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A note from SoggyRedToast

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"It would seem the ‘New Brotherhood’ has decided to capitalize on our temporary moment of weakness." Sarah said as soon as Gravity and Erich joined the three other team leaders at the meeting table.

“I’ve received a number of reports that over the last few hours that armed individuals we assume to be part of the New Brotherhood have been trickling into public areas not far removed from the mansion. As of the last hour, a rough head count has suggested more than a hundred are now present, if spread out over a number of different locations.”

Sarah placed a number of red tokens on a new, much smaller, map. “I have no doubt that this assault is intended to cripple our organization permanently while Hard-Light is… out of contact.”

Two of the team leaders shared nervous glances at that, but Grey simply stared on in mute acceptance. 

Gravity wasn’t quite as subtle with her summary of the situation, “So we’re hopelessly outnumbered and ‘Daddy’ isn’t around to bail us out. Great. When and how are these guys planning to arrive?”

“If past habits hold true, the second night falls. And as for, transport? They probably plan to walk.” Lopez said as he looked over the map. “Most of these places aren’t that far away.”

Sarah looked a bit irritated by the interruption, but nodded.

“Yes. As far as we can tell they used their own means of transport to arrive at these rallying points, but intend to move as one mob toward us.”

Erich swore. That pretty much ruled out ambushing their vehicles during transit. It would have been a handy way of staggering them, if not wiping out large numbers of them entirely in one fell swoop. He knew his force blasters would do nasty things to a truck or bus if he put enough juice into them.

Funny, He thought, once upon a time that might have made me feel queasy.

“Any Metas amongst them?” Asked the final team leader, a man who’s name Erich couldn’t quite remember. Something starting with an ‘S’.

Sarah shook her head, “None that are known to us.”

Which meant sweet fuck all if the New Brotherhood had been hiring on new people. Some Metas developed abilities that resulted in visible changes in their body, such as scales, fur or metal skin, but most looked just like anyone else.

He also doubted a group like the Brotherhood would be willing to accept any of the poor sods who developed visible mutations. 

Not that the rest of the world is much better in that regard. 

“Any chance we can call in the cops to disrupt them before they get here?” Erich asked as he turned his mind back to the task at hand.

The, to his mind, perfectly reasonable question, drew incredulous looks from everyone present.

“The cops will certainly show up.” Sarah said finally, “but only after everything is over. They’re more than happy to let us all kill each other before coming in to clean up what’s left. To their mind, it’s better we all kill each other than them risk their lives trying to break it up.”

Erich figured that would be the case.

“Worth a shot.” He shrugged, “I assume that it’s the same for the North Granton Defenders?” 

Gravity’s scoff was all the answer he needed to that question. The local Guild affiliated hero team was even more corrupt and ineffective than the cops. It seemed that barely a week went by without one of them being caught up in at least one scandal.

“Right, so what’s the plan to see us through the night?” He asked, resisting the urge to make a dash for one of the vans in the garage. 

He figured he would have a better chance of escaping at some point during the coming battle.

“We’ve still got twenty eight experienced guns to throw at them and three Metas. That’s nothing to sneeze at.” Sarah said. “Plus the mansion’s automated defenses.”

Erich tactfully refrained from pointing out that he wasn’t a meta. Just a dude in a set of power armor.

And how come no one told me this place had automated defenses?

He’d certainly never seen any. Though he supposed that was probably part of the design. Still, it stung his professional pride as an engineer that he hadn’t even gotten an inkling that the place had any defense beyond the intimidating reputation of its owner.

“We can arm the staff and the bottom feeders.” Grey said. “They’ll all be green as hell, but even a newbie can guard a hallway and fire a few rounds downrange before they catch a bullet.” 

Gravity looked a bit uncomfortable, but Sarah nodded. “Good idea. If we’re lucky we might be able to replenish our core membership from those who do well.”

Assuming any of them survive, Erich thought cynically before another thought occurred to him. Hell, assuming any of us survive…

Just throwing caution to the wind and running like hell was looking more and more tempting by the moment.

“That’s still not all that many,” Gravity frowned, “We’re going to have to pull completely back to the mansion if we want to cover everything.”

Erich frowned, “If we completely give up the outside, what’s to stop them from just burning the place down with us inside.”

Sarah shook her head, “The building may look old, but it’s all superficial. All of the building materials are as modern as you can get. The place won’t burn easily, if at all.”

Well, that was a load off his mind. He still had nightmares about the Crusher’s death, and he had no desire to experience a similar fate first-hand.

“Right, so we just have to hold out long enough for Hard-Light to return, or until the cops can no longer reasonably ignore what’s happening.” Gravity said.

Sarah nodded determinedly, “Grey’s team and I, are covering the main entrance hall. Sam, I want you to put at least two people on every possible side and servant entrance. Supplement your guys with staff if you have to. Gravity, you and Lopez are going to be part of our reserve team, shore us up wherever the Brotherhood start to push.”

To Erich’s mild surprise, Gravity didn’t argue. She accepted her half-sister’s commands without complaint.

“What about me?” Erich asked as Sarah trailed off.

He watched on in mild confusion as the blonde woman seemed to mull the question over for what felt like a very long time.

“I need you to take some of the staff and cover the escape tunnel.”

Erich’s heart skipped a beat.

Seeing the glances being passed around the room, it seemed he wasn’t the only one who was ignorant of said tunnels existence.

“I normally wouldn’t mention it,” Sarah growled, “but given that a few of our people have gone turncoat in recent days, it isn’t impossible that they are aware of it, and might use it as a point of entry.”

“Don’t get too comfortable Mechromancer,” Gravity sniggered, “If the battle drags on long enough without any indication of trouble on your end, you can bet your ass Sarah’s going to have you relocate to the fight’s biggest hotspot.”

Erich felt the grin that had been slowly growing on his face wither and die as Sarah nodded from her spot at the end of the table.

“I’m still down to one force blaster.” He attempted to say, only for Sarah to cut him off.

“Then you still have one more than anyone else in this mansion has.”

Seeing that there was no way he was getting out of his secondary duty, he found himself hoping for the Brotherhood to attack the escape tunnel. At least if they did, he’d be nice and hunkered down with some meat shields to hide behind, rather than being forced to wander from hotspot to hotspot.

“I’m assuming this escape tunnel is in the wine cellar?” He sighed.

Sarah nodded reluctantly.

“Great,” He continued, “I’ll need some help moving stuff we can use as cover down there. I’ll probably also be grabbing my defenders from the staff at the same time.”

Hopefully he could grab a few that looked halfway reliable before the others scooped them all up.

Sarah waved her hands, as if to say he was dismissed. “Grey, go with him. I’ll take your team with me, and you can lead Erich’s. Show him where the tunnel entrance is while you’re at it.”

Erich was almost offended that he wasn’t trusted to lead his own team, as the taciturn woman rose with a silent nod. 

He knew it was the right choice though. He had zero leadership experience, and even worse social skills. 

Besides, at least this way I have one reasonably competent meat shield to hide behind.

It was all about looking out for the positives. Like the fact that he was about to be stationed right next to the escape tunnel. Possible point of ingress for the enemy or not, that was some pretty amazing luck.

Though I’ll probably have to kill Grey if I decide I’ve got to escape.

That put something of a damper on his plans for freedom in the event things started going poorly.

Could I do that? Stab an ‘ally’ in the back in cold-blood?

His conscious mind quibbled back and forth over the question, but in his heart of hearts he knew exactly what he would do.

Perhaps not without hesitation, but certainly without a doubt.

 


 

“Move, or I start moving you.” Erich said, his suit’s speakers giving him an even more ominous tone than he intended.

The gaggle of lackeys he had collected together glanced back and forth between his massive suit and the stairs down into the cellar.

“Move.” He said, charging up his single force blaster with an ominous whine. Even if the other one was still operational, he couldn’t have used it at as one hand was holding a massive rucksack.

Still the sound of just one of the weapons charging up prove d to be enough, and the group of five clambered down the steps into the gloom, hands fearfully clutching the weapons in their hands.

Erich had zero sympathy for them. 

All of them were parasites. People that clung to core members of the gang as their entourage, basking in the second hand power it gave them to associate with members of the criminal underworld.

Besides, even as lackeys they were all members of the gang, and displayed the colors proudly. The only issue was that none of them had ever actually had to do anything before besides stand around and look menacing or run simple errands for their criminal masters.

Hell, he might have been worried about one of them shooting him in the back and trying to make a run for it if he thought they had a little more spine.

Not that he was any better. 

He was planning to do the exact same thing after all. 

Just a few more rungs up the totem pole, He thought with cynical amusement.

The main difference between them was that he had half a ton of power armor and they didn’t. Which was all that mattered in the end. Knowledge might be power. Money might be power. But at the end of the day the only real power was power.

“You need to work on your leadership skills.” Grey murmured from her position leaned up against a nearby wall, heavily tattooed arms crossed tightly over her chest.

“I’m not a leader.” He said. “I’m an engineer.”

She shook her head, “You’re a supervillain and part of this gang. That makes you a leader whether you like it or not.”

Well aren’t you chatty today, He thought.

“Get in the hole.” He muttered, unwilling to concede that she had a point.

Still, the way the lithe young woman smiled as she strode down past him, told him that she knew she’d won that little bout.

If he wasn’t about to be relying on her to keep any of their newfound unwilling allies from turning their guns on him when things inevitably got hot, he would have been half tempted to give her a little shove as he started descending the stairs as well.

He hated losing.

He could grovel, beg, and writhe in the dirt like a worm if he had to. 

But losing? 

Losing got to him.

By the time his slow ass thunked down into the wine cellar, Grey was already directing her surly workers to set up barricades across from what looked to be a perfectly normal wall. 

Since he doubted it was supposed to be blasted open in the event it was ever supposed to be used, Erich could only assume it would slide open at the behest of some unseen command console.

“Drop the bag.” She said as he thudded over, which he dutifully did, still entirely ignorant of the thing’s contents.

He watched on with mild interest as she pulled out a ballistic blanket and passed it off to a watching goon.

“Drape that over whatever barrel you’re planning on hiding behind.” She said, before repeating the action for the next four to wander over.

“It won’t stop a laser or a force blaster.” He pointed out as soon as they were of earshot. “Wouldn’t it have been better to build some mobile barrier projectors?”

“Do you think any of these people are valuable enough to our employer that he would buy a surplus of equipment to build barrier projectors?” Grey said as she draped her own ballistic blanket over a barrel – before going to stand behind a much sturdier looking stone pillar.

Well… no.

Grey snorted. “There’s a reason the world’s still using old world tech for most stuff. Meta-tech is just too high goddamned maintenance to be cost effective past a certain level.”

Erich wanted to point out that people like him could fix those problems, but he knew that was patently untrue. Sure, he could reduce problems in Meta-tech, but at the end of the day, it was still Meta-tech, with all the issues inherent with it.

Not least of which is that one required a  frankly incredible amount of education in a number of different fields to even contemplate peaking inside a device and having the faintest clue as to what was going on.

Which would be even more compounded by the fact that two Meta-tech devices, even from the same Artificer, could have wildly different design principles despite being made to perform the same purpose.

Yes, he could see why Hard-Light might just grab some ballistic blankets instead of a more effective, and thus proportionally more expensive alternative.

Now that I think about it, I’m actually amazed he even thought to invest in defenses at all. 

The more he thought about it, the more he came to believe that Sarah, or Bronte, was the one to buy the ballistic blankets and store them away for an occasion like this.

He started as the wall in front of him started to peel back, revealing a wide dark tunnel leading off into the distance. From the look of it, it must have been a repurposed part of the city’s old sewer system.

“Why are you opening it?” One of the goons asked incredulously.

“It’s an open tunnel.” Grey said phlegmatically to the lightly clad young woman, “No cover. Good kill zone for us.”

And it was better for them if they saw their attackers coming, rather than have the first indication of their existence be the door sliding open to reveal a horde of well-armed racists.

“As the degenerate half-breed said. “A familiar voice asked from the darkness to Erich’s right, startling him as well as the goons. “So with that in mind, any chance I could get a gun?”

Grey hadn’t reacted at all to the voice, beyond a slight tightening of her vaguely Hispanic features.

“Would you give you a gun?” Erich asked, after calming his racing heart, and realizing Grey wasn’t going to say anything.

“Figured it was worth a shot.” Integrity chuckled croakily.

He was a sad sight. Filthy, with his unmoving legs splayed out beneath him as he sat with his back to a pole, a bike-lock of all things wrapped around his neck. Outwardly he seemed calm, despite his squalid conditions, but Erich could see the rage in the man’s eyes.

He could understand it as well, even if he had no sympathy for the former supervillain. 

The guy had once been the leader of one of the most powerful gangs in the city, as well as one of its more powerful Metas. 

Now he was crippled, powerless, stuck in a basement, chained up with a bike-lock, and there was a very real possibility that he was about to be discovered by the subordinates that had betrayed him in the first place.

Unarmed and defenseless.

Racist old scumbag or not, that has to suck.

Hell, he had to give the old bastard credit for holding it all in, rather than sitting there raging away at them. He didn’t know if he could have had the same self-control in similar circumstances.

Actually, that was a lie.

He knew he wouldn’t.

Erich might have said something else, but he was interrupted by Grey who had one hand to her ear.

“Everyone get into position.” She said quietly, “Sarah says the New Brotherhood have finally started to move.”

Erich checked his internal clock, and saw that it was nine o’clock on the dot.

Like clockwork, He thought uncomfortably, charging up his force blaster once more, if only to hear its soothing hum.

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SoggyRedToast

Bio: A supervillain in the making

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