The first cannon shot slammed into the creature, sending it stumbling backwards. At the same time, a dozen other bullets filled the air, hitting it with much less effect. Derrick could see a familiar haze pop into existence as the hits impacted, protecting it. Not a single crack was visible in the creature's smooth grey carapace after the barrage.
He imagined it was doing exactly the same thing he did with his gauntlets. Transferring kinetic energy.
That was fine, it must cost the creature to block each bullet and he was fine with just peppering it for hours if that's what it took. No that he thought it would anything like that easy. He could still feel the aura of unease that the creature was emitting.
Spur, Derrick thought and felt the drug take effect. If this fight was going to last more than a few minutes, his tired limbs might fail. He'd been fighting for a while now and the side effects of the endurance enhancing drugs were mild compared to whatever the Grey Legion would do to him.
The second cannon shot was less effective, hitting the creature and deflecting off instead. The creature began to sway, its four arms dropping down to its sides and its eyeless face still watching them.
The third shot barely hit it, deflected by a perfectly timed torso twist and a shimmer of conjured force. Now it wasn't bothering to block normal bullets with manna. It seemed to have discovered they couldn't hurt it.
Which was when Kate tried to put something a little meaner through its throat. The creature seemed completely oblivious to the strike until the last second, when one of its four hands blurred and reappeared at its throat. There was a muffled hiss and a clawed fist opened to show it holding a pristine bullet between two fingers. The monster smiled up at Kate and Derrick felt alarm bells ring in his mind.
Both his auril and the creatures smug look told him what was going to happen next. Derrick reached out towards Kate, clumsily blocking the bullet the creature had sent back at her, right at her throat. As attacks went, it was actually weak, nothing but a normal gunshot. Which made something very clear, they were not being taken seriously.
“Did you hear my scream in the storm? Did you profit from purloined purpose?” their attacker rasped, and Derrick felt his auril subtly twist. Nothing damaging, just a shiver down his spine.
Ya, it could only be talking about one person, him.
As soon as it finished its little speech, the Grey Legion monstrosity flinched as the next round hit it on the thigh. Their gunner changing targets and timing, catching it by surprise. This time it looked like it might even lose its balance before it caught itself.
The silver halo above its head faded away, reappearing around one of the Legion thing's wrists. Derrick felt the strange auril influence fade, which brought him no comfort. Moving with inhuman speed, it pointed a glowing finger toward its attacker.
Derrick saw the gunner ready her next shot, when the shield attached to her gun flared to life and she flinched, falling to one knee with a pained screech. There had been no visible projectile, but the barrel of her weapon touched the floor as the large woman used one hand to stop herself from collapsing completely. She tried to stand but her muscles were clearly not under her own control. She succeeded only in almost falling over as shudders and twitches ran through her.
“You've all heard it. Contempt received and returned,” the legion monster continued, its harsh voice oddly casual. Like a kindly stranger casually choking on their own blood. “What treasures you all are.”
Now what the hell had that attack been? An auril pulse revealed exactly what was wrong with the woman, her auril was in chaos, most of it seemingly having been ripped out her body.
An auril attack obviously. One completely unlike his own or any he'd seen before. That silver halo was clearly a manna technique, which meant it was using manna to move auril. Interesting, he wouldn’t have thought that was possible. It seemed like the large floating halo was for widescale control and supporting allies, while the smaller ones around its wrists were for what was basically an auril gun.
Silver light once more flickered to life above the creature and it began to step forward. Moving slowly even as a few bullets hit it, as if it wasn't in any hurry.
Kate ripped the Buckler Cannon from the downed woman and pointed it back at the advancing enemy.
Derrick respected her bravery but knew how this was going to end. He peered down, the creature was just twelve feet below them and twenty feet away. He didn't think second story windows were its secret weakness. It was going to be on them soon enough.
Just for fun, he estimated his chances for survival if he ran away. In the short term, they were poor. It was a safe bet this thing could and would run him down. It seemed to be interested in him. The long term was just as bad. The 'Enclave' was still reeling from the last Spore Tyrant attack. If they lost all the users here with this thing running around? Ya, Westhill would probably fail. Maybe not quickly but Scourge attacks didn't seem to be slowing down. The chances of him, or anyone, surviving some kind of exodus to the nearest safe zone was small.
Just as Kate fired the cannon, he jumped down to the street, timing it so he landed while the creature was distracted. He heard Kate fire, the hit sounding like the first and punishing the centre of their four-armed opponent's chest. The blow knocked it back a couple of steps.
No, it had backed up on purpose. It was standing above Scynil now, and ducking down, it grabbed her and held her up with both its left arms. It was kind of surreal, seeing the skinny arms effortlessly lift the Crusader off the ground and hold her up. Scynil had to weigh more than her kidnapper, they were about the same height, but they had opposite body types.
Oh great, a human... hybrid shield. Would Kate shoot through her? He had no idea. Could she shoot through her? How tough was the large Hybrid anyway? Also, no idea.
Then, Derrick caught a flash of something small and grey attached to the hybrid. Interesting.
“What is half of what makes a person worth? There are so many ways to betray yourselves,” it said. This time though, it was looking at Kate, a halo encircled hand raised in her direction.
No shot was fired by Kate. Either she was hesitating, or she needed to reload.
Derrick immediately moved towards the creature, hoping to distract it. Instead the creature stepped back and kept its hand pointed at the cannon, ignoring him.
A scream from behind told him that his advance hadn't helped. His eyes narrowed in anger. If this thing had done any permanent... Ugh, head in the fight Derrick. Only an idiot would get worked up.
“Keep your creepy alien date-rape powers away from my cousin,” came an angry voice from behind Derrick, accompanied by the sound of air being cut. A moment later Blake, sword in hand, stepped up beside him. Which was a relief but probably not going to stop them from losing this fight badly. Blake could hit hard but was a lot more fragile than him. Not to mention he had no auril to protect him. An auril User as strong as this thing could probably disable the sword wielder with a thought.
He guessed that was just another reason for him to take point, he at least could tank one of those attacks. Derrick charged. Surprisingly, his opponent didn't drop its living shield, just swung her away from the attackers, keeping its body between them. The move seemed almost protective, Derrick noted as he planned the best way to chop the fucker up.
He supposed she was quite the prize to the Grey Legion.
The first couple of blows were surprisingly successful. Oh, he didn't do any damage, but he'd half expected to be slapped down immediately. Instead the Legion boss's armored and clawed hands deftly blocked the strikes by redirecting them and it took a step back.
Meanwhile, Blake had circled around to take a stab at the creature. Blake's strike was fast enough his target had to lean back to avoid getting hit. Then, it smashed his second strike aside, overpowering Blake's manna with it own. It made a grab for the blade but was forced to abort again when Derrick sent an axe cutting down at the grasping limb.
His manna empowered blow made contact, but the arm avoided being cut by its joint bending in a very inhuman manner. Still, there was a groove where he'd hit. He'd scratched it.
Letting the creature keep its distance, he eyed the scratch skeptically. That had been only a partial dodge, he'd still hit it pretty hard. It seemed like he would need to land a perfect blow to hurt this thing meaningfully. Hmmm, it would be better to switch strategies. If he couldn't use manna to hurt it, how about auril?
The problem was that there was no way he was going to be able to touch it with his hands. So, he would need to send auril through his axes. Which was something he was technically capable of doing.
Derrick was just about to attack again when he saw someone with a large object tucked under one arm run into the street and jump into the back of a pickup truck. It was Gregory, the older User ducked out of sight, ignoring the fight going on just seventy feet away from him.
There was a pause in the fight, even the Grey Legion monstrosity seemed to be watching Gregory through the back of its head.
Huh. Derrick waited for something to happen, but nothing did, so he decided to ignore whatever the other User was up too. Waiting would be an invitation for the enemy to try and use its ranged abilities again.
Gathering and forming auril, he stepped forward and attacked. His attack was dodged, which threw him off balance. He was worried that he'd wasted the auril he'd gathered when the creature leaned forward and grabbed his wrist before he could react.
Fuck. This was bad. It was probably going to drag him forward and end the fight instantly because of his stupid overconfidence and distraction. It was stronger than him and he felt his back-foot lift off the ground. At the same time, he had a very good view of the creatures grinning mouth, needle-like teeth and long, thick tongue.
He tried to stab at the offending hand, but his strike was batted away. He felt the alien's powerful auril touch his own and hissed at the strange resonance he felt in that moment. Then, like water flowing downhill, the auril he'd gathered flooded into his attacker, causing it to release him and jump back as if it had been burned.
Following the path of least resistance, the Splintering Strike invaded his attacker's hand and caused its mouth to turn downwards for the first time, no doubt confused and pained by Derrick’s unique attack.
As second later, Blake's blade descended and took three grey fingers from the retreating hand. The weakened digits unable to stop the blade.
“Nice hit,” said Derrick appreciatively. First blood was surprisingly theirs.
“Of course,” Blake said seriously. “I was aiming for the wrist,” he admitted a second later. “Creepy bastard is fast. You did something to its armor with auril?”
“Yup,” Derrick replied, his eyes not leaving his enemy. “Weakens armor and prevents reinforcement. The effect lingers for a few seconds, so try to hit places where I’ve weakened it. Just don't let it touch you, one touch is probably all it needs.”
The two of them warily watched their wounded foe. It returned the look, as much as something without eyes could anyway. What would it do now? Its finger stumps weren't bleeding beyond an initial spray of gore, but it was still first blood for them.
“Weigh salvation against courage,” It told them as it shook its wounded hand. “Excellence has a price.”
Apparently, it was asking them to give up? Not likely. He was going to take more than a few fingers from this thing before the scales were anywhere near equal for all the shit the Legion had thrown at them. The silver halo shuddered and disappeared, just as the grey bastard raise one hand.
“Oh, no you don't,” Derrick announced and went in swinging, channelling his new auril strike this time, Sapping Strike. It should slow the creature down some and mixing up his attacks might prevent the grey bastard from adapting to his abilities.
He tried to push auril through his axes as he attacked. It was harder, especially the timing of it. A second off and the attacks fizzled, it was like pushing water uphill. Sometimes it just failed, no doubt because his target was shielding itself with manna. He managed to send a couple of weak blasts of infectious auril into their opponent and Blake managed to leave a deep gash in a shoulder.
In return, the creature landed a ringing blow his head, one hard enough to stun him for a second and also managing to dig a row of deep cuts into his unprotected forearm. Learning from before, it was using manna to shield itself from his auril. It was a good thing the things claws weren't anywhere near as large as a Vanguard's. They were only impressive compared to a human.
Getting into the rhythm of it, Derrick lunged forward to attack and... was sent reeling back as something big hit him from nowhere. Something that smelled like grass and earthy spices? Shocked and knocked onto his back foot, he realized what had happened. He'd been hit with Scynil. First, she was a prize, then a shield, and now she was regulated to living club.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Blake grimace. “What now? That was kind of funny, but if it's going to bash us with her, it's going to be hard to avoid hurting her.”
“If you drop her, we'll let you retreat,” he offered the Grey Legion boss and got no reaction from the creature at all. It just stood there, holding Sycnil off the ground with two hands. He considered trying to create some kind of energizing strike to wake her up, but no, this wasn't the time for that kind of experimentation. Besides he had no idea what was keeping her unconscious. Actually, he realized, that wasn't quite true.
“She's a big girl,” said Derrick, answering Blake's question. “She should be tougher than me anyway. No need to hold back.”
Blake nodded and shifted the grip on his blade, readying himself to follow Derrick.
Now that the creature was taking them more seriously, things had gotten a lot harder. It ruthlessly exploited any hesitation to hit Scynil on their part. Which despite his best efforts, he was doing. It was hard to swing an axe at someone who was your ally. They weren't exactly scalpels.
After a couple seconds of being on the losing side, Derrick spotted his target, the grey spot on Scynils otherwise colorful body. That had to be what was keeping her unconscious, probably working like Venom Dirks did.
When her body was thrown in front of one of his blows, he changed targets to the colorless spot on her neck and drove the blade right into it.
Normally, that would have been an instant death. Scynil had two things going for her though, her Crusader toughness and Esthisium weapons ability to dull themselves. The axe blade cut a about an inch into her neck and his target was severed, the end falling off and leaving a spike of unknown length buried in her flesh. He noticed that the Crusader’s blood was as red as his own.
“Ha,” Derrick the Red said with a grin. “Not everything has to be grey you...”
He was interrupted by his enemy’s foot lashing out, catching Derrick by surprise with a kick that almost smashed his knee in. Only an instinctive flinch saved it from being destroyed.
The pain was enough that he staggered back instead of retreating swiftly, putting himself at risk. Blake moved in to cover him, sword raised, and got a Crusader thrown at him with inhuman force. He was sent sprawling backwards, awkwardly trying to avoid stabbing her and unable to throw the heavy hybrid off himself easily.
Shit. With having all four hands free, he was in for a much harder fight now. He backpedalled but his knee slowed him down, despite the auril he was sending into it. It refused to carry his weight and so the Grey Legion monster was on him in seconds.
One grey hand snaked out and grabbed his left, preventing him from retreating. Next, the Legion monster raised another hand to be about level with the captured User's face. Its open hand shot towards his face, a grey blur.
There was a familiar thud sound and once more, the Grey Legion boss was robbed of its victory. Derrick felt the blow through the creature, it shuddered as a projectile from the Buckler Cannon went right through its carapace and into its shoulder. Only the second real injury they'd inflicted on it so far.
“Keep your hands to yourself,” called out a female voice from above. So this was the power of love, thought Derrick as he took the precious seconds Kate had delivered to escape from horrible death. He looked and saw Blake about to throw Scynil to the ground and move to help him, abandoning her.
“Take her!” he yelled at him and moved to cover his retreat. If they dropped her at this point, they would be right back where they started. If Kate was covering them, he might be able to hold it off.
“Fire in the hole!” a male voice screamed out. Gregory had finished whatever he had been up to. Which seemed to be another cannon, this one very different from the first. It had cable running to both the System Station and the truck where Derrick had last seen him. It also showed its improvised nature, with different bits and exposed mechanisms showing.
Whatever he was holding, Derick didn't want to get hit by it. He dove to the ground as the Grey Legion boss monster turned to look at this new threat. Blake did the same, putting the unconscious form of Scynil between him and the weapon's alien target.
There was a clicking sound as a grinning Gregory pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
...had that been a bluff? No, Gregory's grin had turned into a frown and Derick heard a few more frantic clicks.
“Wow, this is embarrassing,” the scarred man said as the inhuman killer that he'd been targeting raised a glowing hand at him, Kate, and the retreating Blake at the same time.
From the corner of his eye, Derrick saw Kate drop her new toy and dash into cover, apparently not willing to risk getting hit again. He wondered if that would actually help her, an auril weapon should ignore nonliving things and the creature obviously had more impressive senses than sight.
Shit, this was bad. Because of his injury, he was too slow and far away to disrupt this attack.
There was another clicking sound, instantly a beam of crackling light illuminated the entire intersection as it slammed right into the Grey Legion monstrosity.
It would have been blinding if Derrick’s mask hadn’t kicked in to protect his eyesight and let him get a good look at the oddly straight bolt of lightning that flashed right into their enemy. The violent energy picked it up off the ground, etching a jagged gash into its armor and sending it flying into the side of a building.
“Ha! I knew...” the man who had built and created the weapon exclaimed, right before the weapon blew up in his hands. There was a sizzling sound and an explosion of light came from his weapon. The wielder collapsed onto the ground himself, his improvised weapon turning into wreckage and shrapnel in his hands. Even the engine of the truck he was standing next to exploded, the metal of the hood bursting upwards and the entire thing rocking on its wheels.
With an ominous flicker, even the lights that had been illuminating the intersection suddenly turned off and Derrick's mask kicked the night vision up a notch to compensate.
Huh. A lightning gun, Derrick mused as he tried to account for the dramatically changed battlefield.
He took a limping step towards their fallen enemy, but he noticed it was already picking itself off the ground, although with some difficulty. It seemed less than happy, letting out a sound like an angry tea kettle or a rusty turbine. It was also missing an entire arm, not the already wounded one either. This left it with only two fully functional hands and severely compromised armor. Gregory's weapon had burnt a jagged and still smoking scar across its entire chest.
Ya, it was definitely pissed off now. Sadly, it didn't seem to be out of the fight. A silvery halo flickered to life above it and began to spin.
Some of the remaining Users took the opportunity to shoot at it, but it ignored them. Focusing on its weird manna ability
Derrick threw an axe at the creature, but it just slapped the weapon aside, letting it fall at its feet impotently. Next, the creature raised all three of its remaining hands as if it was trying to grab the halo it was producing. The flickering silver ring built up speed, getting faster, thinner and wider until it exploded outwards.
Derrick felt a wave of auril hit him and was sent gasping to his knees. It was like someone had taken a pressure washer to his soul. His defences held for a single second before the auril in his body was obliterated. He was blasted with such force that it caused his muscles to cramp and lungs to shudder, leaving him feeling cold and hollow. He was so confused, it took him a few seconds to remember how to breathe.
A few screams came from all the nearby buildings as every living thing within a few hundred feet was slapped down by invisible alien energies. Derrick saw Blake collapse and be buried under the weight of Scynil, neither moving.
Derrick got the distinct impression that the Grey Legion thing had gone easy on him. Whatever weird connection they'd had must have sheltered him from the worst of the blast, parting it around him. Which meant he was probably the only person left standing in the dark and ruined city block.
“Glorious and enlightening,” the wounded monster mused as it strode towards Derrick. “Rejoice, you have more than earned your Salvation.”