Two days to prepare and psyche myself into it.
It was a dumb plan but it was my only plan… I felt a little bad, Kenzie had done most of the work for our presentation, carried it in class as I had gotten too nervous to remember my part and then I had blown off hanging with her for two days to prepare for this…
As Kenzie had said; there was the liquor store on the corner of 9th avenue and A street, it didn’t look like much, just a cheap family run liquor store. I walked around the block, keeping my distance but looking out for any signs, in the back of the place, a guy was smoking, seemingly guarding the door. After a few minutes, I made another round. He was still there.
I put on the cheap mask I had bought at a dollar store and I passed through the alley, using the lack of light to get closer, when I was within a few meters of him, he looked on edge.
“What do you want?” He asked with a rather thick Russian accent.
“I’m here to see Koshei.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking--” I saw his hand move down to his side, it was too high for a phone. I punched him right in the stomach, hard enough that he coughed up all the air in his lung. I put a hand on his mouth, had he tried to bite, he would have probably eaten a mouth full of liquid nitrogen. I hit him in the head and he went limp. I wasn’t sure how long he’d be out, movies were rarely accurate portraying violence…
I patted his side and found a handgun, reassuring me that I hadn’t just beaten the hell out of a regular Joe enjoying a cigarette break. I took out his gun and threw it in the dumpster. I considered taking it but guns weren't very heroic and I had no idea how to fire it properly.
I opened the unlocked back door and found myself in a tiny back room, with a cheap, set of plank stairs leading to the basement. I tried to quietly go down, but the damn stairs kept creaking. Thankfully, the basement was full of noise. I could hear people chatting in what I presumed was Russian.
The basement was relatively big, a windowless concrete block with pillars placed every so often, shelves and piles of crates strewn all over with no regard for consistency. Other than the main room, there was a single door leading to another room, at a perpendicular angle of my position so I couldn’t see what was within. Goons wearing civilian outfits were sitting on folding chairs, playing card in the middle of the room, AKs propped against the table and nearby crates and armored vests and balaclava on a rack waiting for them.
Now that I was inside, I was left to ponder the second part of my brilliant plan; what was I supposed to do? How would the gangsters react to a tiny teen girl wearing a cheap plastic domino mask with civilian clothes? I hadn’t though this all the way through…
All I knew what that I was an idiot. A very big one.
I snuck around under the cover of shelves until I came face to face with one of the mobster leaning against a pillar. I hadn’t seen him while inspecting the room. He noticed me, I noticed him and things went to shit. I reacted faster than he did and punched him, sending him crashing a few feet further into a pile of crates. His buddies stopped talking and looked at me.
They readied their AKs.
I froze, long enough for the first one to shoot, the bullet hitting me in the stomach. My armor might have protected me from being ripped to shreds, but it didn’t magically negate kinetic force, every bullet was like being punched by a body builder.
I fell off balance and lost my breath by the impact of the bullet. before they had readjusted their aim to compensate for my fall, I crawled behind the shelves, they didn’t just fire through, there was probably important stuff in there and it saved me from getting my organs pulped by hundreds of bullets.
They started yelling and moving around. I grabbed a small crate and chucked in in their direction from cover. The realization that I was a lot less invincible than I had thought dawned on me…
And then I heard a roar, making my legs tremble. This had just gotten worse. I peeked through the shelves and saw a man in an expensive suit, a golden mask of an old gaunt man’s face and a crown above it. He removed his shirt and I saw his muscles grow; gaining a two-hundred pack in front of my eyes…
Without hesitation he grabbed the table and chucked it at the shelf I was hiding behind, I moved out of the way as it crashed down on the ground. Bullets started flying, some of them hitting me, a few in the torso and one in the leg. I found refuge behind another pillar.
My best chance was to run away but I had no idea on how to reach the exit with dozens of people gunning for me..
This was a dumb fucking idea Paige. I told myself as I hid behind the concrete pillar that soaked up the gunfire for a few seconds before they stopped. Let’s risk your life to impress someone who’d probably be disgusted by you if she knew what you feel… It’ll be fun!
With the gunfire on hold, I had a moment to breathe or really to pant heavily, every movement in my chest hurting like crazy. I had to think, get myself out of this. I had to-- I felt something slide powerfully across my throat, my armor forming up and saving me from a slit throat. I couldn’t see what it was, as far as I could see, nothing was close to me, I was alone in this corner.
Something was there, something that had just tried to murder me and I had no fucking clue what.
Before I could think about it anymore, Koshei threw a crate next to me, forcing me to go on the move again. The goons began firing again, but hitting a moving target wasn’t all that easy and they weren’t shooting at full rate, probably to conserve ammo.
I took cover behind shelves, leaning down to make myself a smaller target. If I was lucky, the guardians would come and save me from this mess. That had kind of been the plan from the start, but now I wasn’t sure I’d be alive by the time it would happen. If it wasn’t for the gun wielding goons, this might not have been such a pain, the media, comics and all that jazz didn’t do them proper justice, they might not have been able to kill me outright, but they hurt and it pilled up fast.
Brick or not, guns were dangerous.
I saw the goons move around, to circle me and I began running again, my legs were beginning to feel like wet noodles under me. I was already getting weak, It hadn’t helped that I hadn’t eaten all day.
One the goons approached me and I swung my arm at him, sending him to his ass. I didn’t make it far before my legs refused to carry me anymore, just behind another of the corner pillar, opposite the one I’d hidden previously. A quick peek and I saw Koshei, he had gained another foot and probably another hundred pound of muscle, his shirt all ripped and his muscles bulging with veins, giving him a purple tint. I was alone against a dozen soldier and a cape that only seemed to get stronger the longer this continued.
Something hit me in the kidneys, making me cough and I heard a bit of noise; the sound that a stun gun made. Thankfully my armor was not conductive in the slightest. There was something else in the room with us and it wanted me dead. I had to move before it found a way to actually harm me…
I turned the corner to run, but before I could continue, I saw one of the Ivanova men, he'd ditched his AK and instead faced me with a fucking rocket launcher. I tried to turn around, or move out of the way, but momentum kept me in his aim. The rocket hit next to me, my armor kept me alive, absorbing a good part of the shock and the shrapnel, but the explosion still sent me flying back, smashing my right shoulder against a hard metal cabinet, sending a terrible flash of pain through my body. I tried getting up, but my arm didn’t move anymore. It hung at a wrong place, the bone out of it’s socket.
By the time I painfully and awkwardly got up to my shaky feet, Koshei was standing next to me, I tried to hit him but he easily deflected it. He grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the wall, my left arm taking the brunt of the shock. He might have looked like a gentleman, but he was really a brute.
“Stoohpid itttle girl…” He said, clearly having problem articulating when all hulked out. “Otch…” He then added, standing over me menacingly.
A man I hadn’t seen came closer, I didn’t understand how I’d missed him, he was wearing black from head to toe; a casually buttoned shirt, slacks and a featureless mask that only exposed his eyes, circled by black face paint. He held a very long knife, the kind that looked more like it was made to be nasty than effective.
Then it clicked; He had been the one trying to kill me, not every divergent had a flashy ability, some had the exact contrary; people who had powers that let them go unnoticed, even as they tried to slice your throat open. In an instant, this perfectly ordinary looking man became hundreds of time more terrifying that Koshei could be.
Koshei backed off and the other, ‘Otch’ I presumed, came forward.
“Just so you know, I’m truly sorry it has to come to this.” He spoke with only a hint of a Russian accent, sounding so oddly sophisticated in a moment that didn’t warrant it. “You look like a nice girl who did something stupid, if it was my call, I’d let you go, but business is business and you’ve made us look bad, which will only invite disaster if not answered. Tell you what, deactivate your ability, and I’ll make it instantaneous, I’ll drive the knife at the base of the skull and sever the spinal column, you won’t feel a thing. How does that sound?” He sounded almost charming, which made him even more horrifying.
“I can’t deactivate my power.” I said, resigned. I didn’t have enough strength left to move or vainly struggle.
“Quite a shame, I’ll use the garrote then, better than let old Koshei crush you to a pulp. If it works, it’ll leave something for your family to bury and mourn.” He took out a thin length of rope with handles and held it. He moved several feet forward toward me…
The next thing I knew, he was flung back a few meters for no reason. A lightly glowing sheet of light blue energy that was mostly transparent appeared, only now revealed. He got up and then I didn’t see him, There was no transition, no fading into invisibility or anything he was there one second and then he wasn’t.
From the corner where I had been thrown, I couldn’t see much, but the roar of automatic fire was hard to miss. I saw goons flying through the air; both by bluish explosions and by invisible fields throwing them back, getting enveloped in a dark greasy foam as soon as they hit the ground. Those that were smart didn’t stick around and tried to leave, they didn’t get far as barricades of spikes formed in their way.
“We’ve got a unregistered cape here.” One of them said as he approached. He checked my vitals. “Still breathing.” He was tall and muscular, his face covered by a statuesque mask of a solemn resting visage and wearing an armor with a hand pattern to it. “We're here, Everything’s going to be alright.” He declared.
I was too tired and hurt to answer him... He took me in his arms and I clung to him instinctively, I was shaking and I began crying.
I was safe...