“I can’t believe this shit.” Frank sighed as he threw his cards down onto the tipped over fridge they were using as an impromptu poker table.
Jack wasn’t much better, the younger man audibly grinding his teeth as he dropped his cards.
“Believe what? That you’re losing so hard?” Myra, the sole female present at their little poker game, grinned as she leaned forward to scoop up her winnings.
“Yes. No!” The older man hissed, running a hand through his jet black hair in irritation. “What are we even doing here?”
Myra sent a confused sidelong glance at Jack, who just shrugged in his taciturn way.
Zero help there. She thought, taking a deep breath of the cool night air.
“Guarding the junkyard?” She said slowly.
It wasn’t the most glamorous or exciting work, but it had to be done. The boss would be furious if anything happened to one of his premiere sources for parts. Never mind, the fact that the guy owned at least two other sites just like this one, that were either equivalent or larger.
Not that Myra would ever voice that opinion aloud. Dissenters in Hard-Light’s organization had a nasty tendency to disappear when they got too vocal. If the mad-dog that was his daughter didn’t get to you, then the old man himself did.
Which was why Myra felt more than just a little nervous as Frank continued to speak.
“Why are we here, when we could be out there? Showing the Brotherhood who really owns this city.”
“We hit that warehouse of theirs the other week.” She pointed out, hoping to quiet the man down before someone overhead him. “Even brought that new meta along.”
“Mechro-something.” Jack said.
“Yeah, that.” Myra said, game thoroughly forgotten as she attempted to keep her erstwhile friend from killing himself via pissed off meta.
Unfortunately for her, Frank just shook his head. “So, what? We get this new meta, and we kill, eight, maybe nine of their guys tops?”
It didn’t need to be said that they had lost far more than that in return. The news of what had happened to Chavez’s team had shot through the ranks like shit through a goose. No one wanted to say it, but people were nervous.
For years they had thought themselves invincible, but recent events had firmly shattered that illusion.
“We got a bunch of machine shit though.” She pointed out, more to convince herself than anyone else, “The boss could use that to whip up… something.”
“Medical equipment.” Jack said. “Friend of mine says the boss has been raging around the mansion all week. Everyone knows that means he hasn’t been able to build anything.”
Myra scowled. “That’s got to be bullshit. Why the fuck would the Brotherhood be stockpiling medical equipment.”
They were Neo-Nazis, not the Red Cross.
Jack was about to respond when the lights went out.
Not just in their little clearing, but all over the junkyard; shouts of surprise coming from their fellow gang members as their guard posts were plunged into darkness.
“Fucking cheap ass generator.” Jack growled, pulling out his phone and turning on the flashlight. “Got an Artificer for a boss, and still can’t get shit to work properly.”
Myra agreed wholeheartedly, but wisely kept her thoughts to herself.
“Sam isn’t answering her phone.” Jack said sullenly as he glanced at his own.
Because she’s probably already trying to fix the generator. The twitchy mechanic wouldn’t be sitting on her ass when it was her ass on the line.
“Well, fuck it.” Jack said, already moving off in the direction of the generator. “I’m not waiting around in the dark for her to maybe start fixing it.”
Myra felt a bit leery about leaving their post, but seeing Jack start striding off after the other man got her moving.
Better than sitting in the dark alone.
She could hear voices from all over the junkyard, and lights moving around as people tried to figure out what was going on. No one was particularly alarmed though. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, and probably wouldn’t be the last.
Still, Myra couldn’t deny that the Junkyard was pretty freaky when illuminated just by the light of their phones. Jutting junk and cars took on a distinctly ominous tone as shadows twirled to and fro in the gloom.
Despite the ridiculousness of it, Myra found herself reaching for the comforting grip of her pistol. Sure, it wasn’t one of the fancy laser ones that Hard-Light’s inner circle got, but it had served her well enough in the years since she had joined the gang.
…Not that she’d ever had reason to fire it.
The few times she’d been called into force a belligerent business owner to pay up, just waving it around had been enough to get the job done. To be honest, she wasn’t entirely sure she could shoot someone if it came down to it. She wasn’t in the criminal life for a love of violence. She’d just kind of… fallen into it. A not uncommon story in this line of work.
“Someone talk about something.” Frank said from ahead of them as they wandered through piles of rusty junk.
“About what?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know… How are the kids?”
“Fine.” Jack responded in his typical way, killing the conversation before it even started.
Despite herself, Myra chuckled.
It was just so ridiculous. Here they were, three hardcore ‘criminals’ getting nervous because of a little darkness. Why she-
She’d almost walked into Frank after the man had come to a sudden stop. “What’s the matter? Stepped in shit again?”
She’d told the patrols time and time again to pick up after the guard dogs, but they never did.
“No.” Frank said, deadly serious.
Stomach sinking, Myrah looked over to see what the man was looking at.
“Christ!” She shrieked, tripping over as she stepped backward.
It was Sam and her boyfriend. Dead and swinging in the breeze. High tension cable wrapped round their necks, before being strung up from a crane.
“Just like Chavez.” Jack breathed.
Myra agreed. She hadn’t seen it, but she heard about it. Everyone in Hard-Light’s gang had. Blood running cold, she clambered back up to her feet, gun in hand.
“We’ve got to get back to the others.”
They would be safer with numbers. Not a fucking chance they were dealing with this alone.
Ahead of her, the two men nodded, drawing their guns. Determinedly the trio started going back the way they had come. Unfortunately, they’d only traveled a few meters when it started up; Screams. Shouts. The occasional burst of gunfire. Coming from all over the junkyard.
Like something out of a bad horror flick. Myra thought.
Barely a minute later they started coming across bodies. Sometimes alone. Sometimes as part of a group. Throats sliced open, strung aloft with cable, or simply run through with a blade, the handles still sticking out of them.
Just like with Chavez’s team.
It was the third such gruesome tableau that finally broke her will.
“Fuck this.” She hissed. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
“Right,” Frank nodded from ahead of her, “We’re going to pick up the- Where’s Jack?”
Myra’s light and gun whipped around to show artificial alleys made from discarded junk, but no man.
He was right fucking there!
“Do… do we go look for him?” She asked.
The look Frank gave was totally incredulous. Instead of answering, he simply turned around and started jogging in the direction of the exit, only a few errant steps away from sprinting. Myra took off after him, heart racing in her chest as her breathing echoed in her ears.
There was no warning before it happened. Just a low whistle of something flying through the air, and Frank collapsed. He let out a wet gurgle as Myra jumped over him, the woman not bothering to look back as she sprinted for the exit.
She only made it a few more feet before something hit her in the head, sending her sprawling to the dirt. It was a small miracle that she managed to hold onto her phone, but her pistol went sailing off into the darkness.
Arms skinned and bleeding, she started to crawl toward where she thought it had fallen, only to groan in pain as something slammed into her back, pinning her to the floor.
"Please." She gasped, trying to move despite the foot pressed into her back.
“Poorly balanced mass-produced garbage.” A voice above her snorted in disgust. Whoever it was, their voice was totally distorted, almost as if they were garbling marbles when they spoke.
Just to her left, she saw what had hit her; a throwing knife, now lying in the dirt.
“I surrender.” She cried, “Please… Please don’t kill me.”
“Why do the scum always whine so much.” The voice asked rhetorically. “You’re all so content to strut around, proclaiming yourselves rulers of this city. But when you’re down on your luck, and at someone else’s mercy, you all say the same things. ‘Mercy. Don’t kill me. I have rights.’”
“At least try and die with some dignity.”
Sarah couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed when she wandered in to find Erich working on the suit. Never mind the fact that she’d been dreaming of having a more powerful ability since she’d been a little girl.
With deliberate calm she walked over to the man, who was yet again fiddling with the coolant system.
“Hello Erich,” She said, “Any progress on my gauntlet?”
The man didn’t respond, and for a second she had to resist the urge to shock him to attention as his torso remained firmly inside the suit’s.
“Erich!” She said, letting rip with a small jolt of power.
A loud thunk, and a few curses later, Erich’s body emerged from the suit, rubbing his head and looking more than a little irate.
“What!?” He groused, staring daggers at her.
Normally she knew he would never summon up the audacity for such an act, but when around his tech she knew he had the tendency to be… shortsighted.
“The gauntlet?” She repeated, “What progress have you made?”
With any luck he would have gotten the parts he needed together, and could really start his planning in-
“Over there. On the table.” He motioned, before clambering back inside the suit. “And don’t fucking do that again.”
For just a moment, Sarah was struck dumb. Only for a moment though, and the second it passed her feet were clattering along the floor as she all but sprinted over to the table.
There they were. Just as he said they’d be.
More than that, there was not one, but two shiny new gauntlets, rife with technological components.
They weren’t exactly stylish or eye catching, but they did have a rustic utilitarianism to them. Not that she much cared how they looked, just so long as they worked.
With almost indecent haste she started pulling them on, only to realize once they were on her hands that she had no clue how they worked.
“Erich.” She called, “How do I activate them.”
“Just aim in the direction you want them to go and push your power into the palms.” The man said automatically.
It was almost two seconds later that he realized what he had just done.
“Too late.” Sarah sing-songed.
Aiming at the wall of the workshop, Sarah excitedly pumped as much power as she could into her hands.
With instant results.
The sound and light were deafening, as honest to god lightning leapt from her very fingertips to lance against the wall with all the fire and fury of a bolt from Zeus himself.
It was awe inspiring. An entire thunderstorm encapsulated in her very palm.
Then it was over, and they were left with cherry red and partially melted walls, small residual arcs of electricity sparking across the place, and the overpowering stench of ozone in the air.
Sarah collapsed to her knees, too overwhelmed with emotion to stay standing.
Erich felt like doing much the same, only for entirely different reasons.
“Again.” He whined, seeing the second hole to be punched into the wall of his shop. He still hadn’t fixed the one left by his first meeting with Gravity.
Sarah didn’t care. She was overjoyed. Beyond overjoyed. The power, the smell, the sensation of it all. It was ecstasy. Beyond ecstasy.
“How does it work?” She breathed huskily.
There had been no cable. Nothing launched from the glove. No delay either. Just a long uninterrupted stream of unyielding electrical power.
Power felt without limits. She thought, heat blazing in her chest. Unlimited power.
Erich was not nearly so enthused, turning away from the hole in his wall with a sigh.
“Basically, the lightning gets shot down a laser beam.” He said, bringing his shirt up over his face to protect against the stink. “The fingertips of the gloves have very small laser lenses in them, which can’t do much by themselves, but combined with your power, they can shoot an incredibly short pulse of high energy light. One powerful enough to create an electromagnetic field around it.”
Sarah didn’t really understand the science of what he was saying, but damned if the words weren’t passing right through her and down to her… core. Almost of their own accord, her hands started to roam.
“The electromagnetic field is so powerful that it can rip electrons in the air, creating a needle thin pathway of plasma.” Erich continued, not even looking at her to notice what she was doing.
“And since plasma is a better conductor for electricity than air, the lightning travels along that instead.” Sarah all but moaned, marveling at the elegance of it. “Straight to the target.”
“Yeah,” Erich shrugged, missing the heat in her voice as he preened. “That’s basically it. Pretty simple application of basic science when you get right down to it.”
Maybe to him.
Sarah knew Hard-Light wouldn’t have thought of such a system in a hundred years, and she knew she certainly hadn’t. And she’d had more than enough incentive to try.
She watched with glazed eyes as Erich threw a tarp over the suit, before walking over to open the sliding doors. A gentle breeze blowing through the room as he did, dissipating some of the stench.
Sarah sighed as it caressed her heated and sweaty skin. The things she could do with these gauntlets. The power she held.
Ignorant of her thoughts, Erich was still chattering away. “Honestly, it was pretty easy to do. Didn’t need to add in batteries or a power source of any kind. Which helped me keep them small. Honestly, the hardest part was finding a conductor for the palm that wouldn’t melt with the sheer amount of juice you were going to be putting through it.”
She was halfway through tearing her top off, entirely ready to act on her earlier promise of fucking the insufferable genius’s brains out, when Gravity ran in. Dripping wet from the shower, and without a shred of clothing to protect her modesty.
“We under attack!? What the fuck was that noise!?” She shouted, gun ready, only to recoil as the smell hit her, “Ugh, what the fuck is that smell?” Then her eyes finally alighted on Sarah.
Or more specifically, the gauntlets on her hands. Then, almost of their own accord, her eyes tracked toward the massive blackened crater in Erich’s wall.
“Oh, for fucks sake.” The nude woman groaned. “That’s just fucking unfair.”
At which point, Erich finally noticed that no one was listening to him, and was stuck between looking indignant, and goggling at the nearly naked, and entirely naked, women on display.
Which was the exact scene Hard-Light’s goons ran in to see, having been drawn by the sound of the gauntlets going off.
“Holy shit.” One man whispered as he surveyed the entirety of it, although whether it was the nudity on display, or the damage, that drew the oath, no one could say.
Though more than one man and woman agreed with him on both accounts.