Rise of the Savior: Acolyte of Truth

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Chapter 20

Midnight comes, and Reign is in the sky, barely visible, making it pour rain.

“Keep that storm coming, water-girl. Over,” Saira says inside of Reign’s earpiece.

“Why are we listening to this little girl? She hasn’t earned the right to tell me what to do. I shouldn’t even be participating in this child’s play. That agency never valued me. I’m glad everyone’s dead. Always treating me like I’m second best, like I’m the sidekick. I’m the most powerful in the agency, not Kid. Kid, if I don’t accidentally kill you today, believe me, your days are numbered,” Reign says.

“Dude, because I’m not there and the person next in charge, Kid, wants the little girl in charge. Plus, this is still part of my plan. Over,” Richard says.

“Kid, what are you doing to these women that makes them want to kill you? Over,” Amanda says.

“I have no idea. Over,” Kid says.

“Reign, why did you even come here, you dumb bitch? Over,” Iri says.

“There’s a child on the line; don’t forget that. Over,” Kid says.

“How old are you girls, ten? Saira, how’s it going with evacuating the stragglers? Over,” Richard says.

Saira stands in a crowd of people with veins bulging out of her forehead and around the outside of her eyes. Tiny black hooks sprout out of her skin where the bulging veins end, hooking onto the corners of her eyes and eyelids and pulling them to make her eyes larger. “Two more left. On my way to one now. Over.” She places her hand on her chest and the other in front of her, then disappears, leaving a sparkle behind.

“Amanda, you doing alright? You’re not getting scared, are you? Over,” Kid asks through the headset.

“Not scared, just wet. Still no sign of anyone, but I know they’re out there watching and waiting. Over.” Amanda stands on the flat roof of a tall building, holding an umbrella.

“We’re prepared for the ambush if there is one. Iri and I are on standby, waiting for the signal. Amanda, please don’t prove me wrong. Your actions are proving you are a lot stronger. The old Amanda wouldn’t be here right now. No matter what the others say, you belong here with us. You remind me of myself. I wasn’t born a leader. Someone put me in a situation where I had no choice but to lead, and I rose to the occasion. I’m believing in you just like someone believed in me. I’m putting my life in your hands. Everyone here right now feels the same way. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here. Over,” Kid says.

“My life is in my own hands,” Reign says.

“You forgot to say over. Over,” Amanda says.

“Everyone shut up so we can keep the lines clear!” Richard yells.

“Boo,” Saira says as she appears in a derelict, dark room in front of a man sitting in a chair, watching tv. The man screams, then flips back in his chair.

“W-who are you?” he asks, scooting back as Saira slowly approaches him.

“I’m Saira, and I’ve come to take you to safety.”

He continues to back away until he bumps into a table, then reaches for his gun until he finds it. He fires his gun as Saira swaps places with him, and he continues to shoot even though nothing is in front of him until his gun clicks from being empty. Saira places her heel on the man.

“Hold on,” she says with her hand on her chest and palm extended outwards. She and the man disappear, leaving behind a sparkle, and they end up in a crowd of people.

“Were those gunshots I just heard? Over,” Kid says.

“Yes,” Saira says.

“Well, where are you? Are you okay?” Amanda asks.

“I’m fine. Going to the last person now.” Saira pops up in front of a girl who’s sitting in a chair with her legs crossed. She’s wearing a black halter top and has a curly updo and white patches on her face and arms.

“Boo,” says Saira, then looks at her blankly. “You’re the first person to not be frightened.”

“That’s because I’ve been waiting for you, Saira,” the woman says, handing Saira a piece of paper with words on it.

Saira reads it. “I’m an acolyte just like you, except I’m a time traveler from the future. With everything that’s going on, I’m sure it shouldn’t take much for you to believe me. I need you to turn off your earpiece.” Saira thinks about it, then turns off the earpiece. “If you’re from the future, what’s going on and what’s the outcome?”

“Right now, you and your sister are waiting for Ana and the child. You’re evacuating people. The outcome is you all win the battle, but Amanda dies in the process by sacrificing herself, self-destructing and blowing herself and Jamie into a million pieces. The future Kid from ATRA told me how everything went down and how it happened. All I had to do was plan where I needed to be and figure out who the best person to talk to is. You are that person. Only you can know of my existence at the moment, and no one can know what’s going to happen but you. Don’t say anything; just make sure your sister doesn’t self-destruct. Everything else can happen but that. I’m trusting you to prevent this from happening,” she says.

“If I prevent that, what happens after?”

“I don’t know what happens; it creates a new future I haven’t experienced yet. Could be a better one, or it could be worse,” she says.

“What’s your reason for doing all this?”

“If you all survive, come find me, and I’ll tell you why this matters. If you fail, I have one more time to retry this before I’m stuck with whatever the outcome is. Transport me and hurry back to your sister before you fail,” she says.

“Right, let’s go.” Saira turns her earpiece back on.

“Hello! Saira?” Amanda yells.

“I’m here.” She grabs onto the woman.

“Can you not turn off your earpiece? I thought something happened to you,” Amanda says.

“Sorry, won’t happen again. On my way back.” She takes the woman to the other evacuees, then finds her sister and teleports back to her.

“Did you save everyone?” Amanda asks.

“Yes,” Saira says.

“How’s your stamina? You didn’t use too much energy, did you?”

“I’m fine.” Saira’s eyes turn back to normal, and she closes them, but when she reopens them, her sclera looks like outer space and her irises show a vivid display of blues and pinks.

Amanda pats her on the head. “You did good.”

“Do you possess a skill that involves self-destructing you didn’t tell me about?”

“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Saira grabs Amanda’s arm tightly and pulls on it. “Yes, you do. Doing that won’t solve anything. It’ll only make things worse. Self-destructing will get us all killed because we need you to live. Please, just don’t do it. Trust in your teammates.”

“Okay. How did you even know I could do that?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Saira, I’m starting to have second thoughts about killing this guy. I don’t think I have it in me. I’ve never killed anyone before. I think I’m just going to capture him and bring him in.”

“Ridiculous,” Reign says.

“I trust you’ll do the right thing. Over. Are we still saying that, or are we done? Because I feel like I’m the only one saying it. Over,” Kid says.

“I’m sensing three prana signatures quickly approaching. What time is it?” Saira asks.

“Just turned midnight,” Richard says.

“Still no word from Ana. I’m going to try calling her,” Amanda says.

“She’s probably just a little late. Give her a few more minutes,” Richard says.

Jamie walks out of a shadow on the wall. His hands are covered with thread from his bracelet, and he has his black cloak on.

“I don’t think we have a few more minutes,” Amanda says.

“I see you evacuated the city. That makes me think something is wrong,” Jamie says.

“Nothing’s wrong. You know you’re going to have to turn yourself in for all the people you murdered after this, right?”

“Turn myself in to who? Your agency? Well, they don’t exist anymore. Death is a gift I give to others. The grave isn’t powerful enough to keep me contained, so it’s safe to say I’m invincible! Now, where is my son?”

“Kid, Iri. We’re outnumbered. I’m sensing three people in front of me right now: Jamie and two invisible acolytes,” Saira says.

“Got it. On our way,” Iri says.

Amanda’s cell phone begins to ring. “Hold on, Jamie, this is Ana about your son.” She answers it. “Hello?”

“Toss the phone to Jamie,” Ana says.

“What? Really?”

“Damn it! Give the phone to Jamie!”

“Okay. Hey Jamie, catch.” Amanda throws the phone like she’s throwing a fastball in the major leagues.

Jamie catches the phone and puts it to his ear.

“I’ve got some good news for you. Your son is being healed, and I’ll have him back to you shortly, if you fight Amanda. She’s a little confused about what she should be doing right now and needs a little push. This will be her first real battle, and she needs the experience. No need to hold back because I’m sure you’re going to lose. Oh, and fight her alone. No help. Don’t tell her what I said, either. Ciao!” Ana hangs up the phone.

The material begins to unwrap from Jamie’s hands, revealing his skeletal hand. The cell phone begins to decay until it’s nothing but dust. Jamie smiles. “You don’t know how happy and relieved I feel right now. You’re truly a remarkable woman for staying true to your word. Unfortunately, I have to destroy you now.”

“I didn’t come to fight you.”

Jamie summons his scythe and twirls it around.

“Nor did I come to kill you. But you’re making me nervous.” Amanda does her routine to summon her guns.

A portal opens, and Ameena jumps through. “Making me nervous, too!”

“Looks like we made it just in time,” Kid says, riding in on one of Iri’s snowflakes, then jumps off.

“All of us for this one guy?” Iri jumps off her own snowflake.

“Kid, do a gut shot in front of you right now,” Saira says.

Kid charges his metal arm with electricity and delivers a body shot to something, making sparks fly. Nancy, in her mime outfit, and Jacob are unveiled from an invisible cloak controlled by Nancy, and they fly backward, rolling on the ground and only stopping before they roll off the roof.

“How the hell did they see us? Did your invisible blanket blow off or something?” Jacob asks.

“Nope. My cloak was too heavy to blow, but somehow that little girl could see us and told that bloke where his punch should go,” Nancy rhymes.

“Always so flashy with the electricity,” Iri says.

“I can’t help it. I’m at my best in these conditions.” Kid notices Nancy moving around behind Jamie, shaking hands with the air. “What the hell is she doing?”

Nancy continues to pretend she’s shaking hands with ten people. She runs in a circle, pretending she’s giving them high-fives. Then, she stops and stares at Amanda and her group.

“I’m sensing ten more prana signatures matching that mime, and they’re surrounding us,” Saira says.

“Amanda. You and I end this today. Right now. We fight to the death,” Jamie says.

Kid stands in front of Amanda. “Let me handle this guy. I thought you might be able to handle him, but I don’t want to take the chance and lose you.”

Amanda steps back in front of Kid. “No, I’ve got this.”

“Amanda…” Kid says.

“Ex animo.” Amanda begins to transform into her yin form. She now wears a skin-tight white bodysuit with black lines all over it. Her green eyes are rimmed in bright red, and there’s a large gold choker around her neck and a black halo over her head.

Kid smiles. “He’s all yours.”

Nancy begins to walk forward.

“Your assistance isn’t needed,” Jamie says to her. She stops moving. “I only need your sister alive. The rest of you will die two deaths: one now, and another when I kill everyone who remembers your name.”

Saira stands next to her sister. “Let’s do this,” she says.

Chigaru slowly descends from the sky, laughing heartily with his arms folded. “You! I’ve been looking for you. I was beginning to think I scared you away.”

“I was just getting warmed up last time we fought. I’m pumped up and excited now,” Ameena says.

“Allow me to properly introduce you to these guys again. I present to you, the stone brothers,” Chigaru says, and two sarcophagi come out of the roof. The sarcophagi open, and two tall, muscly men wearing jackal masks come out. They are the same men Ameena fought before. “No holding back this time. This is the final act.”

“Ameena, let’s finish this.” Amanda holds out her fist.

Ameena bumps Amanda’s fist. “We got this.”

The building begins to shake and elevate higher into the sky. It stops when they are eye-level with an airplane flying by in the distance.

“We’d be screwed right now if we were human,” Kid says.

“Are you sure we aren’t still screwed now?” Amanda asks.

“Nope, not worried.”

“Stone brothers! Show her your concrete manipulation and generate, shape, and reform these city streets as you desire to catch your prey,” Chigaru yells.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jamie asks.

The concrete begins to tilt, and Chigaru laughs hysterically as everyone begins to slide off the building. Chigaru and the brothers dash toward Ameena. Ameena jumps off the building with her stomach to the sky, and Chigaru and the brothers follow, diving toward her.

“Shit. Every man for himself,” Kid says as everyone begins sliding toward the edge.

Nancy begins to float, pretending she’s holding a jet pack. Iri catches herself with one of her floating snowflakes. Jamie slides toward Amanda. Jacob turns into a giant bird and flies. Kid jumps off the roof with his hand in his pocket, unfazed.

Amanda and Saira continue to slide closer to the edge.

“Grab on. We need to find somewhere safe to land,” Saira says to Amanda. Amanda prepares to grab her sister, but one of Nancy’s invisible clones shoves Amanda hard, pushing her off the building.

“Just a heads-up: I’m currently falling without a plan. Feel free to save me,” Amanda says in her headset.

“You’re fine. Coming to get you now,” Saira says. She prepares to transport over to her sister, but before she can, she is grabbed by a giant bird and taken into the air. “Never mind. This giant bird took me.”

“Getting ready to freak out in three, two, one. Help! Help! I’m falling. I didn’t plan on dying like this!” Amanda screams and flails around in the air.

“Amanda, just keep falling, I’ll get you,” Kid says.

Iri sees Saira getting taken away. “I’m going for the other liability.” She begins to fly toward Saira on her snowflake. “These girls are ridicul—”

A bullet goes through her head. Icicles come out instead of blood when it exits her skull. Her body goes limp, then dissolves into ice, while her snowflake rises into the sky and heads toward the giant bird like a heat-seeking missile.

“Iri!” Kid screams. His wrists become wrapped in tree branches. “What the hell?”

On the ground, Jacob’s deity, a slouching man with skin as white as snow, long black hair, and dirt-filled eyes, mouth, nose, and ears is vomiting vines and tree branches into the sky, wrapping Kid up, and continues until his entire body is trapped. A large pink flower grows at the end of the vines. The deity quickly pulls Kid down to him, then closes his mouth, snapping the vines. Kid falls to the ground as the vines continue to get tighter and tighter around him.

“We’re getting wiped out down here.”

Amanda sees Jamie diving toward her. “Jamie is coming for me; I—”

Jamie shoots a large purplish-black energy beam from his hand, which reaches Amanda almost instantly. Amanda is engulfed in it, and she screams. There’s silence on the headset.

“Amanda, what happened? Amanda!” Richard says through the earpiece. No one responds.

“They’re all gone, Richard. Told you this was a bad idea,” Reign says.

The snowflakes begin to spin like saw blades until they reach the giant bird, cutting its legs and making it drop Saira. Saira quickly teleports to her sister and becomes cramped inside of a transparent, spherical blue shield.

“Glad there’s room for two in here,” Saira says.

“Yeah, but it’s only made for one. My shield was beginning to crack before you got in it. You just made it even harder to hold up. I can’t hold it together for too much longer! Now, get us out of here!” A pin-sized hole opens inside her shield and almost grazes Amanda’s forearm. She moves quickly as the thin ray continues to come through.

The beam barely misses Saira. “We’re in the lion’s den. Are you ready to face the lion?” Saira asks.

“Yeah, get me above him.” Amanda has a vision of herself falling on top of Jamie and bear-hugging him from behind, enclosing herself and Jamie in her shield, then self-destructing. “Wait, get us to the ground instead.”

“What?”

“If we go up there now, I’ll end up self-destructing for some reason. Take us to the ground.”

“Alright. Well, flip around so I’m facing the ground.”

Amanda turns. Saira puts both palms forward and zooms toward the streets. She sees Jacob’s deity on the ground and swaps places with it.

Ameena, Chigaru, and his two deities drop hard next to Amanda and her sister and continue to fight. Ameena spins on the ground like she’s break-dancing, with her feet in the air and pink saw blades on the bottom of her feet. Chigaru and his henchmen back away from her. While spinning, she slices open the side of Kid’s restraints, and Kid falls out coughing and gasping for air. He tries to get off the ground but can’t because he’s too weak.

Lighting strikes down and hits Kid, and he gets up instantly. “That thing drained me of my energy, but I feel better now.” Electricity radiates from Kid. He draws his katana from his back and swings it, and it sparks when it makes contact with something invisible and hard. “Well, this is annoying.” He begins swinging his katana rapidly, deflecting invisible bullets and sending sparks everywhere.

The pink saw disk launches from Ameena’s feet toward one of the stone brothers. He blocks it with the gold bracelet on his wrist. Ameena dashes through a building, and the other deities pursue.

A giant bird flies closely above Amanda, massive snowflakes spinning like saw blades hot on its tail. Iri appears from the piled-up snow coming out of one of the snowflakes. “Iri, back in action,” she says, continuing to pursue the bird.

“What a shame. I thought you were dead,” Reign says.

“In your dreams. My snow clone is dead.”

Amanda stares at Kid as he swings his sword wildly. “Kid, what are you doing?”

“Invisible bullets are entering my electric field.” He continues swinging as sparks fly from him. “I can determine the direction of travel with my e-field.”

“It’s probably those invisible girls. I can help you spot them with my eyes,” Saira says.

“I’m fine. I can use my electromagnetic waves to see them. It’s similar to a bat’s echolocation, only with electromagnetic waves. Help your sister. Your fight is getting ready to start in a few seconds.” Kid closes his eyes, and a blue and green 3D image of the world shows up around him. He looks up in the sky and sees one of the mimes flying on a jet pack with a machine gun in her hand. Electricity flows around Kid’s entire body, and he lets go of his sword and begins controlling it using electromagnetism. Before he turns himself into electricity and attaches himself to his sword, he blasts toward the mime with a ray of explosive blue energy, sword extended.

Before he reaches the mime, he reappears, grabs onto the sword, and cuts the invisible mime’s heads off. He instantly sees the other one and repeats the process while still in the air.

“Amanda bring up your shield, quickly,” Saira says. Amanda raises her shield just before Jamie jumps from a shadow on the ground, leading with his scythe in hand. His scythe creates sparks as it connects with Amanda’s shield, knocking her to the ground and shattering her shield.

Amanda looks up and smiles, then begins dashing toward Jamie. He swings his scythe toward her, sending a blast of energy with it. Saira anticipates the move and quickly swaps out the blast with the big bird flying in the sky as soon as it’s unleashed. Amanda’s legs turn yellow, increasing her speed. She slides under the giant bird before it flies back into the sky, closing the gap between herself and Jamie. He spins his scythe in front of him like an airplane propeller as Amanda keeps moving toward him. Saira tosses a penny in the air and swaps his scythe with it, making sure it doesn’t touch her. Amanda throws a punch, and he dodges and grabs her forearm; she throws another one with the opposite hand, and the same happens. Jamie notices she has a thin blue shield where he is grabbing, and his decaying power has no effect on her. Amanda brings her knee up to Jamie’s chin, snapping his neck back. He quickly snaps his head back into place.

“A new suit that changes colors that comes with a shield… if that’s supposed to beat me, you’re in for a rude awakening!”

“Shut up, bitch.” She turns the lower half of her body red, increasing her muscle mass and giving her greater striking power. She brings her leg up quickly and sends Jamie flying backward just before her shield shatters on her forearm.

“Ten seconds is all it takes to shatter your shield,” Saira says.

“Noted.” Amanda takes a fighting stance, and the brawl continues.

***

Chigaru is in a building, looking around for Ameena with the stone brothers by his side. Two circular pink disks come flying toward Chigaru, and he lies flat in midair, dodging both by making sure his tail is tucked in. Ameena quickly appears, wraps Chigaru’s ankles up with her tail, and slams him through the floor while still holding one hand in the air to control one of the disks. The pink disk comes slicing through the floor from above them. The stone brother blocks the disk away from Chigaru.

Chigaru wraps Ameena’s ankles up with the bandages from his wrist, flips her, and slams her through the floor. One of the stone brothers drops through the floor, picks Ameena up, and uppercuts her through a few floors in the building. Then, stone spikes shoot through the bottom of the building, reaching Ameena. Before being pierced with them, she quickly creates circular pink blades with her feet and is able to block the spikes but is quickly grabbed by Chigaru’s bandages and thrown hard in the air through more floors. Another uppercut comes from another one of the stone brothers, knocking her up more floors, followed by a stone pillar, which knocks her through the roof. Chigaru meets her in the sky, landing a devasting blow that sends her hurtling like a comet into the ground, leaving a crater. Concrete begins to fill in the hole as Ameena tries to get out, but the concrete quickly hardens, leaving only her hand showing.

Chigaru laughs, floating down to the ground next to Ameena’s hand. “Don’t tell me this was your best effort. How disappointing.”

***

“Hmm, what to do with you,” Saira hears Iri saying over the earpiece as she continues to watch the fight between Jamie and her sister. Amanda runs around, dodging purplish-black blasts Jamie is shooting from his skeleton fingertips like machine guns.

“Look, don’t kill me. I didn’t have a choice. The skeleton guy, Jamie—if you don’t do what he says, you die automatically. He ordered us to try to kill you guys and take the girl. When I say we, I mean Nancy, the mime girl too,” Jacob says loudly enough to be heard through the earpiece.

“I should just kill you now and get this over with,” Iri says.

“Wait. Don’t do that. I’ve got a better idea. I’m already as good as dead anyway. When you guys defeat Jamie, I’ll probably end up dying right along with him. I’m tired of being his slave, and I’m ready to make things right.”

“Did everyone else hear that?” Iri asks.

“Yes,” everyone says.

“What’s the verdict, guys?” Iri asks through the headpiece.

“Don’t kill him. I believe him,” Amanda says. She puts her left palm out in front of her, which brings up her shield. She turns her entire body yellow and takes off running toward Jamie. Jamie continues shooting his blasts toward her. Saira watches Amanda closely as her sister’s shield begins to crack.

“And if you’re wrong?” Iri asks.

“Look, if the guy really wanted to kill you, he could have turned into something small, crawled in your nose, grew to his regular size, and killed you,” Amanda says.

“She’s made her point. Amanda, get closer, and I’ll swap your position with his. When that happens, turn around and finish him,” Saira says, preparing her hands to swap Amanda and Jamie.

“I don’t think my shield is going to hold up!”

“Sister, remember what I said. Don’t stop moving forward because I’ve got your back.”

“I trust you!”

Amanda lets out a war cry as she closes the gap between herself and Jamie. Just as her shield breaks, Saira swaps Jamie and Amanda’s places. They are now back to back with each other.

Jamie looks confused as Amanda quickly turns around and fires her gun at the back of Jamie’s head, putting a bullet through it and making him fall flat on his face.

Amanda falls to her knees and sits there. “It’s finally over.” Her suit disappears.

“You did it? Way to go, Amanda!” Kid says through the headset.

“Hey, this is no time to let your guard down. We still have to worry about the other one,” Saira says.

“The mime has been taken care of. She trapped herself in an invisible box. I don’t think she wants to fight anymore. I kind of feel like she never wanted to. It makes what the other guy said seem even more true. I think they’re being held against their will,” Kid says.

“Um, my suit just disappeared. This power-down happened automatically. I wasn’t exhausted or anything. Ex animo,” Amanda says. Her outfit instantly disappears. “I don’t think that’s normal.”

“Sounds like your powers are disappearing because your deity is dying. I see Chigaru at the corner of McKinney Street, fading in and out next to a furry hand coming out of the concrete. That’s probably your deity’s hand. With his acolyte dead, he should disappear soon,” Kid says.

“We have to save her!” Amanda says.

“There’s nothing we can do against those deities. We’ll be destroyed instantly if we try to fight them. I don’t know where my deity is,” Iri says.

“Mine doesn’t like me,” Kid says.

“I’d rather not got mine involved,” Saira says.

“There’s nothing we can do to save your deity, sorry,” Kid says.

“I have a solution for that. Seems like a good time to right my wrongs, or at least a piece of them. I’ll send my deity to assist,” Jacob says through Iri’s earpiece.

“I’ll save Amanda’s deity. I don’t trust that man or his deity. I shouldn’t need any help if Chigaru is going to vanish. Iri, come pick up my sister,” Saira says.

“On our way. Flew kind of far chasing bird-boy here. Are you in the same spot as before?” she asks.

“Yeah. So, I’m just supposed to be a sitting duck?” Amanda asks.

“This is the safest place for you right now,” Saira says to Amanda. Saira begins moving by teleporting to items along the road.

She arrives near Chigaru and hides behind a car.

“I see a hand stuck in the concrete and Chigaru standing over it with those two giants next to him. It fits the description of your deity.” Saira zooms in with her eyes, then ducks back behind the car.

Chigaru’s ear wiggles, and he smirks.

“What’s the plan?” Amanda asks.

“Well—” The car Saira is behind is flipped high in the air.

“Hello, little flea.” Chigaru towers over Saira as he fades away, then disappears along with the stone brothers. Saira runs toward the hand and tries to touch it with her foot, but a giant white glove grabs Saira firmly around her entire body, leaving only her head visible. The glove moves back just as bandages begin slapping the ground like jump rope. Chigaru floats down in front of her.

“Glove, who told you to interfere? She’s mine to kill, not yours,” Chigaru says.

“How are you still here?” Saira asks.

“You didn’t think I was gone forever, did you? No one can defeat me with deities at my disposal and adding this dog deity to my dead collection will be a great addition to the team!” The stone brothers walk up, and one stands on each side of Chigaru.

“Your acolyte is dead. Aren’t you supposed to fade away?”

“My acolyte was dead. Glove, since you already have the girl, crush her now.” A fiery red aura glows around the glove, and it begins to shake and squeeze Saira just a little tighter.

“Amanda. Run away from there now. I think Jamie is alive,” Saira says.

“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Amanda says.

“Let go of me.” Saira struggles to escape.

“This is going to be entertaining.” Chigaru smiles, looking at the giant glove glow, but his grin vanishes as the hand punches Chigaru and the stone brothers, sending them flying through buildings for miles.

“Let me go,” Saira says. The glove drops her. She runs to Ameena’s hand and touches it with her foot. Then, she swaps places with the glove, freeing Ameena. Ameena lies on the ground, lifeless.

Saira tries to perform CPR but can’t push her chest down. “Can you do anything to save her?”

The glove gives her a thumbs-up, then begins to do chest compressions on Ameena with its index finger. “Kid, I need you here now.”

“On my way,” Kid says.

***

Jamie’s jaw drops, and purplish-black smoke begins to seep from it. Amanda stops to catch her breath, then turns around and sees that she’s only run a few feet.

That’s it? I feel like a ran further than that, Amanda thinks to herself. The smoke erupts out of Jamie’s mouth like smoke shooting from an erupting volcano, quickly filling the sky and covering the ground. “Really?”

The smoke quickly travels across the ground, spreading far and wide. She begins running, but the smoke quickly catches up to her. Inches away from being touched, she is picked up by a giant bird.

Amanda looks up at the bird. “Thanks, Jacob. Wait, are you Jacob?”

The bird flies away from the smoke and hovers in the sky, watching as buildings that have come in contact with the smoke crumble and collapse.

“That’s an insane power he has. Hopefully, he can only do that once.” Amanda looks down at the destruction. “How do we get to him now? We can’t even see him or get near that stuff.”

The smoke begins to be pulled out of the sky as if being sucked down by a vacuum, and so does the smoke in the streets. It’s all being sucked into one focal point.

Iri rides in next to Amanda on her snowflake. “Let’s go and regroup with the others.”

They all begin flying to their destination.

***

Kid drops down from the sky to where Ameena and Saira are with Nancy. “What’s up?” he asks.

“I need you to strike Ameena with lightning. We need to restart her heart,” Saira says.

“Say no more. Um, excuse me, Mr. Glove. Could you please scoot over? Don’t want to accidently hit you.” He walks over and places his hand on Ameena’s chest. Lightning strikes down, hitting Kid’s hand and shocking Ameena. Ameena opens her eyes, looks around, and sees the giant white glove. She creates a pink energy blade at the end of her hand and prepares to attack it.

“Ameena, stop. That glove helped save your life,” Saira says.

The pink blade disappears from Ameena’s hand. “Wow! Thanks for saving me. They must have enhanced the concrete’s strength to hold me in there. Otherwise, I would have broken out of that stuff. Hey, do I have something in my nose?” Ameena shows the glove her nose. The giant glove gives her a thumbs-up. “So, does that mean I do?”

“Amanda, Ameena is alive. You should be able to transform now,” Saira says.

“Hear you loud and clear. Ex animo,” Amanda says in Saira’s earpiece. “Alright, I’m back in action, baby!” The bird drops Amanda off, then transforms into a naked Jacob.

“Glad to see all of your pretty faces,” Amanda says to the group in her white yin suit.

“What the hell is going on over there?” Kid asks.

“Jamie is alive, and apparently he exhales death-breath now,” Amanda says.

“Well, something is inhaling it right now. Whatever can inhale that and survive, I don’t want to meet it,” Kid says. They all watch the smoke being sucked in until it’s out of their field of vision.

Amanda, Jacob, and Nancy all hear a church bell ring.

“Did everyone hear that bell ring, or only me?” Amanda asks.

“I heard it,” Jacob says.

“I did too,” Nancy says.

“If you heard a bell, that could mean you’re about to die,” Saira says.

“When you’re fighting, there’s always a possibility of dying,” Amanda says.

“Did you hear it before?” Saira asks.

“No!” Amanda says.

“I just made my point.”

Jacob’s deity walks over to the group.

“Great, another one!” Ameena gets into her fighting stance and summons two pink saw blades in the palms of her hands.

“Wait, that’s my deity. It’s here to help,” Jacob says.

Boop shows up behind Jacob’s deity and shushes it.

“That’s mine, Boop. Stop bothering people and things and help us out,” Saira says.

“Hey, Amanda! Your new nickname should be ‘damsel-in-distress,’” Iri says.

Kid bursts into laughter. “That’s a good one, snowflake.”

“I don’t think this is the time to joke. I just heard the bell of death. I could die!” Amanda says.

Kid continues to laugh, then stops and clears his throat. “Right.”

Boop disappears, then reappears in front of Saira. The feathers on Boop begin to shake, and Boop bounces around in the air, making a body part appear with each bounce.

“Boop, what are you doing?” Saira asks.

First, arms pop out from the side. His arms are abnormally long, with blue feathers covering everything but his black hands. Next, black bird legs pop out. His talons turn to diamonds. Next, a featherless, well-defined neck and torso pop out. He stops bouncing. The feathers begin to move back off his face, revealing black skin, a nose, and a diamond smile that stretches from ear to ear. The ears aren’t visible because they’re covered with blue feathers. His triangular yellow eyes become reptilian slits with pink pupils. Long, narrow wings shoot from his back. The upper half of the wings are red diamonds, and the rest are regular diamonds, with gold lining the entire wing. He stands slightly taller than Ameena. He bows and snickers, then looks over at Jacob’s deity.

“Boop, I never knew you could do this,” Saira says.

He begins to goose-step toward Jacob’s deity, then vanishes, leaving behind a sparkle. He ends up behind Jacob’s deity and shushes it. Boop spins with his diamond wings expanded and cuts off the deity’s head. Blood squirts from its body, and everyone stares in disbelief. He opens his mouth wide enough to fit the deity’s body in it, then wraps his mouth around the deity’s torso, and the diamond teeth shred apart the rest of the body, squirting blood everywhere. Boop licks the blood off his teeth, then snickers, “Boop.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate. I guess we can call you ‘Damsel in Distress Number Two,’ now,” Kid laughs.

“I’m not a girl,” Jacob says.

He continues to laugh. “Who cares? You’re human now.”

“I can’t control him, and this is why I didn’t want him around. He’s unpredictable, and none of you are safe when he’s around,” Saira says.

“Nothing can be done about it now,” Jacob says.

***

A scythe comes through Amanda’s shadow and into her abdomen. Amanda looks down at it and coughs up blood. Jamie comes through Amanda’s shadow and stands behind her. His left eye is nothing but a black hole with a small white light in it. The only thing not covered by his black cloak is his face, which is now half-skeleton like his skeletal hands.

“The sands of time have already begun to pour against you,” he whispers in Amanda’s ear. He pulls his scythe out of Amanda, and she falls to her knees, tilting over and landing hard on the ground. Amanda ends up in Jamie’s kundalini world. When she gets there, Grim begins to clap while sitting at a desk.

“I’ve waited a long time to have this conversation with you!” he says.

“What is this place? I don’t have time for games,” Amanda says.

“The only game we’re playing here is the game of life. If you win, you live; if you lose, you die.” He slams his hands on the table in front of him. He summons a chair from the white void, sits Amanda in it, and pulls it up to the desk. “Now, let’s negotiate.”

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