she explained. "The next time you left the safety of the school, it was decided we would test your resolve. In New York, we sent some of our weakest after you, and one of our best, and you passed with flying colors." Her smile widened as she turned to look at her, the rain trickling down her face. "And that brings us here, doesn't it, Katherine?"

What was she supposed to say to something like that? Kayla fumbled for some kind of hole in her story, just one question that would tear it all apart, but all she could do was fumble out the first words that came to mind. "That's psychotic..."

"Perhaps," she agreed, turning away again. "But we have no room for weakness. They were necessary sacrifices to temper us into something stronger."

All those people she killed were just... expendable? They'd attacked her just to see if she had it in her to be one of them? "So why should I listen to any of that shit...?" she hacked, more blood and spittle flying from her lips. "Why would anyone ever want to become a monster like you...?"

"Many of your schoolmates are already in contact with us. Some have already taken the full step and sworn their devotion to our cause. We have almost a dozen plants in the academy." Her words pierced through her like a knife. "You have great value to us."

"That's not any reason why I should li—..." The woman turned and began to walk toward her again, eyes burning. Kayla's words died in her throat as she pressed herself harder against the fence. "Stay away..." she growled.

She stood over her, then stooped down, dragging her finger along Kayla's jaw. "Because I've seen into your heart, Katherine. I know what you desire. I know what you fear." Her touch was colder than ice, a corpse's hand. "You can have it all. On the right path, no one would be able to rival your power, no one would doubt you... You could destroy anyone in your way, humiliate the people who hurt you... Everything you want would be at your fingertips... Once, in my life, I felt the things you've felt... That's how I know, Katherine."

For a second she believed it.

"If you fight for us, you can give your sister a life she could never dream of." The woman pulled away. "We'll give you a year to decide."

Kayla stared up at her, not daring to breathe.

"If you refuse, she dies."

Lightning blazed along the fence, the cracks in the cement, slicing through the sky. Kayla reached up, grabbing links of metal that bent and snapped under her touch, ignoring the pain eating away at her from the inside. "No one... I won't let you... You'll never..."

"That is the purpose of a hostage."

Her legs shook beneath her, but she pulled herself up until she was standing on her own two feet. The fence spit, crackled, and then finally fell away into the parking lot below. She almost went toppling with it, but the electricity coursing through her held her up like a puppet. "I'll..."

"Don't disappoint me. Until next time, Katherine."

"Don't turn your back on me...!"

Lightning fired out, cracking at the stone at her feet, but the woman just walked away and disappeared into the rain.

She stumbled after her, but it was useless. Kayla grit her teeth, balling her good hand into a fist, biting at her lip until blood trickled down her chin. "I'll kill them... I'll kill them all... I'll kill them all... I'll kill them all... I'll kill them all..." She staggered forward a step, almost tripping. Sparks popped around her, but they were different than normal, more like ion spheres that span around her head like a halo. Crack. Crack. Crack. It took a few moments, or maybe longer than that, to realize the pavement was breaking under her shoes. "I'll kill them all..." Her ears were ringing. The pain felt like hot needles under her skin, but she couldn't stop, she couldn't let them take... "I'll... kill you..." she gasped, unable to bite back the groan of pain.

"Now, aren't you unsightly..."

A blurry figure at the far end of the rooftop, surrounded by shadows.

"You disgust me... Everything about you..." There was a new dark grit to the small girl's words now. "Why are they so insistent about letting a worm like you live, after all you've done...?!"

What felt like a hundred red eyes lit up the space around the girl. Monsters, all of them, demon hounds and bat-like things the size of eagles, gargoyles and alien cats with fangs the size of daggers, wires of light bound around their necks like collars.

"I won't forgive you no matter what... It doesn't matter what that witch says...! I have the whole building surrounded! Kill her! Tear her to pieces! I want to hear her scream!"

The shadows sprung.

Light sliced out around her like a blade, and the monsters recoiled, shrinking away from the white heat.

"Get out of my way!"

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:47 pm

His neck craned uncomfortably as he looked up towards the remains of what must have been a sliding glass door. It was nothing but shattered crystals clinging onto a mangled metal frame. As he followed the shards, they made a path clear as day into the earth below, a steep dip from even where he stood.

Preston knew he had to be quick to move. Just on the way there, he was paranoid of being seen. Glares of blue and red could be seen even from where he stood, well on the other side of the complex building. And if they should find him? A ragged, sleep-depraved mess covered in rubble and mud - much of it not his own.

He couldn't afford to be caught then. The woman and the sci-fi monster wanna-be that had tried to stop him before only proved that he was on the right trial, but it wouldn't be for jack shit if he couldn't manage to play catch up fast enough. The trail could have ended anywhere at anytime and Pikachu could have been long gone by the time he made it there.

The young man shifted around, the earth spinning something fierce along with him. His muscles screamed in protest as he began to lower himself down into the bushes, noting the dark streaks and many broken branches. 'Easy does it,' he told himself, breaking into an awkward near-tumble with little-to-no grace. Thorns tore away bits and pieces of him and left his stomach in sudden upheaval. Again.

"Fuck." He seethed and scraped off what pieces of gravel he could, feeling bits of his strength being sapped away into the dirt as he trudged on, sticking to the side of a narrow road. He avoided staying the lights as best he could, staying under the canopy of trees and sticking to what shadows he could. His footsteps were muffled, distant beyond the sharp, high-pitched whine in his ear.

He hadn't heard the car slam across the street from him. He hadn't the slightest clue of their muffle cries or insistent, surreal orders. Preston leaned up against the stained mess of a bus shelter, taking a moment to see his head once the dark shapes began moving around in the corner of his eyes. Fuck all, he wished he was just imagining shit when he looked over, how much could one fucker in one night for fuck's sake?

The blood was everywhere. It drenched the broken pavement, spilling over and giving the road a sickening gleam. A girl lay there, her insides spilling out of her chest, and a boy, his face looked more caved in than the road. The few in black that stood around looked as horrified as they were, dragging large bags and chemicals out of their van. A clean up crew?

He looked the other way, clenching his eyes shut and dry heaving into his elbow, but there was no escaping the rotting stench. It was around them. God dammit, it was still on him. 'What the hell happened?' He forced his gaze back around, staring down the shape of the girl again. Bright red hair. It couldn't have been her.  'I have to find her.'

Did she do this? He grimaced. Cold pins and needles crept up onto his hands and feet again. Those people were dead. He thumbed around his side for where his small blade stuck to him loyally, grazing his fingers against the sharp edge. There was a hand. An entire fucking hand laying near-by, curled and twisted unnaturally. They couldn't have deserved that. He clenched tightly onto the cold steel. The cold crept up onto his chest, squeezing him near as fiercely. It was Nadia... No, it couldn't have been Nadia. She was gone. He had killed her. No, he didn't. He could have killed her. She was burnt. She was still. He had did that to her. She couldn't have killed him. He walked away. His knife didn't pierce her. Then why was it so hard to breathe. It felt like someone was stabbing him in the chest. That would have been so easy. A blade goes straight through if you push hard enough. Fresh meat was always hard for him to cut through, he thought, but him, him, or it, or him, it was so easy, easy, easy to do. He was dead. He had to be. The blood was everywhere. It was everywhere on him. He deserved to die. It was him or it. It deserved to die. But it wasn't an it. He deserved to die. He deserved to die. The knife was twisting now, scraping against his heart. It pained him every-time it pounded. And fuck, it was pounding. Faster. Faster. He didn't want to kill anyone. He knew what coming out here meant. He knew he would have to hurt. Not this pain. Not this stench. Not dead bodies. Not fucking brains spilling out. Not fucking this. Not this. Not this. His free hand gripped at his head, squeezing and tearing. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. Not this. How was he supposed to breath with these thorns in his throat? He didn't want to die. He didn't want to kill. He just wanted her. He had to get to her. Fuck this. Fuck it all. Fuck them. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Pain, a very real pain, snapped out at him, searing hot steel bouncing off the canopy and biting through his skin. He turned, peering through the slits of his fingers and looking back towards the dark shapes. One of them, he could barely make them out, see their tousled hair, and see the cold weapon in their hands. This... this bitch... he had shot at him.

Preston licked at his lips, trying to find some words to say, some sort of real reaction. How could he speak when he could barely breathe? But he had to. He had to. "I can't die," he murmured. It was low, an apology. "I have to find her." Perhaps they hadn't meant much. Perhaps they only meant to scare him off. He couldn't afford to think about it. He couldn't afford the time. There were three shapes standing there.

This clean up... it could have very well been a two person job, couldn't it have been?

He sprung, sparks dancing around the tips of his fingers as he lashed out, his sharp blade spinning and dancing just along the end of his touch. It whistled through the air. The shape had the sense to step out of the way, spraying bullets upwards and past where he stood, turning the glass behind him into shards. Preston was undeterred, snapping the blade towards his side with a flick of a wrist. It left a clean cut, slicing through the flesh and pausing at it's resting place, just against the back of his hand.

The shape flailed, grabbing at it's neck and crumbling to the ground, leaving more than enough pigment behind to renew that horrid coat of red. One of the blurs stumbled back whilst the other reached behind themselves. Another gun. It had to be. 'There's no time,' he told himself. Preston drew his hands out, bits and pieces of metal clumping together, what was once his glaive was now a broken column of missing pieces, barely held together. But fuck it. It would do. It would have to be enough.

He focused in on the van behind him, whips of electricity reaching out and grabbing hold on to the hunk of steel. In a moment, he was soaring through the air, glaive outstretched. With the blunt side of his staff, he swung at the shape, hitting the figure square in the stomach and grasping onto the roof of the vehicle, planting his feet squarely on it and staring ahead down the street.

At the end, in the distance, he could make out a large structure; hundreds of large, dark shapes swarmed around it. It was a mess. It was unnatural. It reminded him of home, for fuck's sake. It was her. It had to be her. He refused to think otherwise.

Pres made a leap for it, snakes of lightning surging around him as he bounced off from one car to the next; lights flickered and sizzled around him, a stray street light bursting out into sparks as he grazed past it, but his gaze stayed focus, looking no where else but forward. 'God dammit, Kayla.' The closer he got, the more of those fucking things he saw. She had to be alright.

He came to a stumbled landing in the near empty parking lot, close to falling and barely catching himself on his hands and knees. The entire place looked like it was falling apart, those strange shadow creatures were everywhere, only a few seeming to notice and pay him mind. It looked like a god damn apocalypse had hit this place. What the fuck kind of bullshit was that?

The roof itself was starting to crumble. His gaze trailed upward, staring up towards the top. A blur stood there at the edge, blazing blinding colors of blue and white, lashing out at everything around it. 'Kayla...' His heart was beating out of his chest, a warm, wetness staining his vision. "Kay- agh- !!"

One of the creatures had broke it's ranks, an unnatural, gaunt thing on all fours and razor like claws. He batted it away with the edge of his glaive, lashing back out at it with a whip of electricity. He beat the creature away best he could, striking at it from the side and trying to keep his eyes peeled at he captured more attention.

He couldn't fucking stay here. He had to get to her. God dammit. Another blur came for him. He swung his leg, sending jolt's into the black creature's flesh as he kicked it aside, staring up with despair shimmering in his eyes.

"KAYLA!"
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:49 am

They were monsters. All of them. She'd kill them all. Every single one, even if they took her with them, she'd kill them. If it meant burning Beata to the ground, if it meant living on the run, if it meant fighting until her organs burst in her gut, she'd destroy them. There wouldn't be a trace left, just ash, just silence, and then maybe... Maybe, at the very end, she'd be able to rest easy. Kayla slashed her hand through the air, drawing oxygen into her lungs, the air singed with sulfurs and cinders. "Get out of my fucking way...!" she screamed, lightning streaking across the rooftop, a dazzling whiteness that left her blind and reeling. Monsters burst into clouds of dust, one after another, screeching with alien voices, but they seemed to pour toward her in waves, from every direction, trying to swallow her into the shadows.

I need to be stronger...

That woman, that witch, that fucking nightmare had said that her body was on the brink. If she pushed too hard, her body would burn away.

But there wasn't any choice, no chance. Her eyes locked with the girl in black, fury blazing down her chest. She was in her way. She needed to go after her, even if it killed her.

Lain. The name was like a breath on the wind. It was the only word she needed to keep pressing forward. Electricity lit up the rooftop in flashes, blasting away the shadows with every bolt and whip. I can't let them... She poured fire into her limbs, like gasoline, her face contorting in a wolf's snarl. "You bitch... I'll kill you...! Get back here!"

"How dare you overlook me...!"

A demon hound sprung from the dark, unhinging its jaw like a snake. Kayla twisted her body, electricity pulsing down her leg, and smashed it into the monster's ribs as it came flying at her. It tumbled away with a hideous hissing yelp and disappeared over the edge, falling away into the abyss.

Pain shot up her arm, her ankle. More hounds had sunk their teeth into her flesh, biting, ripping... One of the gargoyles swooped down, talons aimed at her face, and she swatted it away with her free hand, her fist wreathed in electricity. It went whipping away through the air, like a plane shot out of the sky, making one last feeble loop before it spiraled to earth. Another monster, something like an imp latched onto her other leg. She sunk to one knee, a scream building in her throat.

I̴ w҉o͠n̕'t͏ ͏die͏ ̀he͢re.

It wasn't enough. She needed more power.

Kayla felt it coursing through her, pure energy, all her hate and anger burning through her. It felt like she was going to be incinerated.

What seemed like a hundred demons were pouncing from all directions.

Lightning enveloped her body, a glowing white aura, and exploded outwards like a bomb. The monsters around her were just a shadow in the blast, a silhouette before they were vaporized into nothing. "You're pathetic..." It rumbled in her throat like a demon's growl. She stood up, blood pouring down her elbow, shambling, her arms swinging like dead weights. "You're nothing compared to me..."

Open the valve in her core. Let it flow.

A hulking creature, tall as a horse and wide as a car, something like the mix of a boar and a rhino, lumbered forward, steam pouring from its nostrils. It charged, slinging forward as fast as a bullet, its tusks lowered, aimed to tear her open. The blink of an eye. Electricity fired from Kayla's bangs like a cannon. By the time it'd slid to her feet, it was already crumbling to ash, a clean hole the size of a basketball blasted straight through its skull and out the other end.

"So many..." she spat, sucking out the venom in every word, a grin splitting her face. Kayla limped forward, her arms hanging limp at her sides, blots of blood trailing behind her. More of them pounced, charged, flew, more and more and more and more, and beams of electricity went firing out from every angle, blasting them all to pieces. Electricity curved out in a slicing arc across the rooftop, slicing through the shadowy horde, and the girl in black stepped away with her lip curled. "Don't you get it...?" Laughter bubbled in her throat, high and girlish, a stark contrast from the moment before. More blood trickled down her nose, blue rings forming in her irises. "No matter what you do, you can't get out of this alive..."

"You are a true mongrel," the girl muttered, thin wires of light twining around her fingers like puppet strings. "I've heard enough of your yapping." The wires leapt out from her hands and shot through the air. Kayla flung her arm out in front of her and the strings wrapped around her wrist like whips, looping, binding. "Curs like you need to be put down...!"

The wires pulled tight, cutting off the blood flow. Kayla yanked her arm back, snapping her fingers. A bolt fired out and the girl in black went flinging backwards through the air, the white wire connecting them melting away into the rain. She hit the ground, twitching, convulsing, her expression frozen on her face, clutching at her stomach where she'd been struck.

Kayla laughed. She laughed until it hurt, until it ached, until she was sinking to the ground clutching her stomach, until she was vomiting blood and chunks. Electricity crackled around her, filling the sky, rippling down her skin, sweat pouring down her face. I'm̶ mel̶t͜in̷g̴, she giggled, pulling herself up, an unnatural motion.

She couldn't feel her arms.

A shadow slid forward, reptilian and black as ink, slashing its claws against her stomach. It burst into a cloud of ash the moment it stepped into her bubble, its silhouette imprinted on the air like an afterimage.

She couldn't feel a thing.

Kayla laughed.

Her head was full of static.

"Monster... Brute..." The girl managed to pull herself back up, heaving. "You'll pay..."

Hilarious. Kayla hobbled forward, closing the distance inch by inch.

"Stay away from me..."

"You're going to die..."

"I said stay away from me!"

"I'm going to kill you..."

"Don't you dare take another step...!"

Kayla reached out her hand, electricity rippling down her arm.

"Theeeeeere yooooooou arrrrrrrre!"

A shadow leapt from the debris, twirling, a silver flash slicing through the night. The blade slashed her across the chest. Kayla stumbled back, a bolt firing, missing, the shock reverberating up her arm. She choked back a gasp of pain as the pommel of the sword smashed her in the gut and she went staggering, then tumbling, rolling. "Elin, you're so stupid... Look at all this mess!"

Jillian Snow picked her up by her hair. Kayla screamed. "Messy, messy, messy, messy..." Electric shocks pulsed through her body, and Snow threw her to the ground, brown locks of hair still caught between her fingers. "Do I get to pop her? Do I? Do I? Do I?"

Fervid, manic. Kayla stumbled to her feet, tottering. Snow slashed out and Kayla ducked to the side, twisting, and the blade whizzed an inch past her waist, smashing into the floor with an ear-splitting CLANG. She stepped back, electricity bursting from her sneakers as the giggling girl in the black cloak lashed out again, ripping another tear across her shirt, a second away from disemboweling her.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, let me, let me...!"

Snap. Lightning cracked out like a gunshot, blasting from her fingers. Kayla felt her bones creak from the recoil. Snow caught it on the blade and it went flinging out of her hands, bouncing away along the concrete. The girl in black spun on her heel, the kick catching her on the hip, and Kayla went spilling to the side with a gasp of pain.

"It's been so long, Miss Croft!"

Another kick hammered into her stomach. Kayla went rolling along the ground like a ragdoll, stopping a foot away from the edge of the roof.

"Can you remember my name this time?"

Sţan͟d͞ ͢up̶.̶.̵. Pain shot through every inch of her body. S̀ta͠n̢d ̶up.́.̢.̸ It was a miracle she hadn't passed out already. S̴t̕a͡ǹd up.͘..

Lightning fanned out behind her like white wings. She sucked in all the air in her lungs, screaming in agony, and stood to her feet, the wind howling around her.

Snow's hood fell away, her cloak billowing out behind her. Black wind swirled around them. No, not wind. Iron in the air, twisting and seething in the sky, a river of it, like a dragon. Kayla stepped forward, lightning crackling in her fists. Somethin̸g ͏w͢a̛s̶ sp̴l̡͝i̸t͢t̸҉̴i͡n̨͠g̛͢͞,̢ ͏̷bu̧rs̶̀t̷̛́̕̕i̛͘n͠͠g̴͜,̧͜͞ ̸͝b̨͠u̸̡͢t̷̷͡͠ ́͞i͘͞͠ţ̴̕ ̵̴͡d҉̶̧i̴̡͏d̀͞ņ̕͟͝'̶͡҉ţ̷̴͞ ̷̡̨͘m̵̢͘͢ą͜ţ̶҉̨t̵҉͞҉ȩ͜r̴͠,̢́ ̢̨
n̴̨͝ơ̵҉̧ņ̷̶͜ę̵͢͝ ҉͞͏ò̷͟͠f̷̴̕͞ ̶̧͟͡i̧͟t҉͘ ̶̨̀̀͘m̴͢͝a̧͜͏̵ţ̵́͠t̴̀́͝e̢͏̧̀́r̵̵͏̀͠e͢͟҉̸d̶̸́͜,͏̵͜͜ ̛j͡u̴͘͜͜s̨̛t͡͏̶͠ ̧̀͟͝l̸̵̵͘͟i̸̡͜v́͏҉ì̶͜͢n̨͟͝g̀̀ ̷m̡̡a҉̡t̸̀t̷҉e̡͜͝r̸̵̵͜ę̸d҉̨͢͠,̴̡͟͞ ̷̨̛́́j̸͞u̷̷͢s͠͝t̛҉ ͏̵̨̡͢L͜͠a͏͝i̵͢͝ǹ͏͏͢ ̨͟m̵̴̀̀͘a̸̕̕t̸͘͘͢͜ţ̴̵́҉e͘͟͠r̶̴̴̛é̀d͢͞͡,̨́͏̨̡
̡̢̨̢̀j̢҉̀u̶̢ş̛̀͡͝t̶ ̸̡͘͜s̡͞u̕͏̢r͘͢͞҉v̶͡͝i̸͡v͜͞͏i̶n͠҉̸̛͞g̵̡͞,̨̛͡ ̷̢͘͝j̡҉̶u̷̢s̸̛͞͠t̴̨͘ ̛̕͟͞k̡͟͜i͜͢ļ́͝l̶̀̕͜ì̢̕͢͠ń̡̕͜g̵̕͏,̷̧̡͞ ͠
s̶̕͡ḩ̶̵e̴̴'̷̡̀͠d̸ ̴͢҉͘͠a̕͞l̀̕͘͞r̶̡e̶͢͟͡a͟d̨͝͏́y͝͞͝ ̷̀͘͢k͠į̸̢͘͞ļ̶̨͡l̶̴͢͟ę̴d̡ ̸̨͘s̵̨͟o̧͢͞ ̢̛͜͢m̸a̧ń̸̕͟y̴̢ ̀͞o̴̧͏f̵̛ ͏̶͜͜t̵h͢͞҉e̸̸͝m̵̀͟ ̷͠͞í̶̵̧t̀͘ ̴w̵̶͡͡ą͢͠͠ś̴̀͞͡ņ̶̸̢̡'͞ţ̧͞ ̵̕
h̷̡̡͢a͏̡r͏̀͞͠d̷͢͏ ͝͝͏t̴̵̨̛h̨e̵̛͟r̵̨̢̡҉e͠҉ ͟҉w̧̨̛͢a̴͜s̸̷̢͏̸n̸͝'͘͘͠t̷̕ ̴̢a͡͞҉ń̶y̧͜͠ ̶̡͘͢w̶͟e̴̶͡͝í̸̛͟͠ǵ͘h̴̛͞t̷̨̕ ̷̶̡̨͞b̀͞͏͘͜ȩ͡͏͞h̴͠í̸͜͠n̵̸͏̧҉d̡ ̷͝i̷͘͡t̶̢̛ ̨͟i̷̕t̶̸̢͘ ̧̧̢͞h́͏͡ư̛r͡t̢͞ ̴̢͏̀ş̴̕͟h̷̛e̸͜͝ ́͝j̸͞u̷̵̷̢s̴̷̶t́͘͏ ̷͢͡͞h̢͟a̷̷͢͞͞d͞҉̴̴̕ ́͡t̵̴̀͝ǫ̸̡ ̶̀͝ḱ̵͟͠i͢͏̡̛l̛̕̕l̵̷̛͘͠ ̸́h̶̸̡͝e̴҉r̢͞͝ ́͘͞ą̨́͟n̸͜͝d҉̶̕ ̀͠͞͠h͏̸e͏̧͠͞r҉̴̡͟ ̛̀͘ą͟ń̶͟d̀́͢͡͞ ̛҉͟͜h̢͞ę̵͠͝҉r̸ ͝͝ą̢̛͞͠ņ҉d̨̀ ̛̀͜͜͢t̀͏h̸̶́e͡͞ ̧͏̴͠r̶͞ę̶͜
s̛͠t̕͢ ̴̸͞o̵̢̧͡f̧̕̕ ͜t̸̶̸̸͘h҉̴̸̨è̛͢m͘҉ ͝҉̛͜à̴̛n̵͢͟͝d͏͢ ̡͘͘͜t̴̢h͜͜a̴̸͜͝t҉͏ ̡̛̀͞w̸̨͟ą͜s̶͠ ̶́i̧͜͜t̶͘͠͏͞ ̡̛́̀͜í̷t̛͠ ̨̢b̸҉u͜͜͝ŕ̨҉̧n̨͜è̵̴̢̧d҉̨ ̶̵̕͜͠t̶̷h̢̕e̴̷͞ǹ̵̶̷ ͞͡s͟͡h̸͡ȩ͟ ̧ć̶̀͘̕o̸̶̡u͞͝l̛͏̵d̶̷̡ ̧͡r̸͝ȩ̕͠s͝t̸̨ ͏̸͢í̢̨͢ţ͘̕ ̡̀͘h̵͢͞u̵̕͝҉͘r̶͜t͞͞ ҉̷t̀̕͟҉͞ḩ͜͜ę̛҉n͝ ̸͟͞s̨̕h̴̸͏e̸̶͡͏͝ ͝c̷͡͏̨̨ơ̢͘͢͠u̴̶̢͜l͏̷͢͝ḑ͟͠ ̸̶̨̀d҉͟i̶̶e҉͝ ͏͏t̴̛ḩ̵̵͏ȩ̀͏n̴҉ ͠͏͟͝͠s̵̶̴͘͠h̸͠e͏̧́͟ ̨́͝c̷͏͜o̡̨u̶̶͘͏l̢͠҉̷d̨́͡ ̡̢̨̀͢ģ̛o̴̢͘͘ ̸́͟͞͡b̷͘͜͠ą̸̀҉̨c̢̧҉̴k̕͟ ̵͜҉t̴ò ̷̶̵̕s̨̧͞c̨͝h͘͡o͏̶̢͠
ò̸̧̀͘ĺ̶̢͠͡ ̷́͟͞͠ţ͢͝͏̡h̀͏͏̷ȩ͢͜͜n͡͏̶̀ ̢́͏̡͞s҉̶̢h̕͘͢҉é̸ ̶̵̛͘͘c̶̴̢̛̛o͏̨̧͟u̴̢̧͞͠ļ̸ḑ̀ ̵̴͝t̶̷̸h̵̛̕͞e̡͜͜͝n̸͡ ̸̢̀͟s̶̨h͞͠ę̶ ̷̧͟͡c̵̡͝ǫ̡͡u̴͠l̵͢d̕͠ ̸̡̕͡t̶h͢͞e̷̷ņ͝ ̢͘s̶̷h̶́͠͠e̴̡͟ ̡̢͝͡c͢͡҉͝o̸̕ưl҉̶̨̕d͞͞ ͟͢i҉̷̷̕͟t̨̡̢̕͟ ̨͜w̶̕a̸͘s͡ ̧̧̕͞͏t̴̴̨̛̀o̶̵o̕͢͝ ̸̢̕͞͡ḿ͜͞͠u̶̷̕͠͝c̸̢̨̀̕h̨ ̷̨̢̛̕s̴͏h͝͡e̵̶̡͏̀ ̶̵̸́͘ḩ̢̧̀͡a̷͞͞͝d͢҉̨͘ ͏̕͟͢t̢̡͏͜ơ̶͝ ҉̕͡d̸o̴̕͘͡ ͏̶̀i̢҉̸̴t̢̢́͏ ͟͞͠s̀҉̡͏u̶͞c̵͟͏̛̛
ḱ͜ ̷̷̛̀i̸̧͠t̴̶̴̶ ͏̸̀̕͘ų͟p̛͝ ͡҉̴̕s̶̶͟͠h̶͜͠ę ̨̡͜h͢͡a̴͢͟͝d̴̡͝͞ ͘͞͠t̶̨̧̛̕o͞͏̷ ̶̕͟͡d́͘͢o̷̕ ҉̡̀̀͜í̸̶̢t̛́͜͏ ͜͝͏̡s҉̢̕h̵́͘͠è̕͠ ͘͜h̕͟҉̢a̡̕͝ḑ̀͢͜͞ ̨̀͘͢͠t̷͏͏o͡͝ ̢̨͠͠d̶͘o̢̕ ̶҉͘͘͢
i͏͏̨̧t̕͏̸͜͞ ͠͠j̸̧͝͏u͟͞ś͏҉̧ţ͝͠͝ ̶̶͞͝b̸̢̨͘r̸͠͞e͝a̶t̕͞͏̴͜ḩ̶̡̛e̢ ̷̷҉i̷̛͘ǹ̸́́ ́͜o̷͟u̵̶t̴̸̛ ̧͝͡͝i̵̧͟n̷͘͟͠ ̴̧̧o̶̢͞͝u͞͝҉̷t҉̧̛͢͞ ͠͝͞į̸n͢͞ ̸̡͜͠o̷͡u̴͘͡t͏̧͞͞ ̸̛͟͢͠s͜h͏̀͢͠e̛͘͟͡ ̧̀͞͠w̨̨͜a̢̕͢s̢ ̀̀͜͟à͟͜ĺ̵͠҉l̴̡͡ ̸̶̧s̨̡̛͡h͏̸̡è̵̛ ́͏͞͏̷h̵̷̨͝͝á̸̡̛̀d̛͡͠ ̵̢s̴̢͘͘h͏̷͢e͜҉̸̢̀ ̸̢͏n̕̕e̡͠e͢͠͏̶d̢̡͞e̴̶̴̢d̶͢ ̴͟͠͝t͏͏̧̀̀h͏̸͏i̷҉̀͟͞ś̢͘ ̀̕͝͝͝s̸̵h̕ę̢͝ ͠͞n̴͘͠è͏è̷͟͏d́͘͝҉͝ȩ̸̵̧d̛͏̧̀͟ ̵̶̷͜t͢͠h̴̕í͜͞s̸̸̡͘.͘͝͝

Jill stepped foward, slipping past her punch, and stomped her foot into the concrete.

"█████████!"

The ground beneath her feet exploded.

Oh.

She was flying through the air. The stars lurched above her, just out of reach.

Her vision tunneled. Electricity blazed after her like the tail of a comet.

"KAYLA!"

Kayla plummeted down to earth, the rain brushing her cheeks as soft as kisses.

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:50 pm

The creature turned to dust, he noticed, eyes narrowed in on the black fog that dissipated into nothingness. His own Paranoia told him that it was some sort of trick. He'd had no idea where it had come from or what the fuck it was, but he didn't exactly have time to think about it. As he drew his glaive back, another already on him.

A lithe, mantis-like creature, sharp blades protruding out of it's arms poised and quickly aiming to slice through his momentary blind side. "God dammit," He hissed through his teeth. Narrowly stepping to the side, he nearly lost his footing, dazed from the quick-blurred motions. As it swung for him again, he stopped it in it's tracks, blocking it's swing with the blunt of his staff.

Showers of sparks flew like a fountain between them, again and again as he regained his momentum, jabbing and thrusting his weapon forward before he'd finally gained the upper hand. As he stabbed the edge of his blade into the creature, light flowing through it in alien veins, illuminating the monster from the inside out before it burst; kicking up dirt and darkness, spraying it all around.

Pres coughed into his shoulder, forcing a peak back towards the roof-tops. Slowly he'd realized, in the dim moonlight, that most of the creatures had gone or fled, what was left scaling the sides of the building, lingering uncertainly. From the top, he could barely still see her there, a standing show of magnificent blinding blues and whites that seemed far too divine to be real. It was as beautiful as it was terrifying.

The young man dared to stop staring. In the blind of an eye, the edge of the roof had turned to mere crumbles, and just as quick again her limp body was falling straight towards the earth. 'SHIT!' He didn't think. Pres threw his glaive aside, a wave of electricity splashing out all around him, crushing in what few cars remained there, snapping steel lanterns back, pushing back whatever force they could afford back into his flesh.

He flew forward, soaring across the pavement in one instantaneous stride. 'No, no, NO!' She had to be okay. Had to be. He stared through the white light, snakes of lightning lashing out at him, harmless at it's surface but pushing back against him. He bit through his cheek, digging his feet into the ground and making one last leap into the air.

'I can't lose you.'

Preston made a desperate reach for her, wrapping his arms around her body and pulling her in close. He twisted and they tumbled, sent skidding across the cold, hard concrete and shouldering into the wall. Pain stabbed through him from every angle, pounding at his head, through his neck, torso, and every limb. Then and there, there was only darkness. He felt nothing but the distant remains of shattered debris and sparse rain.

He was lost of breath, lost of thought, damn near lost of his own conscious until he could feel a slight stirring; and therein realized exactly who had had still bundled up in his grasp. Throughout it all, he managed the slightest smile at the corner of his lips.
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Mon Sep 19, 2016 1:43 am

She fell, staring up into the rain, the wind as soft as a cushion. Emotion, adrenaline, memories, all her thoughts and fears, they all burned away inside her like a shooting star breaking up in the atmosphere. One breath, and she'd be dead. All her desperation from before, where did it go? One heartbeat until her last. Just one moment, and all her pain dripped away, all her agony, it fizzled up and crumbled to ash, a blazing trail of blue and black and white and gray streaking out behind her as she fell. Falling. Flying. Soaring. Her stomach was doing somersaults. Nausea. Weightlessness.

For once...

Kayla closed her eyes the moment before she smacked against the pavement.

Gravity smashed back into her like a steel weight and she went tumbling, twisting, rolling, faint shocks shooting across her body, but she could barely feel it. Maybe she'd fall forever. She'd never stop, and maybe that was the hell she woke up in. But it stopped. Kayla didn't open her eyes. The earth spun and lurched beneath her, heaving and toiling like the sea, and then it all went still as the world settled back into place.

Was it over?

For a second, she couldn't tell. Kayla sucked in a light, rattling breath, drinking in the crisp night air. Her heartbeat fluttered in her chest. I'm... She opened her eyes, her vision hazy and unfocused, trying to make out the soft shape beneath her.

She was enveloped in his arms.

No. That didn't make sense.

He was holding her, smiling.

No. What was he doing here?

He looked like hell.

No. Not here. Why here?

He'd saved her.

No.

All her thoughts and doubts washed away in the rain. She brushed a shaking hand over his torn and wet clothes just to check if he was real, if she hadn't really died after all, if this wasn't just some trick or dream or last moment hallucination, if... A quivering breath escaped her throat. Kayla stared up into his face.

Him. It was him.

"P... Preston...?" she whispered. Her voice cracked.

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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:20 am

In that moment, Preston had completely forgotten where he was. The world around him was nothing but waves of darkness, all lost and pointless to him. All his wounds and aches, he could barely feel it all. His gaze remained on only her, just happy, so incredibly God damned happy that she was alright. If not alright, then just thank fuck that she was alive. What would he have done without her?

His fingers traced up through the back of her hair. It was burnt and tangled and snagged all to hell; and not even the worst thing about her, he thought, admiring the bright burns across her pale skin. There were smears of blood across her cheeks, dripping from her lip, fucking everywhere. The Autumn could have sworn then he had never seen her so broken before, not even after all those quiet nights in the infirmary, nor that last night they had spoken, really spoken.

Guilt shred away at him, what-ifs beginning to plague his mind. He had been the one to walk away that night. He'd brought in that hell in the first place. He could have been here for her sooner. He could have done something before it had come to this, couldn't he have? Something? Anything?

At the same time, what the fuck was wrong with her? How could she just throw herself into death's way so easily? Not in just this fucking shit-hole of a situation, but all the fucking time. All those dangerous outings. All those useless, picked fights. All those bottles of heavy meds in her cabinet...

Didn't she know that they weren't nothing? She was everything to him.

"Kayla," he murmured back, shaking his head stiffly, a breathless laugh escaping him. "You fucking idiot." The young man held her closer, tightening his arms around her and forcing his aching body up, just enough to press his forehead against hers. What the fuck was she thinking? Did it even matter then? He'd made it to her. He'd made it just in fucking time.

Warmth flushed through his eyes and his vision blurred, even more-so than it had before. He'd pulled away just enough to glance up at the scars, to fight back tears, or perhaps thank God if he were actually out there somewhere. Instead, reality had slowly begun to set back in, the world opening up again and the array of pains settling in once more. At the peak of the crumbling rooftops, against the dim, clouded moonlight, he could make out a few shapes still stirring.

His ocean-like eyes fell back to her. He refused to let her go. She wouldn't leave his sight again.
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PostSubject: Re: Heartbeats [closed]   Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:00 am

None of it made any sense. He should've been a thousand miles away, cooking and chasing girls and being the same old him as always, not... this. Not battered and broken like this, not holding her like this, not swallowed up in all this. How could he be laughing right now? Like this? How could he talk like that when they were lying in this tattered parking lot in this tattered town? All her pain, all her fears, everything, she forgot about herself. Right now, she was just focused on him, staring into his face. Maybe she had died after all. That was the only explanation that seemed right to her. No one else should've been alive. Fuck. He should've been safe.

That was him. That was his voice.

She'd never told him about any of this. Maybe, just like with her sister's letters, a part of her had thought that'd it'd all be okay if she kept him in the dark. Maybe it'd just been to hard to say. But he knew now, didn't he? He was part of this mess now. He'd thrown himself into it and now he was trapped in all this too.

What an idiot.

"Shut up..." she breathed. Her voice was cracked, hoarse, faint, but all the words came tumbling out. "What are you doing here...? Preston, you idiot, why are you...?" She let herself collapse, burying her face into his chest. "You idiot..."

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