A kick to a knee followed by a left cross brought Bloodhawk to his knees. The killer’s mouth was a bloody mess, part his own, part the stolen liquids of his victims. Bloodhawk had been unprepared for Shockwave’s tackle, and the Guardian kept up the pressure.
Shockwave slammed a knee up into Bloodhawk’s jaw. More blood flew into the air. He followed it up by grabbing the back of Bloodhawk’s head and pulling as he rammed an elbow into his foe’s face. There was a satisfying crunch as bone met cartilage.
After their initial trade of powers, Shockwave figured the screaming killer was somehow shielded. He reasoned the shielding might not apply to an up-close-and-personal beating. Turned out he was right. As deadly as Bloodhawk was with his abilities and those wicked claws, Shockwave had him beat in hand-to-hand combat. Thank you, 405th Infantry. Even so, Bloodhawk could take a pounding and still be lethal. Shockwave couldn’t let up for fear the fight would turn in a second. The villain was younger, relatively fresher than Shockwave was at his age now.
“Stay down, you piece of filth.” Shockwave hit Bloodhawk in the face again with his fist. The sap gloves provided extra punch, but they were beginning to chafe his knuckles. “I’m not letting you get away again.”
Bloodhawk spit out a dark wad. He levered himself up on elbows. “I’m—”
Shockwave’s boot connected with the villain’s ribs, shutting him up. As Bloodhawk rolled off the curb and into the street, Shockwave noted the little box-like device clipped to his belt. That had to be the source of the shielding.
“Keep talking.” The Guardian yanked the killer up by his spiked vest. “It’ll make it easier to knock out all those pretty teeth.” He headbutted Bloodhawk, and the villain sank to the ground.
Bloodhawk groaned and rolled on the asphalt, half-conscious. The device remained hooked to the villain’s garb. If it was removed, no doubt he’d become susceptible to Shockwave’s power once more.
A cool breeze tickled the nape of Shockwave’s neck as he reached for the little box. It was all the warning he received.
Instinct took control. He rolled to his right, coming up in a crouch, one hand balled into a fist, the other open and prepared to emanate his vibrations. Instead he found himself diving to the side, a pair of fireballs flashing over his head.
Shockwave took cover behind a parked car, his back against the fiberglass shell as he caught his breath.
“I wondered when you’d show. Too bad your partner didn’t have such a good time of this without you,” he shouted.
Shockwave peeked around the rear of the vehicle. Hellion was stepping out of a newly formed portal. A group of the flesh golems lumbered onto the street alongside the villain. Another ball of flame raced for Shockwave’s head, forcing him to duck behind the trunk.
“We’ll have to play another day, Shocky.” There was an edge to Hellion’s voice. Anger.
Must not like seeing his partner beaten so bad, Shockwave thought. Good. He could use that to take down both the villains.
“Why don’t you stay a while? Bloodhawk’s been having a great old time, ain’t that right, shithead?” Shockwave’s taunt elicited a barrage of fireballs against the car. Heat washed over and around the vehicle, causing discomfort but no lasting injury.
“Oh, you’ll get what’s coming to you, half-face,” Hellion taunted back. A quick peek around the car’s frame let Shockwave know Hellion had reached Bloodhawk.
“But it’ll have to wait,” Hellion said. “Gonna have to leave you to play with a few of our new friends instead. Enjoy.”
It was now or never. If Shockwave didn’t stop Hellion from dragging his injured partner through that portal, he would lose them. The flesh golems were a secondary concern. Those things weren’t shielded like the supervillains. At least so far as he knew.
Shockwave jumped to his feet. He had his hands outstretched to the last place he had seen his enemies, and released. The air shimmered with the vibratory force. Hellion was aiding his limping partner over the portal’s threshold. As with Bloodhawk earlier, the force appeared to wash over the villains without any considerable effect. The creatures in the way were flung aside.
The killers crossed into the cavernous locale of the other side of the portal and it snapped shut. Shockwave was left with nearly a dozen of the flesh golems. His quarries were gone.
“Damn it!” He felt his teeth grind together before he realized his jaw was clenching.
There wasn’t time to dwell on it. The creatures had righted themselves and were closing in.
His ribs ached, his hands throbbed, and the mass of minor wounds he had taken from Bloodhawk’s claws burned and itched in equal measure. Still, Shockwave stood tall as he met the monsters.
“Bring it,” he growled.
They climbed through the air, rising above many of the skyscrapers in seconds. Reaver battered her shoulders and spine with the butts of his axe handles. Valkyrie gritted her teeth and pushed upward. Each blow felt like it should have pulverized bone, cracked boulders. Her mythical toughness was the only thing keeping her from dying beneath Reaver’s blows, like so many others had done.
But, lord, it hurt!
When they were several hundred feet in the air, Valkyrie pushed away, kicking out against Reaver’s torso. There was a rage in Reaver’s red eyes, but no fear of the unrestrained fall he was about to undertake. The villain flailed, gravity reclaiming his mass. Valkyrie doubted even a drop of this far would do much damage to the villain, yet it should do enough, slowing Reaver down and perhaps using up the greater portion of his stolen energies.
For a second, the two combatants locked gazes. She saw the intent there a millisecond before Reaver acted. The falling giant launched one of his axes at her. Valkyrie had not predicted the villain would ever relinquish either of those prize weapons. The enchanted, double-bitted blade rotated through the air, closing the distance too fast to evade.
She attempted to deflect the spinning missile with the flat of her hand. There was a solid thump as her flesh connected and a bright streak of fire glanced off her belly. Valkyrie winced, sucking air into her lungs, yet the strike was merely glancing. Even with her attempt at deflection and her mythical armor, Reaver’s axe had rent the magical protection of her armor and drew a shallow line across the left side of her abdomen.
Reaver picked up speed as he fell.
Would her blood enhance his strength in proportion to her own power? In all their battles, Reaver had never shed her blood with one of those axes. He had caused her to bleed, one of the few villains capable of hitting her hard enough to do so, yet never managed to so much as nick her with one of those enchanted blades.
Rather than waiting to find out, Valkyrie twisted in the air and arrowed herself for Reaver’s falling form. She wished she still had her spear, but her fists would have to do. Her target was tumbling through the sky, and she didn’t care where she hit him, she just hoped it hurt. It would be the least of what he deserved.
In the time it took to inhale, she reached him. Reaver surprised her with a sudden twisting, bringing his remaining axe around to slash for her incoming face. Valkyrie flinched back, still speeding downward, and Reaver’s free hand managed to grip around her neck. The vise of his grip choked the air off from her lungs.
The ground was coming quick. Valkyrie grabbed for the wrist of the hand with an axe, stopping the shearing blade inches from her cheek as they tumbled together.
The force of their impact cracked the street and cause the surrounding pavement to deform in waves. Concrete debris formed a rain of hail and dust as the broken sidewalk settled around the epicenter, steel bars and pipes jutted from the ground like medieval stakes.
The landing had broken them apart, and it took Valkyrie a moment to find Reaver through the haze.
“Nice try, spear-maiden.” Reaver’s shadow loomed over her.
Instinct took over. Valkyrie rolled to the side.
The axe fell, striking a broken chunk of concrete on her right and splitting it in twain. “But as ineffectual as the others.”
She ducked under the vertical swipe meant to take her head. At the same moment she snapped a kick at his midsection, missing but keeping Reaver back. In her peripheral she spotted a familiar object.
“Keep talking, brute.” Valkyrie danced back from another vicious chop meant to end her. “You’ve never been smart enough to know when you’re beaten.”
When Reaver reared back to deliver another blow, she gripped her spear just below the bladed tip, pulled it from the mess of rubble, and swung hard. Placing every ounce of mythical power she possessed into the swing, the added reach of the spear’s length brought the butt of the weapon against Reaver’s skull before he could lunge. A resounding crack split through the air and Reaver went down on one knee.
Valkyrie knew this was her opportunity to turn the fight in her favor. Reaver was far from beaten, but she could finish the villain with another mighty blow. She stepped forward as he struggled to regain his senses. One heel dug into the broken landscape as Valkyrie prepared a kick which should put even a brute like Reaver to sleep.
Her vision exploded with invasive light and heat. Fire. In her eyes and over her face. She stumbled back, out of range of her foe. Whatever trickery this was she could not allow Reaver to take advantage. If he got those stone-cracking hands on her again, she might not be able to regain the upper hand.
She blinked away the pain as the last bits of flame dissipated. Valkyrie assumed a defensive stance, spear held horizontally in front of her, but no attack came. She found Reaver as the giant was backing into a glowing oval, the glare he sent her way said their battle was far from finished.
Another voice stole her attention. “Better luck next time.” Hellion straddled the portal, a ball of flame in each hand.
Valkyrie could see beyond the villains into what looked like a cave. There was a masked woman there as well, cradling one arm with the other, her red and gray costume blackened at one shoulder.
“Until next time,” Hellion said, and tossed the pair of fireballs at Valkyrie.
She smashed them from the air with her spear. When she next looked up, the portal was gone.