Ah, he was beat. Perhaps he overdid it after all, with all his experimentations. The silver blood that rested within his core had waned during his time at Ground Zero, and after two hours of blowing shit up in the rain, all Brent wanted to do was eat lunch and nap until it was time to leave. The thought of it made him smile. Was he channeling his inner Grant now?
Grabbing an assorted bunch of sandwiches and a frosty glass of 2% white milk, Brent brought out his phone and tossed a message to his buddy Grego.
Yo, down for lunch and chit-chat?
He stifled another yawn before glancing away from his laptop towards the phone next to it. Sitting up properly as he took his feet off the table, Gregory quirked an eyebrow when he noticed the time that popped up as he turned on the device. ‘Geez.’ He’d spent more time aimlessly on the laptop than he had expected.
Sure. Be there in 10.
A quick look towards the window revealed that the rain hadn’t let up completely just yet, so he grabbed the slightly wet jacket off the door it hanged from before he left the room. One of the carrying bags for the things he’d gotten on the second day was slung over the shoulder. The laptop screen remained on, with the occasional thing flashing or scrolling past. Something to come back to after the mission was finished with.
The smell of hot food urged Gregory to find his seat quickly, which was easy enough since he’d spotted Brent while putting his things away. Setting the fully laden tray onto the table in front of Brent, he fell into the seat without much grace. “So, what’d you want to chit-chat about?” With that out of the way, he started on his meal and took some comfort in the soup’s warmth.
Ten minutes? More like 11 minutes and 32 seconds. By the time Gregory had arrived, Brent was already halfway finished with his own sandwich fiesta...and that was with him restraining himself. Waving the blond boy over, he waited for him to get settled down from as he sipped on his milk.
“Just checking up on my partner in crime and all,” Brent replied with a typical smile, “And, you know, the whole ‘hurrdurr my power is this, your power is what’ sort of deal.”
“Well I haven’t keeled over,” Gregory muttered as he set the empty bowl aside. Tilting his head a bit, he had imagined that despite their assignment to the same task they would have just been keeping out of each other’s way. Each of them take half the area or something, y’know. It was no reason not to be aware of what Brent was capable of though he supposed.
“Sure, you can go first I guess.” Brent seemed to have finished off a good chunk of his meal, and there was maybe only an hour or so before the guards came knocking for them to be sent out. He still wanted some time at GZ if he could make it.
“Object enhancement. Can do it three times, with each buff lasting ten minutes. Must be touching the object in order to do so. Object can’t be magical in any form,” Brent blandly replied, not interested at all in reexplaining his magic, “Gonna be buffing up a gun and going on a shooting spree. You?”
“Acceleration. Doesn’t work on living beings. Touch’em, mark’em, and draw a line on a nearby surface. Speed corresponds with length of line. Max weight is probably something like 200 lbs.” All of that was said in between bites of his ravioli, and Gregory frowned briefly at the thought of the coming task. “Probably keep out of the way and try not to spear one of the others by accident.”
“Draw a line?” Brent cocked an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to be, just a general direction for your objects to go?”
“Basically,” Gregory replied with a shrug. “It’s not exactly accurate, so at the distance we’ll, hopefully, be from the others it’ll be a shitshow.”
“Huh, and how many lines can you keep up at once anyways?”
“One. Oh right, the line’s six meters at its longest, so it takes a few seconds to even draw.”
“Eh…” Six meters, huh? “Does the line like...disappear after you use it or something?”
“It’s specific to whatever object is marked, so yeah.”
“Wow,” Brent laughed, “Sounds like a pain in the ass.” Still, the destructive power had some degree of use. If Hazel’s power proved less effective than imagined against those inanimate clockwork beasts, Grego accelerating toilets into those might help.
Or it might just break against the brass and iron.
“Guess you’ll be going camping?”
“Yeah, it’s a huge one,” he agreed, pausing his eating to take a drink of juice. “Camping?” He seemed to think about that for a moment before he ended up shaking his head. “Naw. Marking the objects lights them up with some magic circle bullshit, so I’m probably bailing after a shot or two. Depends on the reaction I guess.”
“Hm...you know how much you weigh?”
“Dunno. 160 to 170? Less than the weight limit though. This better not involve launching people.”
“Naw, just figuring how much of your fat ass I’m going to have to lug around,” he replied, “Got a bike, right? If we’re supposed to be mobile ranged support, it’s probably a good idea if we got some actual mobility.”
“Yeah, it’s not meant to be a two-seater, though I guess you can do something about that? We should probably test that out beforehand. We’ve got like an hour or two left.”
An hour or two...and a bike would be fairly large as well. Brent clenched and unclenched his left hand, feeling the strength that remained in his body. It would have to be enough. Just keep it short and how draining it was. A single-seater bike becoming a two-seater. He had done three seats with the dragon-saddle.
Shouldn’t be hard at all.
“Yeah, sounds like a plan,” Brent nodded, “You planning on heading to Ground Zero for this, or can we just do it, like, immediately after you get your bike out?”
Leaning back into the seat and munching on a cookie, Gregory glanced towards the coat room and sighed quietly. Well, it wasn’t like the missed practice would make a big difference. “We might as well head over to Grounds Zero. The town’s probably in just as bad condition. Sides, we can test things on the way there.”
“I mean, it’s not like there’s much to test,” Brent replied, “Could probably get there faster on a motorized bike than anything else.”
There was a pause as he finished the rest of his milk.
“Right, if you touch an object and draw a line that’s more than six meters, what happens?”
“What, are the enhancements random?” He could only pray that they didn’t wind up with something that caught the rider by surprise if that was the case… Not exactly inspiring, but this whole “operation” was sorely lacking that department already.
“Nothing. Line stops at six meters, and I’m stuck until I finish it.”
“Naw, only the third is random, so we have like, a hell lot of space for that. And wait…so if you’re dragged by a car or something, and do your whole line drawing thing...you’ll be stuck in place even with said car pulling you away?”
“Not sure how external forces would work, haven’t tried. Ideally my power would just fire off, but who knows. Might rip my arm off,” Gregory finished with a shrug.
“Something else to test then, right? Done eating yet?”
“Yeah, let’s go.” Swiping another cookie from his tray, Gregory munched on it as he dropped the tray off and then picked up his belongings.
“Cool. Lead the way, Grego.” With that, Brent pulled his raincoat over his clothes once more. Glancing through the glass walls, he was slightly relieved that the rain, while not stopping yet, was becoming softer. The whole ‘cycling through Maryland while shooting shit up’ plan wouldn’t be nearly as safe with heavy rain, after all.
Within a few minutes, the two were out of the cafeteria and setting a brisk pace towards the dorms.
Fiddling with the combination lock on his bike, Gregory shook his head in annoyance as water drops fell from it. A second try finally unlocked it and he wheeled it out of the rack towards Brent. “So who’s riding passenger?”
“I’ll ride in the back. You can tag objects with your feet too, right?”
“Yeah, as long as I touch it.” Kicking the pedal and letting the chain run for a moment, Gregory took a seat and waited for Brent to do the same. “Let me know what you’re going to do to the bike before you do it, yeah?”
“Set up will probably be this,” Brent explained, keeping his hands away from the bike for the time being, “First I’ll be turning the bike into one of those tandem bikes. Then, I’ll improve the handling, so we can do quick turns and all that without falling over like a bunch of losers.”
He cracked his knuckles. It would be nice if they could get an Overclock centered around speed as well, but considering their lack of protective gear, a high speed crash was going to wreck them.
Pedalling with a passenger was more annoying than Gregory remembered, but he managed nonetheless despite a slow start. “Good enough…” He seemed to have more to say, but dismissed it with a shake of his head. “You try anything with rappelling gear or the like? Hustling up and down building’s gonna eat up a lot of time.”
“Naw, was mainly just brushing up on my more offensive skills. All the climbing in the world’s not gonna do me much good if I’m going to have to put a bullet into someone, eh?” As he spoke, Brent pedalled along as well, one hand on the handlebar while another grasped an imaginary gun.
“What are you plans for Ground Zero anyways? Gonna try drawing circles?”
Riding in tandem was an odd sensation, but one he quickly ignored. “Fair enough. And just using it as a range. Still can’t lead for shit, but might as well get some practice in not hitting the others.”
“Oh, right, while we’re here…” Brent leaned from side to side, before spotting a discarded soda can on the road. “...how bout you test that whole six meter thing on that can? See if you or the can gets sent flying.”
Turning the bike slightly so it headed towards the can, Gregory reached down with a foot to tap the piece of trash as they rode by. Dragging his foot along the road left behind a path for a few moments before it abruptly ended at the 6m mark, though the two of them continued unimpeded. Squeezing the brakes, he turned the bike by that foot to look back at the result with a soft, “Huh.”
Lifting the foot sent the can hurtling down the marked path until its practically non-existent weight caused it to fall to the ground harmlessly. “Well that’s mostly useless,” he remarked with a click of his tongue before balancing the bike and starting to pedal again.
“Useless? What, did you want to get dragged off?”
“That’d be more, “Wow this power of mine actually wants to kill me,” y’know?”
“I mean, hey, now we can pretend to be a tank, right? Shit your bricks and then send them flying in the direction of wherever we’re going!”
“S’long as there’s nothing we care about ahead of us. Sides, a sidecar would work better for that wouldn’t it?”
“Feel like tandem would be better for mobility and that sorta jazz. Two people peddling and more narrow.”
“Guess the tank idea’ll wait for another time then. We’re still on the first enhancement?” The campus grounds were just behind them now, but there was probably a minute or so until they hit Ground Zero proper.
“Yeah, I’ll test the second one now,” Brent said, before dipping into his reserves once more. Underneath the two, the frame of the two-seater bike creaked and twisted, before turning into something much sleeker. A black frame with silver highlights, the handles in front resembling a performance bike, while there appeared to be…
“Well, training wheels aren’t that bad, I suppose.”
Feeling the bike warp and shift beneath him was even odder, but it was a quick change at the least. Blinking a few times before he looked for himself, there were indeed a pair of training wheels. “How do training whe-” Cutting himself off, Gregory shook his head as he wrenched the handles to the side and put the enhancement to the test.
It certainly handled...oddly well. Even when leaning towards the side to drag his foot against the ground, the bike’s training wheels kept it from falling over, while sharp turns were still performed with some degree of ease. Was it the lightness of the frame? The improved balance? Regardless, the two cruised fairly well towards Ground Zero, the tires of the bike almost unaffected by the rain.
“Yup,” Brent said as they arrived to the killing grounds once more, “That went better than expected.”
Considering how it didn’t explode underneath them and all.
Not eating asphalt was pleasant enough for Gregory. Slowing to a halt without any problems despite the rain, he nodded in agreement with Brent before asking, “Going to try a third?” He readjusted the bag that was slung over his shoulder before looking towards the buildings around them, looking for one that was suitable.
“Third is where there’s a chance of the bike exploding underneath our asses,” Brent grinned, “Feeling dangerous?”
“That just means we get to skip out, and ‘sides, I didn’t pay for it.” Wearing a matching grin Gregory nodded as he tapped a foot, wondering what the hell would happen next.
“Eh, I mean, that just sounds like a bad time for me.” Brent looked at Gregory, wondering if the blondie had masochistic tendencies. “Christmas would probably just bleed on us to heal our ruptured anuses anyways.”
“Right, there’s a healer.” Scratching at the side of his face as he was reminded of that, Gregory shrugged in the end. “So, no go?”
“Not unless we need to. Probably a bad idea to wreck your ride before you even get to use it, right?”
“Fair enough.” Rolling his shoulders, Gregory kicked out the kickstand for the bike before hopping off. “If you don’t have anything else in mind, I’m gonna get some practice in.”
“Yeah, go knock yourself out.” Brent leaned against a wall, prepared to amuse himself with Grego’s antics. ”Actually, if you think about it, getting knocked out would probably be a good way to get out of this situation, huh?”
“Brain damage’s a bit much.” Gregory fumbled around his pack for a bit before he pulled out a roll of red duct tape and walked towards a building down the block, ripping off strips along the way. Ignoring the one resident that he saw, he spaced a few X’s out on the wall before he made his way back.
He didn’t spare more than a glance at Brent before he entered one of the dilapidated buildings and hustled up to the second floor where he promptly smashed out one of the windows. It wasn’t long before there was a glow, though it was much longer after that for anything to actually happen. Almost a minute in fact before a grey blur smashed apart raindrops before it exploded just a few meters before the target marked wall.
Should he show off now? Brent’s fingers grazed the handle of his own gun, before letting go. “Nice try, Grego!” he called, not a trace of sarcasm in his tone, “You aligned your path correctly, right? Was it the wind or something?”
“Apparently not,” came Gregory’s slightly annoyed reply, even as a glow lit up the window again. This time though a thin red laser marked the wall several times as he apparently used it to adjust his aim. Another gray blur flew out, but this time it actually hit the wall, albeit slightly above the X he’d apparently been aiming for.
“Woah, getting closer now! Pinpoint shots like that would probably be real sketchy against moving targets though!”
Really. What was the point of this?
“Out of curiousity, did you try launching grouped up pebbles or something like that? Or does each individual one count as a separate object?”
“Not telling me anything I don’t already know. Can’t run before I know how to walk though. And yes, I have. Unless it’s bundled up like grapeshot or a shotgun shell, it doesn’t work. No point either, it’s not fast or heavy enough to do shit.” And cue another glow.
Right, the 200km/h speed limit. Gregory probably would be more useful if his projectiles could move at the speed of sound, huh? Of course, the main problem was that their enemy, in this particular case, was going to be clockwork animals, with all their skeletal shits and all. Something that would absolutely maim a human would just be an inconvenience to their metal chassis. Brent scratched his head. Sounded like the only option would be for the blonde x-mark to shoot off large, heavy objects and bludgeon them to pieces. At merely 200km/h, there really wasn’t much else, huh.
Or, at least, nothing that could be done that Brent couldn’t do better.
“Better bring a sledgehammer for knocking bricks out of buildings then,” he joked, “Would be super awkward if your spears just slide through the gaps within those animals, eh?”
“Who knows, they might get pinned by them if I’m lucky. Though I’ll probably be lucky enough to hit any of them scurrying about.” Firing off another javelin, that one shattered as well even as it cracked the wall right on the X. “Fantastic,” he remarked dryly as he leaned out of the window to squint at the distant target.
“Flashy,” Brent remarked, giving Gregory a thumbs-up from below, “Shaping up to be a real American Sniper!”
Staring down at the other boy from the window, Gregory wasn’t exactly sure what to make of Brent’s apparently honest remarks. If they were meant to be mocking, his tone certainly didn’t give that off. Frowning briefly, he shook his head and turned to look at one of the other many X’s. “Whatever you say…”
“Right, can the object be moved if you marked them? Or are they locked in place until you let them fly?”
“Hilariously,” he began with a tone that suggested it was anything but, “yes. If anyone so much as nudges them, I have to start the whole thing up again. So no, I can’t even block things off with them.”
“Damn, sucks.” Yeah...compared to the powers that other x-marked people had, this was pretty meh. At least it didn’t sound as bad as Ernie’s though. “Still a form of artillery though. Maybe Grant can drag out some chunks of concrete for you to sling.”
“Better be some small chunks of concrete. Can’t toss anything over 200 pounds or so, and even that takes a lot longer than slinging these. Aiming anything without a clear front’s a pain too.” Another javelin shot forward as he finished with some more gripes, smashing to the left of a different X and shattering into shards and pieces from the impact.
“They still go 200km/h though?”
“Think it’s closer to 220, but yeah. They’ll drop like a bitch though.”
“Wow, so realistic that it hurts, huh.”
“They don’t for the six meters on the path. That cou-” Gregory couldn’t even finish the remark before he cut himself off and launched another sacrificial javelin instead. This one shattered a bit above the current X.
“How about propelling grenades? Grego the Human RPG might work better against clock-thingies.” Of course, whether or not that’d screw over everyone else in the vicinity was another question for another time.
“They wouldn’t even give me metal javelins. Plus, the grenades will blow up in my face before I finish drawing a path.” Ammunition for a grenade launcher might work, but what the fuck was the point of complicating things instead of just using a grenade launcher. A few javelins fired out in relatively, for him, fast succession afterwards. One shattered on the street, two broke apart against the wall, and then two actually managed to get decently close to the targets. Considering it took a minute though? Bleh.
Brent scratched his head. Gregory’s power really was rather lackluster, huh? At least Ernie had durability and a snaring trap. On the other hand, outside of the gimmick of being able to move heavy ass objects around at surprising speeds, there really wasn’t much that Gregory could do that technology couldn’t also do. Mage powers were more effective than technology?
Not when your power involved shooting projectiles that couldn’t break the sound barrier.
Not everyone is useful.
Brain damage might not be that bad of a route after all.
He wouldn’t even be able to effectively use his power on those clockworks to sling them away.
“Well, maybe your javelins will distract something or the other,” Brent said, “And hey, at the rate our powers seem to grow, maybe you’ll awaken to a new function soon!”
Or maybe just die like those two girls and get eaten.
“Who knows,” was the noncommittal remark Gregory gave as he disappeared back deeper into the building. It took about a minute before he emerged on the rooftop of the four-floor building, the bag on his shoulder significantly more empty now.
“Not quite,” Gregory called out back as he pulled out another javelin and raised it before an array formed around it. Adjusting the tip by a degrees here and there, stepping to the side to judge the aim, rinse and repeat, it was all dreadfully uninteresting. “You can bike back first.”
“It’s your bike, dude,” Brent replied, “I’ll walk.”
“See ya in.. an hour or something then.” Launching the projectile after that, Gregory rubbed at the back of his head as it shattered off in the distance.
“Mm, don’t knock yourself out!”
Wishalloy. Factory. Rogue subnaturals. Clearance to remove the cuffs. Deterrence against escape. Positioning. Isolation. Support and finish. Knowledge tumbled in his mind, puzzle pieces that never perfectly fit together. His ‘training’ with Gregory was pointless now. They would be positioned in different areas, taking the high ground in order to snipe enemy clockworks that may prove to be troublesome to the support team that was tasked with thinning out the horde.
Thinning out the horde that the titanic human spewed out constantly, endlessly. It was 2PM. No need for his night vision goggles. Gas leaks were a dangerous possibility. A need for his gas mask. He was ranged support. A need for his Desert Eagle. Close combat was dangerous without a dedicated weapon. A need for his machete. Wishalloy provided much of the same protection, but broke apart after multiple impacts. A need for his vest. They were in an urban environment. A need for his rollerblades.
There were many things he needed, much more than anyone else within the group, and the belt that the soldiers provided brought a smile on Brent’s face. Something to carry many things. He needed that as well. Pepper spray could be good to disable a human enemy. A baton provided bludgeoning force in case there was something he’d rather not cut. A knife to pierce, as opposed to cut.
“Hah,” he laughed to himself, “Slowly becoming a walking armoury, huh?”
But he wasn’t done yet. He was Brent Roless, the Arbiter who was only useful if he had objects to Overclock. He needed more. A scope to improve his accuracy further when it came to long distance attacks. Rappelling gear that could be overclocked to provide a swift descent if clockworks were rushing up the stairs. What else? His eyes scanned over the weapons available in the truck as everyone filed in. Machine guns. Sniper rifles. Flamethrowers. Rocket launchers. Everything that had been denied of him in his request was there, and after asking one of the soldiers, he was basically given permission to take them along, provided he could carry them?
It was too good to be true. It was too ridiculously tempting. Flamethrowers overclocked to generate enough heat to melt hordes of monsters to slag. Sniper rifles to pierce through an entire army and strike the very heart of the Factory. Rocket launchers to generate massive amounts of explosive power. But…
If he were so prone to falling to temptation, he’d just be a loser with an addiction.
His job was to provide support. Not to try to match Hazel in kills. His Desert Eagle, the one firearm that he had extensively practiced with, experimented with, will have to do.
Well, all this shit was pretty damn heavy as well.
After awkwardly loading everything up on him, Brent definitely looked like some sort of B-grade serial killing kleptomaniac, equipped with more weapons than he had limbs. If he could see himself, he would doubtlessly be laughing at himself, but as it was...all these things would give him a slightly higher chance of survival, a little more adaptability in a bad situation. There was no way he’d be able to pull off any sort of stealthy tactical maneveurs with rope slapping against his butt and all the things that were attached to his belt, was there? He’d probably be in deep shit if he had to hide, huh?
Brent slapped a helmet on his head, sat down as comfortably as he could, and let out a deep sigh. Google Maps had already told him the obvious: that the trip to Wisford would take at least three hours. He’d have to take all this off again in order to apply the wishalloy, huh?
“Welp, just how it is.”
His right hand loosely held the phone that they had been given.
His left hand remained in his pocket, tightly clenched.
His eyes stayed in place, transfixed by a target that only he could see.
It was still three hours before the mission began.