Kismet laughed. Okay, yeah, the Magmarian underground world didn’t look like a huge payday, but the threads of fate told her different. A bad eruption, a possible few homeless Magmarians, and several million in uncut diamonds, magma crystals, and other gems deep in the earth.
Maybe a few people would get hurt, homes destroyed, maybe even a few killed. No big deal, right? Not to her, after all, she’d be on her way to some island paradise far richer and far more relaxed. Luck was clearly on her side, the whole notion came to her when she managed to swipe a small magmarian ward from a far too drunk salesman who’d finished a big sale to the lava folk.
Now the magma wouldn’t scorch her, as long as she didn’t touch it. Handy little thing, if she ever went against Ra again. Not that she’d want to, but even with her powers, sometimes life was unexpected. Which made it more thrilling. She went about the work of slowly twisting the fate of the pressure of the magma, letting it build in the area. Stuff like this took some pushing on her part, but with her family’s lucky talisman and her own prodigious psychic powers, the work shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.
And of course it would be at the end of that hour, when she was almost finished, that her sense of how fate was going pinged her consciousness. Heroes, it felt like. Always had that sense of selfishness about them, about “doing right.” Idiots. No matter. She was pretty sure she could charm them away, and finish the work for the payday.
She reached out with her mind, and found them. Three for sure, maybe four. She listened hard, and could hear clanking, and chanting, as well as very heavy footfalls. Weird.
Mustering her best “Aw Shucks” Midwestern accent and making sure to strike the ‘Innocent But Oh So Charming’ pose, she stepped out to meet the heroes.
Alain Mormont sighed internally. The heat was oppressive. And while it was mostly abated by the wonderful technology from the Sentinels (and prevented her team from roasting alive from sheer convection), it couldn’t help the rough terrain from hiking in the underground caverns, and it was still *damned hot*. She didn’t know how Tango-1 could do it, nor how Gyrosaur, stomping alongside her happily chatting about how the rock formations would be perfect ricochet areas for hitting the Bad Guys multiple times, was suffering the heat. Or maybe Gyrosaur, or Athena when they weren’t working, was just far too optimistic to think about the heat.
“… and that’s why I’ll use *that* rock and rebound off of it with my shell to go *even faster*.”
Truth be told, she enjoyed Athena’s optimism. It made her feel better about the whole expedition, as it had been almost 2 days hunting Kismet with little to show for it, before they finally had gotten lucky and an amiable Magmarian had said they had spotted her entering this very cave system.
She paused a moment to help Elder Necro up a particularly difficult portion of stalactites. “Thank you, child.” The wizened Necromancer smiled briefly at Alain, who smiles back. Even with her armor on, she was sure the Necromancer knew that she was smiling underneath her helmet.
Athena chattered on excitedly, “Oh, that Stalagmite has like… five different-“
Tango-1 burst in over the communicators, interrupting Gyrosaur: “Target spotted. Can’t get a good shot from here, moving ground.”
Alain responded, but was all business when she did, she was the Fair Knight, now. “Understood. Remember, we’re taking her alive if at all possible. Remove her talisman, then take her down.” There was just a short burst of static from Tango, acknowledging Knight’s order.
There was assent from the other two, as Necro began muttering dark rituals in a profane language. It’d get a little hairy if he was able to summon many of his undead, but they’d be useful cannon fodder if things got too wild.
She didn’t hear anything from the 5th of their little band, Writhe. The living shadow man was by far the weirdest being she’d met, even more than some of Necro’s abilities. She was about to question whether the man had even heard her, when she noticed her own shadow had twisted to give her a thumbs up.
Suppressing a shudder, she turned back just in time to see Kismet stepping out from behind the rocks.
“Well, shucks, everyone! Can’t believe you’re all out here for lil ol’ me!”
Necro rocked back a little as the wave of enchantment Psionics washed over them. He was far too experienced to let something like that get the best of him, but even as he steeled himself against it, it took a bit of an edge off his fighting prowess. It could matter in the long run. Still, the summoning continued, even a full enchantment could not break his concentration from the foul syllables needed to bring the dead to bear against evil. He’d practiced too much, but even so, his abilities took time.
He only hoped the others were able to resist, but it appeared that they were dazed as well from the charming scoundrel, taken off guard ever so slightly. Knight’s shortsword wavered for half a moment, tilting downwards, and Gyrosaur slowed to get a ricochet going, blinking in a slight daze.
In her hand was The Talisman, amplifying the charming personality, and, If Necro remembered the dossier right, changing her luck to possibly convince them to let her go. If this went on too long, they all might be ensorce-
Belatedly, he realized he shouldn’t have worried as suddenly the talisman went skittering across the cavern floor, the crack-boom of a sniper rifle’s echo following quickly. Kismet’s easy going hypnotic voice immediately changed to an enraged and pained shriek as she lunged for the still moving talisman, which strangely undamaged from the heavy bullet.
Everyone burst into motion, the spell broken, Kismet diving for her talisman, with Gyrosaur and Fair Knight breaking into a sprint to catch the young woman. But faster than all of them was a shadow slithering across the stone, diving out of Lady Knight’s shadow and erupting into a humanoid form made completely of shadow, along with purple black tendrils whipping forward to the stone.
Writhe pivoted as one tendril grasped the talisman, and whipped it into a high arc towards Tango-1 in the distance. Necro couldn’t believe that Writhe would be able to throw something that far, and would have been right, if Tango hadn’t grappled across the cavern and intercepted the stone in mid arc.
Kismet swore with vehemence, and reached out a hand towards Tango, then screeched in pain as her attention was diverted from retrieving her Talisman, as Writhe left a large slash in her thigh with that strange platinum lined with shadow knife.
All this happened in moments, and finally the last incantations were complete. Soon the area would be swarmed with the undead. Necro smiled as portals opened in the cavern, and the chilling moan of the dead escaped, and the first zombies began staggering out.
Athena, or Gyrosaur as she called herself, loved fighting bad guys. She was a simple Rapturian who liked simple things. Protecting people, going fast, being her friend’s team undisputed stealth expert (though she admired Writhe and Tango’s skills, they were obviously not moving fast enough to be true stealth experts), and fighting bad guys. Kismet was definitely a Bad Guy. Or girl. Athena was pretty sure Kismet was a human girl. She had trouble some days, and the little charm effect had scrambled her brain a bit.
The rifle shot had helped a lot though. Loud things clear the mind, and Tango shooting the bad guy’s thing had been really nice of her! Now she could get to doing what she did best, moving fast and crashing into things! She just had to remember not to crash into any of her teammates.
After Writhe had managed to toss the stone thing away, Gyrosaur knew the shadow man would probably be one of the targets for Kismet’s ire, and activated her Speed Shell, rocketing along the ground. “Incoming!” She shouted joyfully into the radio. Writhe wisely dove into her shadow before she could plow through him, but Kismet wasn’t so lucky as she began ping-ponging about the area, bouncing off stalagmites and stalactites, giving glancing blows to Kismet. She wasn’t going really fast yet (soon!), but the harrying helped Fair Knight get into play. Athena thought swords were okay, not nearly as good as a shell, but at least Fair Knight and Tango had some kind of shell to help them.
With both Fair Knight and Gyrosaur keeping Kismet off balance, it seemed like this one was going to be in the bag pretty easy, which delighted and disappointed Athena. Kismet looked frustrated. Or constipated. Could be both! But then things started going wrong.
Knight slipped when she shouldn’t have, and if it wasn’t for a quick adjustment by Gyrosaur, both of the frontline shelled ladies would have careened into lava. Necro fumbled one of his spells, Writhe had to take a breather after he popped out of Gyrosaur’s shadow to try and take a stab at Kismet, and Tango started reciting three different plays out of order on the radio.
This whole time Kismet was looking more and more furious with the team, Athena thought. Because while, yeah, it was a little… uh, chaotic, they weren’t LOSING. She was dancing just out of the way of Knight’s sword, and only light damage from the knife from Writhe when he did appear, and every zombie’s swing was easily avoided, but she did HAVE to avoid it. And every time Gyrosaur came by, she had to dodge fully out of the way, or risk being crushed, with the precise lethal accuracy from Tango’s rifle filling any missing beat.
And then one of the stalagmites slipped when Gyrosaur hit it. Instead of ricocheting back towards Kismet, went careening off to one of the lava oceans in the distance. Luckily she was able to fire one of her rockets from her shell, but it fired off the wrong way, sending her towards the zombie horde.
“Uh, crapbaskets!” She fired another rocket, this time heading towards one of the ‘beachheads’ of the lava rivers, and crashed into the area with a whoomph. The zombies were attracted to her, this time, which was bad. All the bouncing around had done some damage to the shell, but luckily she hadn’t landed in the actual magma. But there was a strange orange crystal beside her. Kinda looked spicy, but her stomach rumbled. If she could eat it, her Rapturian physiology might help her recover…
Tango-1 watched Gyrosaur go careening off. It was what she did, but outside usually there weren’t such lethal things as magma in the areas where she did her thing. No one could react in time, but luckily, Gyrosaur managed to course correct. Wouldn’t be a problem, except maybe the zombies.
The problem came from when Kismet used the chaos to start running, and the gun jammed. She was far too professional to swear, but she felt like it. Her gun *never* jammed. Kismet was fucking with equipment using whatever psionics she had, plus that Talisman. Her foot was on top of it, but she felt it tugging back towards Kismet every few moments. The Dossier had stated that it was almost impossible to keep the talisman away from Kismet for too long, but the longer it was away from her, the weaker her powers were.
On the private channel, Tango and Writhe had worked out that they would do the best they could to keep the talisman away from Kismet. Both were assassins, just in different ways. Writhe and Tango were going to go after the talisman, and throw it to the long ranged killer.
She automatically started unjamming her weapon, when her attention was distracted again by Gyrosaur shouting in pain. She’d just dropped a large orange crystal, shaking her hand. The shouts were distracting a few zombies her way. By the look on her face, she was hurting pretty badly. “Gyro, status?”
“Hngh, don’t touch the crystals… uh, Necro, can you keep your pets away…?”
“Ritual isn’t finished, trying….Oops.”
Tango did swear at this point, quietly, as the zombies clawed at Gyrosaur, who shouted in more pain. Fair Knight came online at that point. “Gyrosaur, fall back. Help Tango move forward, she’s running deeper into the caves. If you can help her get to the good ground, we can take her.”
Writhe appeared behind some of the zombies, smacking them with the tentacles, light enough to get their attention, but not hard enough to destroy them. “This way, leave Gyrosaur alone.” As soon as they changed direction, Gyrosaur ducked away, heading towards Tango.
“I’ll herd the zombies, Gyro!” Writhe kept bopping the zombies with his tentacles, generally enraging them, while Knight ran after Kismet, herding them towards the series of caverns that Kismet dove into. Tango didn’t think it would be a problem, until she checked under her foot. The talisman was gone. “Update: Talisman is back in Kismet’s possession. On my way to the caverns.”
Jumping down from the cliff to come down to Gyrosaur, Tango looked up to the large, wounded Rapturian. It was a few hundred feet towards the caverns. “Can you toss me that faAAAAHHHHH-
She’d barely had time to react before Gyrosaur grinned, and THREW Tango up towards the Caverns with no warning. Luckily, Tango was professional enough that she threw out her grapple hook to control her descent. In mid flight, she activated her experimental psionic armor. Hopefully it would keep the charm effect at bay, especially if Kismet managed to corner them in the Cavern…
Godsdamned heroes. She was bleeding from multiple light wounds, and her hand was still messed up from that sniper’s bullet knocking her talisman out of her hand. Usually her talisman, as long as it was close to her, was able to heal her from most things. She hadn’t been blown up or decapitated ever, and wanted to avoid that. Something about the knife slowed all her healing when she got cut with it, and even now, her hand wasn’t even at full strength. Stupid, damned heroes. She needed to… ah.
The Talisman was right in front of her. How lucky was she? She felt a vicious smile creep across her face. Yes, okay, she could turn this around. And then she felt the threads of fate turn again, and took a turn down a small cave, which opened up into another wider area. A group of magmarians were… fishing? Gathering crystals maybe? Who the hell knew what these lava men did?. She stumbled into their group, putting on an innocent, desperate, ‘help me’ me face.
“Please, there’s people after me, can you help me?!” The lava men blinked, then turned to each other, confused, then one, apparently the leader, turned back towards her, opening his mouth. From what she could gather, they were responding sympathetically, charmed already by her lucky Talisman. Perfect. That vicious smile returned, and she twisted their minds, cutting their threads of Fate, and rerouting that energy to herf. “Sorry, not sorry, dears.” The lava men gaped blankly, then began to cool to rock, a quiet hiss marking the end of their lives.
Psionic energy coursed through her, vibrating at her fingertips. She’d fry their brains as soon as they stepped through the entrance, and get back to making money. These crystals might make her a good penny, too, plus any of their gear. She raised her fingers, put an illusion around herself, and vanished. They’d never know what hit them.
It was too bright in the caverns. Too loud. The zombies’ moans were annoying. Writhe wished he was back in his lab, but, after all, he had a job to do. Him not being in the lab, tinkering, was all Kismet’s fault.
Still the illusion for herding the zombies, ghouls, and other foul things, was working. Rather than continually bapping them with his tentacles and teleporting away, he’d put the image and scent in their minds that something utterly delicious was the way that Kismet had run. And so they’d clambered, crawled, and shambled towards the figment of food Writhe had placed in their dead minds.
HIs dead, monotone voice crept through the radio to the others. “We’re certain she went this way.” Tango nodded, her pistol in hand. Knight was breathing heavily, still trying to recover from whatever jinx or curse Kismet had put on her. She spoke up beneath her dented helm, weary but determined. “Zombies first, then the rest of us. From our maps, I don’t think she can run any further without being immune to lava.”
Writhe nodded, and moved the illusion again, and the zombies surged forward. He decided against hiding in someone’s shadow, he might need to cover someone with another illusio-
And then the first zombies’ head exploded, as a wave of fierce psionic energy flooded the chamber. More zombies’ heads exploded, in fact, the entire horde collapsed under the invasive energy. Necro reached into his robe just before it reached the rest of the team, and muttered a prepared spell. Black energy, not unfamiliar, filled Writhe and the rest of the team, walling out much of the worst of the psychic backlash before it could overwhelm them.
Through the pain, Knight shouted “GO.” and they moved as one. Writhe slid into Knight’s shadow as the metal garbed woman charged forward to gap and into the opening, launching a vicious shield slam to the surprised and angry Kismet, knocking her back. As they touched, Writhe moved to Kismet’s shadow, and slashed at her hand. She screamed in pain, and the talisman dropped. In a repeat of what they did before, Writhe’s tentacles launched it to Tango. “Head’s up!”
Without even looking, Tango caught the Talisman, and then fired a burst of bullets at Kismet, who dodged by going into a roll and coming to her feet right above Tango.
“GIVE THAT BACK,” Kismet screamed in rage, and raised both hands to the sniper… in which nothing happened.
“Wha-” WHANG went Knight’s shield again against Kismet’s left arm, as Knight slammed into Kismet. Writhe reached through her shadow to grab the supervillain’s ankles, bringing her down hard onto the rocky ground.
She scrambled away from the grip, and looked dazed. It was only a matter of time, then, as more zombies started flowing into the area, with Knight and Writhe harrying the desperate supervillainess. Tango made sure to keep the Talisman in her hand, and each time that she had a moment, taunted the wounded supervillainess, who lashed out with another psychic blast… which did absolutely nothing to the sniper.
“Why…. why won’t you…”
Kismet fell again, but this time lurched to her feet, only to see Tango pointing a gun to her forehead. Then she felt a cool knife to her throat, as well, and felt that the short shadow man was behind her. Writhe chuckled quietly, dryly, as Kismet tried one last gamble.
“You won’t shoot. Your gun is strong enough to get your teammate behind me, and, and I can survive a slashed throat.”
“Maybe”, whispered Writhe. “Maybe a regular knife. But you’ve had trouble with mine, haven’t you? Plus, I can survive a shot to the head, especially if I know it is coming.”
Tango shrugged. “He’s right, actually. Haven’t found anything that could kill him permanently yet.”
There was a tense moment, before the Knight broke in. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, just give up. The possibility of money isn’t worth your LIFE.”
It took a second, but Kismet slowly raised her arms. “Fine, I… surrender.” Knight sighed in relief, as the team took Kismet into custody.
Knight looked at Tango and Writhe after starting towards the entrance, and over the radio, asked. “You two were kidding about that, right? The whole head shot thing? And the surviving a head shot?”
Tango and Writhe looked at each other, and shrugged. Knight stared at them, then “Why… YOU…. YOU TWO…. I WAS…. AGH.” She threw up her hands, grumbling, and half pushed, half carried the manacled supervillainness ahead.
Tango opened her private channel to Writhe. “Nothing but the truth, right? She’s adorable when she gets frustrated. And if you tell anyone I said that, I will find a way to kill you.”
“You suck.” said the dead voice, but with just the smallest hint of humor.