Derrick grabbed his bag and emptied it onto a nearby couch. Thankfully, he was already wearing his boots, so he saved some time there. He just had to throw on his coat and mask while attaching his axes to the coat. Seeing a sensor fall out of his bag, he threw that onto the floor as well.

Derrick looked himself over. Only one thing stood out. His coat was still missing an arm. It had been torn of when that giant spider had set it on fire. Well, he was just going to have to look a little silly.

Fully equipped, he turned and saw Anita staring at him with her mouth open.

“Aarav left?” he asked.

“He was called away to a meeting,” she replied cautiously. “Something about a group of support Users meeting up.”

Good, he was fond of the old man. Better that he was somewhere safe, rather than here with him and Anita.

Derrick felt for any sign that the Spore Tyrant could sense him. The alien thing's faint auril waves were still hitting him, but his own defences seemed to have adapted to the weak pulses. As long as they didn't get stronger, he should be invisible to it.

He turned to consider Anita.

“We're teammates, right?” he asked Anita with puppy dog eyes. “We've got each others backs.”

The Indian woman seemed taken aback by his question.

“No,” she replied slowly, dragging the negative out for maximum effect. She seemed to take some comfort in saying it. “Wha...”

“Perfect,” replied Derrick loudly and with visible relief. “OK, so you're going to want to run. It has identified me as a threat but can't find me, so it's probably going to try and track me by following something it can sense.”

She tried to say something, but Derrick talked over her. What he was saying was important, it was for her own good that she knew this.

“That's you. It has life sensing radar, long range artillery and swarms of disposable tentacle minions. Don't trust the ground or sky. If it captures you, it will try to rip any info about me out of your mind, leaving you a mindless fungus ridden slave. Good luck.” he finished and after taking a deep breath, left the apartment at speeds only the highest-level User in the city with a trait that was made for sprinting could reach.

He was out of the room before she could get a word in, his sudden departure and Breathless ensuring that he reached the nearest intersection before Aarav's little house was rocked by explosions.

The sensor he left behind assured him that Anita, had in fact just gotten out of the building before swarms of shrapnel worms were propelled through the ceiling and walls. A few seconds later, a dozen sporelings writhed their way across the backyard, going in the direction she had fled.

Huh, he'd mostly been bullshitting as a form of petty revenge. He guessed it was true though. Oops. Well, at least the whole mind ripping thing was not true. Probably. It could be.

He felt a little bad but didn't even consider turning around. He couldn't allow himself to get distracted. The Spore Tyrant was attacking the entire city, not just him. Derick's unique abilities made him a target because he was important in this fight. The last few hours had made it clear that all the other auril using Users were fucking terrible. They wouldn't be able to get within a kilometre of the monstrosity he'd sensed, and someone needed to kill it.

That or lead the survivors out of the city. He heard popping sounds from the sky in every direction, the sound of exploding artillery strikes launched by the Spore Tyrant. It had apparently brought a lot of ammunition to this fight. Sneakily too. The System had been undermined.

He began to hear human screams as well, both angry and afraid.

He really wasn't sure where he was going, he was just running to avoid getting hit by a sporetar. Which was what he had named the artillery in his head. A combination of spore and mortar.

Hmm. Should he be running towards the screaming, or away from it?

He turned a corner and saw three people firing regular bullets into some sporelings that were making their way over a wooden yard fence. They started backing up but stopped when a dense mass of the invaders burst out of a sewer drain in a mad flurry of writhing limbs.

This group of tiny tentacle beasts was just slightly outside of Derricks path, so unafraid of the head sized creatures, Derrick waded right through them, his axes making short work of them as they launched themselves in his direction. When one managed to wrap around his foot, he simply sent a stunning blast of auril into it and ripped it off before it could start crushing it.

The little bastards were incredibly strong and clingy. All they did was latch on to something and try to rip it apart.

He threw his axe, bisecting another of them in midair, it had been pouncing on one of the other Users. Next, he ripped a sporeling off a screaming User's shoulder and grabbed his axe from the mailbox it had buried itself in.

“Anyone got a Sterilizer Grenade?'” he asked, as he looked over the scene. It turned out that one of them had three and was thankful enough to let him borrow one. Derrick quickly gave them a one sentence rundown on Spore Tyrants and took off again.

Three minutes and a block later, a pulse of auril washed over him. Similar to the Spore Tyrant's but different at the same time. Also, a lot closer and coming from above ground. It also triggered Quantum Awareness for a second.

Fuck, he'd been found.

No, wait. Maybe this was a good thing. He could tell where it had come from. That gave him somewhere to go. As fun as just running around the city dodging sportars would be, it would be better to be a little proactive.

He stopped and turned to look towards the pulses probable source. It seemed to have come from a tall building about five hundred metres away. Ya, he should investigate that. It must be some kind of node. He should get moving to, more sportars could be incoming.

He had just turned towards it, when a manhole cover exploded up into the air and a mass of tentacles forced their way out of a sewer line.

This was no sporeling, unfortunately. The tentacles were as thick and long as small trees, covered in white scales and jagged thorns. The only other feature was a massive lamprey mouth filled with more bony spikes and drooling a red acid that sizzled and smoked as it dripped onto the asphalt below.

Derrick grimaced. Great, one of these things. A Bleeding Tooth Behemoth. A giant acid spitting starfish. It didn't even contain anything valuable or vulnerable. Just a pile of dumb muscle that took a lot of killing and shot acid.

He backed away slowly, hoping to avoid this fight. No luck, the second it was free of the sewer, the thing turned its gaping maw toward him and let fly a spray of acid. Caught in the middle of the street, he dodge-rolled out of the way. Behind him, an abandoned car began to melt. Uggh. This was a job for someone with a rocket launcher. Not someone with axes.

He was back on his feet just in time to sever a swiping limb and dodge the bodies main mass by throwing himself to the side again. That was too close, he needed to keep his distance. If it got too close, it would rip him apart. No time for half measures, he Lashed and felt the world slow down. Another attacking limb was severed before it could smash down at him from above. The creature lurched back a few feet. Balancing itself to point its drooling maw at him and catching him flatfooted.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. What were his options? When in doubt, attack!

Derrick's spare axe flew out and severed a back limb, causing the behemoth to tip just as it fired a shotgun blast of acid at him. Instead of hitting him in the face, most of it missed. A few drops landed on his coat and a single one burned its way into the flesh of his bare arm. Derrick screamed as his flesh dissolved. Behind his mask, he felt his eyes water and his heart jackhammered in his chest.

Eyes wide, he saw the monster tip forward and throw itself at him. Still under the effect of lash, he saw the tentacles that would kill him as they slowly closed the distance. The beast was spinning its entire body like a whip covered top now, adding extra power to these blows.

Options? Attack? No angle. Defend? Hail mary. Manna shield.

One of the tentacles was severed and his axe hand dropped just in time for him to shield his body from the other blow with both of his new gauntlets.

He watched as the tentacle whipped at him with all the power of a speeding car. Slowly, a silver haze surrounded his gauntlets.

Then, impact. A sensation like being slapped by a giant. Derrick was sent flying through the air. Literally.

Huh, he thought as his feet left the ground in slow motion. His arms weren't broken and his rib cage hadn't been caved in. The force had been dispersed through his entire body. His quickly created pseudo shield must have worked a little at least. Yay for him.

That had still hurt like a bitch though and the landing would probably...

He hit a second story window. Two windows actually, and the thin metal divider between them. Luckily, he went right through them and after a few seconds of rolling through furniture, came to a stop. He relaxed and checked himself. Then activated Regeneration and watched it go to work. He was surprisingly OK. Not great, but functional.

He stood up, activated a subtle auril pulse while dusting himself off. On the outside of the building, the behemoth was having trouble climbing up the wall to chase him. It had lost too many limbs it seemed, it kept trying to grab things with tentacles that were lying on the street behind it. Derrick doubted it would be stopped for long.

What to do? Run away? It might not be able to catch him. Drop something on it? Ha, no. Damn, he wished he had a real grenade. He did have tanglers but the behemoth would probably just overpower it or even just stretch itself out of the restraints. He heard a sound from the far end of the building, a pulse revealed sporelings swarming all over that side of the building.

He wasn't getting out that way. So, he threw the tangler out the window and jumped after it.

Somehow sensing him, the tentacled beast stopped trying to climb and instead reached up towards him with three hook covered limbs. Before the User fell right into those, the thrown tangler exploded into ribbons that tied the reaching tentacles together. Derrick landed right beside the beast and began to hack at the tentacles it was using as legs.

With denser muscles and bones, the fall from a second story didn't faze him at all and he got immediately to work. In just seconds, the monster's restrained limbs had come free but Derrick had already finished with its legs. Falling over, it couldn't aim well enough to stop Derrick from dismembering it further.

He stepped away from the now mostly harmless creature, he remembered that it could still explode. It wasn't worth finishing off now that it couldn't follow him. He grabbed his second axe from the street and stared up at the building he'd jumped out of. Were the sporelings going to come now?

No? Good, he'd had enough of tentacle monsters.

Derrick made his way to the source of the pulse he'd felt earlier. A small, three story apartment. Axes in hand, he stopped just outside after sending a pulse out. The building was full of people? That was the last thing he'd expected. He was sure the pulse wasn't from a fellow User. The range had been like three times his own. What was going? He felt at least five people inside.

“Hello!” tried Derrick, giving the house a friendly wave. “Do you need any help? I can help you evacuate.”

You can trust me, he thought but didn't say, I'm a reality TV star.

A moment of silence, until it was clear Derrick wasn't going to wander off.

“Get away!” a male voice screamed back at him from inside the building. “We're armed! Leave us alone!”

The voice's tone made it very clear they were on the edge of panic. Unstable like you really didn't want an armed person to be. Quantum Awareness informed him that at least three people suddenly began watching him.

“Look, it's not safe here...” he started before flinching as someone took a shot at him from a window. The bullet slammed into the pavement, just two feet from Derrick. He couldn't tell if it was a warning shot or they just had terrible aim. Either way, he quickly strategically repositioned to behind two cars that had crashed just a few feet away. Another bullet impacted the car, just as he was leaping over it.

Just great. What was even going on here? He needed to get inside that building, but these idiots wouldn't let him. He needed to do it fast too. The longer it took, the more likely a sportar would land on him or another behemoth could show up.

He peeked over the car's trunk, ducking when Quantum Awareness warned him someone was focusing on the spot between his eyes to a disturbing degree. A second later, a bullet momentarily occupied the space where his head had just been. Someone was playing for keeps then. A second, much better shooter seemed to have shown up. Also, that was an interesting use for his awareness ability.


Could he dodge the bullets? Obviously not completely, he wasn't that fast, not even when lashed. His fancy coat and mask should provide almost complete protection against bullets though. If he could feel where the enemy was aiming, all he had to do was mess up their aim, so they didn't hit his unprotected thighs or neck. Oh, and his one bare arm.

It seemed doable. He was fast enough that they would only get a few shots before he was inside and could overpower them. Maybe throw a tangler through a window on his way in.

It was weird, thinking about fighting other regular humans. He took a deep breath, jumped back over the car and charged. Immediately, he felt three people staring at him. His left thigh in particular. He zigged to his right and was rewarded by a bullet missing him. Another hit him like a punch to the shoulder, he staggered but kept running.

Halfway there. His auril sense told him to raise his arm, so his gauntlet blocked a bullet meant for it.

A dozen feet away from the apartment's entrance, he threw a tangler through the second story window and an axe where the front doors hinges should be. He wanted to get through the door without slowing. And he did, kicking the weakened door open and barrelling through at full speed.

He'd of course sent out a pulse of auril right as he entered, so he knew there were two people right on the other side of the door and one more crouched behind a furniture barricade. He dodge-rolled again. Feeling no impact as a gunshot rang out.

It was pathetically easy to take out the two people by the door. One tried to stab him, but he just punched her in the shoulder so hard she spun away. The other didn't have time to do anything before Derrick just grabbed a forearm and threw him into a wall.

He caught sight of an old man with a pistol aimed at the centre of his chest. Derrick charged, unworried. Three more bullets hit him before he reached the man and punched him in the gut. Derrick had the man's gun out of his hands before he hit the ground.

Whatever problems he had with the System, they did make quality stuff. He'd felt the bullets for sure, but doubted he'd even bruise much, even if he'd been a regular person.

He considered what he knew. There were three people left in the house. All upstairs. At least one had a rifle. No sign of tentacle traps or any node.

The ones down here had been very hostile, if somewhat nonthreatening. Speaking of which, all three of them were rising to their feet. Huh, he'd hit them pretty hard. Even avoiding head blows, at least one should be too injured to get up. Well, they had shot at him, so he wasn't going to hold back too much.

He kicked the old man in the knee as he tried to rise and moved back to the first two. After another kick he grabbed a rising man and dragged him to his feet.

“What is your people's deal anyway” he asked the man while holding onto him, he was honestly curious. What were they doing out here and why did they shoot at him? Why were civilians so heavily armed in the safest part of the city?

The man seemed stunned but focused on Derrick after a second. Derrick frowned as he examined the man's face. He seemed like someone’s unremarkable dad, yet he seemed unwell. Sweaty and pale. When the stranger's eyes met Derrick's, they were wild and had a tint of yellow to them...

“We won't let you touch her, DEMON.” the man said before trying to spit at Derrick. An effortless pulse of auril assured he spasmed and began choking instead. Derrick was surprised at how susceptible the man was to auril. He fell back to the floor, convulsing and Derrick didn't bother picking him back up. The whole demon thing made it pretty clear these people weren't going to be reasonable. Especially since he thought he knew what was going on here. These people were being controlled... no, influenced by the Spore Tyrants and tasked to protect the node in the building.

Things could get really bad, really fast if the spore tyrant was capable of controlling large amounts of people at the same time. It must be spreading some kind of infection through the Enclave that made it easier to control people with auril.

Even if all Users were immune, which he wouldn't bet on, they were only about half of the population at this point. A disease inspired riot could be be an ugly end to the Enclave and him.

No time to waste, he had to destroy the node, then find the main body. He auril pulsed and failed to find any source of auril nearby. Had it moved? No, it was probably hiding from him. If he could hide himself, he was sure this Scourge could. That could be dangerous.

Considering all the people upstairs, he was pretty sure that's where he should look first. Maybe one of them knew something, it wasn't like they were zombies.

He ran up the stairs with a metal stool stolen from the kitchen. As soon as he reached the top of the stairs, he dodged a bullet and threw the stool at the gunman. It hit and distracted the rifle wielder. He was going to try and avoid fatalities if he could. The favour wasn't returned. Two men with improvised weapons attacked him, they took just long enough to put down that the gun was pointed his way again.

Without thinking, he grabbed a falling opponent and pulled him into the line of fire. The bullet slammed into the man's stomach. Oh, oops... He would probably be fine. Right? It took a long time to die from gunshot wounds to the gut.

“You Bastard!” The gunman swore and prepared to fire again.

Derrick heaved the gutshot man at him. He missed. The gunman dodged to the side and raised his rifle just in time for Derrick to grab the barrel and rip it from his hands. The man reached for something in his pants, but Derrick was having none of that. He caught the gunner’s wrist, and easily prevented him from moving. The man, oddly enough, smiled at him. Derrick smiled back. Maybe he could get some info?

“I know its must be hard to believe, but I'm trying to help you.” Derrick said and ignored the gutshot man groaning on the floor. “Where is... it?”

How would he describe a Spore Tyrant node to a civilian being controlled by one? From this close, Derrick could see how sick the man actually was. Hell, he could smell it.

“Behind you,” the man smirked.

Derrick sighed, as if he was going to fall for that. He'd been pulsing auril since the fight start...

Something pierced his jacket and bit into his flesh. He immediately spun in place, one hand going to his back and the other knocking the smirk of that asshole's face. Having done a one eighty, he found himself staring at a bald little girl with bright yellow eyes. She looked around thirteen and was calmly holding a bloody needle in her tiny fist as she considered him. The hand at his back, felt something thin still stuck inside of it.

How had she snuck up... Shit, she was the node.


A note from Mirrored

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