Chapter 15: The Lines in the Sand
”It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog”
- Mark Twain
He stood amidst the chaos and stared down the barrel of the gun.
The people around them were screaming, panicking, fleeing in every direction, abandoning their cars and belongings and running for their lives, but Cinderblock was taking no more notice of them than a stampeding elephant would of a swarm of ants scurrying beneath its feet. He marched relentlessly down the street, kicking cars aside as he walked past, caring nothing for if they were occupied or who he might hit with them. His beady orange eyes were fixed on his target, and from his mouth issued a blood-chilling roar, a single word, one David had burned into his memory, one he had prayed he'd never hear again.
“Oh my god...”
Carrie was staring at Cinderblock as he stormed down the street towards them, her eyes wide with astonishment, frozen in place as though staring into the headlights of a fast-approaching freight train. David, whose reaction the first two times he had met Cinderblock had been reasonably similar, managed to snap out of it in time to grab Carrie by the wrist.
The streets were emptying quickly as residents and tourists dove into the nearest buildings or fled down side streets; anything to get out of the path of Cinderblock. Some threw themselves into the waters of Jump City Bay, others ducked behind parked cars and mailboxes or even leaped into dumpsters, all of them hoping the monster would just pass them by. Terrified though he was, David knew better than to imitate the other civilians. Cinderblock was unquestionably here for only one reason, and there was no hiding, not now, not from this. He had to drag Carrie only for a few steps before she too began running on her own power, and they ran as fast as they could down the street and towards...
... towards what exactly?
His mind was screaming at him to run, just to run, that it didn't matter where he ran to as long as it wasn't here, but deep inside his stomach he felt a terrible cold knot of fear forming. This time there might well be no evading Cinderblock at all. He could hear the thunderous footfalls of the concrete-and-steel juggernaut as it pursued him, and he realized slowly and with growing panic that this time the Titans would not be coming to his rescue. The Titans could have been a thousand miles away for all he knew, and Cinderblock would catch up with him in less than a minute. He needed to think of something, some place to go, some place to hide, some place Cinderblock couldn't...
Someone grabbed his arm and nearly pulled him off his feet to the side, and he snapped out of his thoughts to see that Carrie had ducked into an almost-hidden alleyway and dragged him into it. The alley was deserted for the moment, and without a word, Carrie scrambled into a dark corner, shadowed by the buildings around it, and crouched behind a trash can, pulling David down next to her as she did so.
“What is that thing?” asked Carrie breathlessly brushing her hair out of her eyes with one hand and steadying herself against the wall with the other.
“It's Cinderblock,” said David in a hollow voice. He was staring at the entrance of the alley, as though expecting Cinderblock to burst into it at any moment, but though the footfalls were still audible, they were now more irregular. It appeared that Cinderblock had lost track of where they were when they suddenly vanished into the alley, and was now trying to reacquire them.
“Who's...” began Carrie, and then she thought better of it and switched to a more important question. “What does he want?”
David turned nervously to face Carrie, his voice quivering as he spoke.
While David heard her breath catch, just for a second, she did not scream or run away, though it took her a second to compose herself enough to ask the next question.
“So what do we do?”
“I have no idea...” he admitted quickly, clutching the edge of the trash can hard enough to bend the aluminum. “Lemme... lemme think for a second...”
“Aren't the Titans going to show up and - “
“I don't think so,” he said. “I think... I think they...” he didn't know what to think about where the Titans were, but it was clear now that this was all a setup, a trap to get him out in the open where Cinderblock could take a crack at him.
“So then... what are we gonna do?”
He closed his eyes and clenched his fists hard around the lip of the trash can and tried to focus, tried to think clearly. Cinderblock was after him, and the Titans couldn't help. He needed some kind of a plan, and fast, and he tried to control his fear long enough to generate one.
“We need to... get to the Tower,” he said after a moment or so. “There's security systems there, stuff Cyborg built. I think... I think they might be able to stop Cinderblock.” It was not perhaps the most brilliant or inspired of battle plans, but it was better than sitting in an alley and waiting to be crushed like beetles.
Apparently Carrie agreed, as she made no argument, but instead raised her head to glance up and down the alley. “How do we get to the Tower?” she asked. “Isn't it on an island?”
“There's a tunnel, under the bay,” said David rapidly, expecting Cinderblock to round the corner at any moment. “It comes out at the waterfront, onto Battery Street.”
This news made Carrie hesitate. “David,” she said, “that's ten blocks from here. We'll never make it that far without - “
“I know!” exclaimed David breathlessly, cutting her off and glancing ever-more-nervously up the alley, “but I don't know what else to do.”
“Well aren't you a...” began Carrie, her voice catching, “... a meta... whatever? A superhero? Can't you do something?”
“Not by myself!” he responded with urgency. “He'll rip us both to pieces! We have to get back to the tower before he - “
David was in turn cut off, but not by Carrie. Instead his voice failed as a thunderous roar echoed down the alleyway from somewhere out in the street beyond, loud enough to rattle the windows overhead. It was followed in short order by the sound of metal being rent and glass being shattered, mixed with a chorus of high-pitched screams. David's heart skipped a beat as he heard the bloodcurdling screams, and before he knew what he was doing, he was sprinting down the alleyway towards the street, Carrie hot on his heels, and he ground to a halt just next to the entrance and stuck his head out to see what was happening.
It was a scene straight out of a nightmare. Cinderblock, temporarily cheated of his quarry, had apparently decided to take his rage out on a red and silver Jump City municipal transit bus, filled to capacity with panicked, terrified civilians. The front part of the bus had been peeled off like a sardine can lid and tossed into the street, and the bus driver lay motionless on the ground next to it, the radio with which he had desperately tried to summon aid still held in his hand. Cinderblock was reaching inside, groping around with his huge, concrete hand for a victim to snare. With a roar of victory, the monster's fist clenched around a little girl in one of the front seats, and she was dragged screaming out of the bus. The girl's mother shrieked for help, desperately scrambling over the ruined front section of the bus to get to her daughter, but Cinderblock ignored her, and let out a primal roar as he prepared to spike the struggling child onto the pavement like a football. And faced with all this, David did the only thing he could think of to do.
He reached out with his mind to a piece of pavement a dozen feet behind Cinderblock, and he detonated it.
The blast was not very impressive, barely even audible over everything else, but Cinderblock heard it, and he instantly stopped his roaring and turned around, all else forgotten in a heartbeat. For a brief instant, Cinderblock and David stared at one another, and then a leering grin spread across the giant's face, and with no further thought for anything but his target, Cinderblock dropped the little girl onto the pavement, bruised but unharmed, lifted his finger to point straight at David and shouted his eternal battle-cry.
David did not respond to Carrie, for Cinderblock had divested himself of the little girl, and consequently, he no longer had to settle merely for getting Cinderblock's attention. Whether or not he couldstop Cinderblock, he would have to at least slow the monster down if they were to make an escape. He extended one hand forward, and clenched his fist, trying desperately to keep his concentration as Cinderblock stomped towards him. He felt Carrie jerk back in fear next to him, but he threw his fingers out, palm forward, as though he were signing for an explosion, and as if in mimicry a fire hydrant sitting on the sidewalk next to Cinderblock blew up. The water within burst forth as a cloud of pressurized steam, instantly shrouding the entire area in a dense, thick fog. Visibility dropped to nothing in a split second, and David altered his perception such that he was no longer staring at cloud, but at molecules of water floating in those of air, and behind them, a lumbering mass of silicates and rock, stumbling in a circle, clearly disoriented.
“Come on!” he shouted to Carrie, who needed no encouragement, and the two teens ran as fast as they could down the street away from the confused juggernaut. Momentary the confusion proved, for David could soon hear Cinderblock stomping after them, his footfalls causing the very ground to shake. He expected at any moment to feel Cinderblock grabbing him from behind, and his fear pressed him to run faster, ever faster, and so it was that he did not notice when Cinderblock's footfalls stopped all of a sudden.
Fortunately Carrie did.
“Look out!” she shouted, and she practically tackled David, throwing both of them to the ground as an SUV passed over their heads and rolled down the street ahead. David landed hard on the pavement, tearing his jacket's elbow out, and rolled over onto his back in time to see Cinderblock pick up a motorcycle and lob it towards them. Almost automatically, he reached upwards with one hand and with his mind and commanded the gasoline inside the motorcycle's gas tank to detonate. The bike exploded into a fireball a dozen yards away, sending flaming debris raining down on them like confetti. Gasoline fumes and acrid smoke swirled around them as David and Carrie scrambled back to their feet, and with Cinderblock momentarily distracted by the unexpected blast, the two teens raced around the corner.
Coughing and gasping, David forced himself to keep running, down one block after another, even as the sound of the footfalls behind them resumed. He knew that they needed more time. Even running flat-out, they could not hope to outrun Cinderblock for long. Their only hope was to delay him long enough to get to...
They rounded one more corner onto Battery street, and stopped.
“Oh god...” said Carrie, her voice turned hollow and thin. She glanced to David, as if for guidance as to what they should do now, but David was standing in a stunned daze, unable to speak or even believe what he was seeing.
Battery street was teeming with people.
Hundreds of people, mostly civilians, all were gathered before David and Carrie like footage from the aftermath of some great disaster. Reporters stood on the sides of the crowd, speaking earnestly into microphones and TV cameras, relaying the details of what was happening. Police were trying to herd the crowd into some sort of order, EMTs were administering first aid to the injured, but David's eyes were drawn not to any of them, but off to the side, where there stood a large gaggle of children, some as old as David or Carrie, some as young as kindergartners. The kids looked reasonably nondescript, all ages, all races, all sexes represented within them, but what stood out was that here and there within the group of children stood a handful of adults, each of which wore a collared black shirt with white lettering boldly printed across the front for all to see, shirts that David himself had always thought looked incredibly stupid, which seemed to serve only to draw attention to the unique status of the children these adults were chaperoning whenever they were allowed out on weekend excursions...
The shirts read “Department of Child Services”
For a few moments, David actually forgot about Cinderblock. This could not be happening. The only possible way back to Titan's Tower was blocked by a horde of civilians that had just... materialized? This was some kind of sick joke being played by the universe, and he half expected to see the civilians all vanish the instant he blinked his eyes. And worse yet, DCS was here? He knew that the DCS people often took the foster kids to places like public parks or other free venues for kids' entertainment on weekends, weather permitting, but the co-incidence that he should run into them here of all places was so incalculably unfathomable that he suspected he was seeing things. To his abject horror, he realized that he recognized half a dozen of the older kids, other veterans of the state foster care system he had known from this orphanage or that one, though thankfully, none of them seemed to have noticed him yet.
And quite soon, bigger issues intervened.
The sound of Cinderblock's approaching footsteps was soon quite easily detectable, and predictably, panic shot through the civilians as they realized what was coming. Some tried to run, but the crowd was thick enough, and the exits from the street few enough, that there was no way the area would clear before Cinderblock hit them. Behind the refugees was hidden the tunnel that led under the bay to the Tower itself, but David knew that there was no question of getting there now. Cinderblock would hack a path straight through the panicked crowd and kill dozens if not hundreds, many of them people he knew. He turned to Carrie, to see if she had any better ideas as to what had to be done now, but she appeared equally stunned to silence, and merely turned to look at him with the same question written on her face, and slowly, the realization that they had just run completely out of options began to settle into his stomach like a lump of lead.
They could no longer escape, not without causing the deaths of hundreds of people. There were no more side streets to dart down, and even if there were, it would not serve to get them away from Cinderblock, for the way to the tunnel was blocked by the screaming, frenzied crowd. Cinderblock was advancing up behind them, and when he reached the crowd, he would commit a hideous massacre that would make his previous crimes look like parking tickets. The handful of police on-hand were not equipped to stop Cinderblock, nor were the civilians going to be able to get away before Cinderblock smashed into them.
So Cinderblock had to be stopped.
Both of them seemed to understand what was about to happen at the same time, and it was Carrie who spoke up first.
“I... thought you said you couldn't do anything by yourself,” she said nervously, as both she and David turned their backs to the screaming crowd and faced up the street in Cinderblock's direction.
David felt queasy, he was beginning to shiver, and not with cold. “I did,” he managed to whisper, trying to stop his teeth from chattering.
She nodded understandingly and looked back up the street. “Is there... something I can do...?”
David shook his head. “Not unless you have superpowers that I don't know about...” he said, with no laugh to accompany the gallows humor. Every approaching footstep felt like a gunshot straight to his heart, and he was afraid he was going to pass out right here.
Carrie turned her head to face him and forced a smile, putting a hand on his shoulder and gripping tightly, in support. He put his hand atop hers and squeezed, closing his eyes and wishing he knew how to pray or meditate or do anything to still the racing fear that was coursing through him. “You can do this,” said Carrie in a low voice that was almost a whisper. “I know you can do it. The Titans know you can do it. You can stop him.”
He tried to respond with a joke or a lighthearted comment, or even just a thank you, but the best he could manage was a weak smile. His fingers were trembling as he squeezed Carrie's hand extra hard, and then he let go and walked a few paces forward into the middle of the street, facing Cinderblock's direction, as Carrie slowly withdrew to the side of the street, and took cover behind a parked car.
Cinderblock was now in view, moving with even, unhurried strides towards a quarry who could no longer run, and David watched as the living monolith finally stepped out of the smoke and dust and stopped twenty feet ahead of him, leering down at the insignificant creature that had caused it so much bother. The crowd behind David gave a cry of alarm that quickly faded into whispers as the civilians realized that there was someone standing between them and Cinderblock, someone none of them could immediately recall having seen before, but whose very presence was enough to make Cinderblock hesitate.
“Devastator...” said Cinderblock with a low, guttural growl of malice as he glared down at his prey.
His mouth was dry, and his voice was weak, but David stared up at the engine of all the pain and death that had surrounded him for months on end, and replied with a soft voice.
Cinderblock seemed unconvinced, to say the least, and snorted, growling at David like some kind of over-sized attack dog, but much as he wanted to run and hide, he did not back down. Instead he regarded his adversary, bitter anger starting to rise in his throat as he thought of all that Cinderblock had done, all the helpless people slaughtered in the name of whatever mad quest Cinderblock was on, and he raised his hand slightly and felt the molecular structures of the air and the ground and the objects around him ready to bend to his will. And then he raised his eyes to look Cinderblock in the face, and clenched his teeth as he spat out a final word. Robin or Beast Boy or Cyborg might have thought up a witty catchphrase to use here, one that would show Cinderblock that they weren't afraid of him, and that would impress upon him that to tempt their wrath was a dangerous prospect, but David was afraid, and Cinderblock had tempted his wrath before, and knew what it was like. He was fooling no-one. So he simply hissed out his own frightened challenge through his clenched teeth.
“Get away from me or I'll kill you!”
If Cinderblock was intimidated, he gave no sign, growling and snarling at David like a feral wolverine, before letting out a savage roar and lunging forward at the same time that David detonated the manhole cover underneath him.
And then it got messy.
Robin awoke to find himself wreathed in smoke and the muffled sound of gunfire.
He was sitting in the T-car, that much he knew, and he automatically forced his mind to play back the events that had just transpired, viewing them as one would footage from a crime scene, not letting supposition or panic get in the way as he gave his head time to clear and trusted that it would of its own accord. Slowly the details of the situation slid into focus. The jagged remains of shatterproof glass along the edge of the windshield, the deflated airbag sitting in his lap, the flames flickering outside the passenger window, all of these things told him, before he had even had time to remember what had happened, that he was indeed sitting in the T-car, that there had been an accident. He tried to concentrate on his own body, see if there was any pain that he wasn’t noticing yet. His nerves were such that he actually had to concentrate on pain in order to really feel it, but other than aches and what would no doubt become bruises, there was nothing. All of his limbs moved when he told them to. He was all right.
So where were the others?
He reached down to unbuckle his seat belt and found that a piece of shrapnel had pinned it in place. With a single gesture, he pulled a birdarang out of his belt and sliced the restraints off of him, the motion so automatic that he did not even have to think about it, and could concentrate instead on remembering what happened. They were on the road, traveling back to Jump City. There had been a power spike ahead. A missile had struck the T-ship. Robots had attacked the car. Cyborg had swerved off the shoulder and…
Robin’s eyes opened up wide behind his mask. The T-ship…
He grabbed at the sides of the shattered windshield and pulled himself out of the car, his kevlar-laced gloves repelling the broken glass, and he leaped out onto the grass, turned a somersault and stood up in one motion. Immediately he was checking his surroundings. Broken, crumpled bodies lay scattered around the car itself, robotic bodies, each one showing signs of extreme trauma to the torsos and heads. One had a hole the size of a beach ball blasted through it, another’s head had been batted clean off and was sitting twenty yards away from its body, the imprint of a giant metal fist stamped into its lifeless red eye. More sounds of gunfire were coming from his right, and he drew his staff from the pouch on his back in one hand and pulled a communicator out with the other.
“Cyborg!” he called into the communicator. “Starfire! Raven! Beast Boy! Can anyone hear me?”
They were not dead. He refused to allow himself to even think that. Their communicators were broken or they were busy fighting the other robots and couldn’t reach them to respond. He needed to rally them somehow, regroup and assess what they were actually facing, and without waiting to formulate a better plan than that, he turned and ran towards the trees from which the gunfire was coming. And as he did this, he heard a harsh mechanical sound like a garbage disposal or a blender turned on to high speeds and thrown into a bathtub of water, and the knot inside his stomach loosened a bit, because he knew what made that sound.
Cyborg burst out of the trees, running as fast as he could towards the smashed T-car, and seemed surprised to see Robin awake, alive, and running towards him, but did he not stop. Every dozen paces or so, he turned back to fire his sonic cannon into the bushes and trees from whence he had emerged, sending shafts of bluish energy stabbing through the undergrowth at unseen foes. Whatever was chasing him seemed to think better of it, and he was able to run the rest of the way over to Robin unmolested, breathlessly reciting what he knew so far.
“I got knocked outta the car when we went off the road,” he said. “I tried to get to you, but there was too many of 'em, so I led 'em back into the woods. There's dozens out there!”
“Did you see the others?” asked Robin quickly. “Did you see where the T-ship went down?”
“The ship didn't go down man, it blew up in mid-air. I got knocked off the road before I could see if the others bailed out, and they're not responding to my calls.”
“We have to find them,” said Robin tersely. “We have to regroup and try to - “
A crashing of branches and brush cut Robin off as a firing line of half a dozen robots broke through the line of underbrush ahead, six-barreled miniguns and rocket launchers affixed to their limbs. Cyborg let out a yell and dove to one side, firing his sonic cannon and blasting the head off of one of the bots, even as the others opened fire, sending hails of slugs and streaking missiles soaring towards the two superheroes.
Robin flung himself to the ground as a fusillade of shells passed overhead, and rolled to the side as missiles impacted the dirt near him, sending showers of earth raining down. Snatching an explosive birdarang from his belt, he flung it at the robots, catching one square in the chest and sending it crumpling to the ground. A tree loomed ahead, and he darted for it, taking cover behind its massive trunk. Cyborg was out in the open blasting away at the robots with his sonic weaponry, slugs from the miniguns pinging off his armored frame even as missiles streaked past. Having lost track of Robin, the remaining robots turned on the metallic Titan, and Robin sensed an opening.
He knew never to hesitate when he sensed an opening.
Racing out from behind the tree, Robin sprinted at the nearest robot, who turned to bring his machine gun back around onto Robin. Too late. Robin leaped high into the air and flipped, bringing his staff down onto the robot's head with all his might and momentum, crushing it like a grape. As the robot fell, its neighbor took a shot with a rocket launcher, but the missile had no time to track its target, and missed high, spiraling off into the trees, and Robin landed behind his fallen enemy and extended the staff like a spear, catching the robot under the arm and upending it. Robin stepped over the downed robot, dropping a timed explosive onto it as he passed, and with his left hand, drew two more birdarangs and hurled them like shiruken at the two remaining robots. One was hit in the face, and fell instantly with a missing head. The other was struck in the arm, and lasted but a moment longer as the explosion of the birdarang set off the ammunition it carried within its rocket launcher, and blew the robot to pieces.
Cyborg had dents all over his front and side armor from where the heavy slugs of the robots' miniguns had struck him, but he remained unbowed, and he raced back over to where Robin was standing in the midst of the smashed robots. Cyborg's scanners were deployed, and he waved his arm slowly back and forth in front of the woods, as Robin watched for signs of more enemy.
“I don't get it,” said Cyborg. “There were at least a hundred and fifty signals on the T-car's scanner when we got jumped, but I haven't seen more than a dozen or two robots coming this way. Where's all the others?”
As if in answer to Cyborg's question, a loud blast echoed through the forest from somewhere ahead and to the right, and there was a green flash followed by a puff of smoke and the sound of much gunfire. As the two heroes watched, an entire robot, weapons and all, arced up into the air high enough to be seen over the tree canopy, and was summarily vaporized by a beam of bright green energy that flashed up from somewhere on the ground.
“Starfire!” cried Robin, and he took off into the woods towards the location of the blast, using his staff like a machete to swat brush and branches aside as he ran. Cyborg followed after him, ripping through trees and bushes as he continued to scan for the robots. One or two more enemies tried to intercept, but Robin did not even pause to deal with them, and hurled birdarangs out of either hand as he sprinted past. It was barely thirty seconds later before he burst out of the brush into a large, open clearing.
Starfire was in the center of the open space, in mid-air, her clothing and hair singed black, but her eyes and fists glowing green with righteous fury. Dozens of robots stood all around her in a loose circle, and missiles and hosepipes of waspish projectiles streaked through the air from their guns. Already at least twenty more bots lay smashed on the ground, many of them rent to pieces and cast about like the broken playthings of a clumsy giant, and more were joining them as Starfire swooped and spun and twisted and dove and cried out in her own language as she flung starbolts into the robots with their hands, and consumed them to ashes with beams of energy from her eyes. Always though, more came out of the woods, firing full tilt at anything they could see, and some of them carried electric net launchers, several of which she nimbly avoided before blasting those that had fired them into piles of melted circuitry.
Robin didn't hesitate. “Cyborg! Cover me!”
He charged into the maelstrom like a possessed demon, stabbing one robot in the back with his staff and slamming the war machine face first down into the ground, before using it's fallen body as a pivot to pole vault forward and into another one. His titanium-soled boots rang like churchbells as they collided with the second robot's head, snapping its servos and shutting it down. The nearby robots now noticed him, and they began to turn to bring him down as well, but suddenly Cyborg was upon them, wielding an entire uprooted tree like a two-handed club, tossing robots aside like rubber balls as he swung it back and forth. Still others took aim at Robin, but he sprung like a grasshopper and twisted like a contortionist, tossing more explosive birdarangs whenever he could, striking robot after robot with his staff and his boots and even his fists, always careful to keep his target between the other robots and himself. Still the shots flew uncomfortably close. A missile nearly took his head off before Starfire atomized the shooter with a starbolt, and a burst of minigun fire tore holes through his cape like swiss cheese, and creased his shoulder close enough to raise a blister, but Cyborg crushed the robot like a sardine can with his uprooted tree before it could correct its aim.
Yet more robots poured from the woods, stepping over the fallen bodies of their brethren to fire and fire and fire some more. A missile struck Cyborg in the shoulder and knocked him down, his armor peeled back and jagged, but Cyborg merely yelled even louder and retaliated with a blast of his sonic cannon so intense that it melted three of the robots into slag, and shattered the arm of a fourth. A near miss by a missile caught Robin as he was flipping through the air, and sent him crashing into a tree, but his instincts served him well, and by the time he had hit the ground he was ready to leap again. He didn't know how many of the enemy there were, or where Beast Boy and Raven were at, but he knew they couldn't stop now, they had to drive back this assault if any of them were to survive this day.
But as he finished smashing another robot to pieces with a flurry of blows from his staff, already planning on how to spin and take down the next one, as well as trying to imagine where Raven and Beast Boy could have gotten to, he heard Starfire scream, and his blood froze.
He turned around to see that Starfire had darted low to the ground to evade more missiles, and a robot from within the woods had launched another electrified net at her, one she had not seen in time. With a cry of pain, she halted in mid-air as though she had collided with an invisible wall and plunged into the ground like a falling rock. The robot stepped forward to finish Starfire off, but the Tamaranean was made of sterner stuff than it expected, and Starfire scrambled her way back to her feet and tore the metal fibre net in half like it was tissue paper, before spinning around and belting the robot who had launched it in the face with her fist, tearing its head off and sending it bouncing across the clearing. By then however, the other robots nearby had managed to re-target her, and a target on the ground was much easier than one in the air. Three of them opened fire on Starfire point blank with miniguns, and with an aborted cry, Starfire was thrown off her feet and flung to the ground by the force of the shells.
The manhole cover was solid iron, and it exploded like a land mine, blasting upwards with all the force David could channel, and catching Cinderblock right where the solar plexus should have been, save of course that Cinderblock had no such thing. The iron fragments pinged off of him like water droplets, and he raised his fists and charged.
So much for plan A.
David jumped to his side as Cinderblock brought his fists down together on the point where he had been standing, gouging out a divot in the ground large enough to hide a refrigerator in. He hit the ground and slid, tearing his jacket's sleeve, before scrambling back up to his feet, and turning back around to face Cinderblock. It had taken the monster that long to make certain that he hadn't actually crushed David, and to realize he was still standing elsewhere, but as soon as he did, he bellowed once again, sending a involuntary shout of horror through the crowd gathered behind the two combatants. Backing hastily away from Cinderblock, David felt his heart pounding somewhere around his throat, and trying to think of something quickly, darted behind an abandoned Toyota in the middle of the street. Cinderblock could either try and crush his way through it, or pick it up, and either way, he could use its full gas tank as a weapon. The reasoning seemed sound, except Cinderblock stomped over and kicked it aside with a single blow, sending it bouncing back up the street the way both David and Cinderblock had come. Desperately, David fell back again, up onto the side walk, and as he did so he aimed his finger at the ground and caused a chunk of asphalt to freeze and quiver, and explode under Cinderblock's feet. Cinderblock stumbled and tripped and fell, but in falling, he reached out and grabbed David's foot, yanking it out from under him and spilling him onto the ground as well.
“Devastator!” shouted Cinderblock as David squirmed and scrambled to try and get away while Cinderblock grabbed for him with his other hand. Desperately, David waved his hands at a storefront window nearby, which shattered and exploded outward, showering both him and Cinderblock with broken glass. Reflexively, Cinderblock pulled his other hand back to protect his eyes, and David managed to wrench his foot free and scramble back and away, shedding shattered glass like a waterfall, his jacket cut to ribbons by the sharp glass fragments.
Up loomed Cinderblock once more, towering and defiant, and he raised both fists slowly before shoving them downwards and thrusting out his chest and roaring. Streetlights exploded, for once without David's input, while the very force of the roar nearly bowled him over, and he had to steady himself against another car to avoid falling. Any second now, Cinderblock would charge, and David for the life of him couldn't see what he was going to stop him with. There was nothing explosive or otherwise conducive to this sort of thing to be seen, and Cinderblock couldn't be stopped by a -
He glanced up.
Cinderblock stomped forward, and David had to scramble back, over the parked car's hood, which Cinderblock peremptorily overturned as he growled and snarled like a wood saw. David reached out with his left hand, pointing at something behind Cinderblock, but the cement and concrete juggernaut did not possess the intelligence to check and see what David was up to, and it pressed ahead, raising a balled fist which it prepared to bring down onto David to pound him into jelly. Before it could do so however, David snapped his fingers and shouted with the effort, and the base of a telephone pole behind Cinderblock burst into splinters and fragments as though it had contained a bomb. The fragments did nothing whatsoever to Cinderblock, nor did the explosion itself, but the pole toppled over like a bowling pin, and crashed down onto Cinderblock's head. Even this would have been nothing, a mere nuisance to one such as he, but for the fact that when the pole hit Cinderblock, it bounced, and fell off of him to the side, and in doing so, it dragged the live electrical wires that it was holding up across Cinderblock's face.
And that had an effect.
Cinderblock let out a horrific, wailing scream as twenty thousand volts of electricity coursed through him, and he staggered, and stumbled backwards, and fell to the ground writhing. For a brief second, David thought he might just have done it, but it was only a few seconds later that Cinderblock managed to kick the live wires off of himself, and staggered back to his feet, lividly angry and practically shaking with rage. As David watched in horror, Cinderblock lifted the telephone pole, and snapped the wires connecting it to the others, leaving a length of steel cable about twenty feet long still trailing from the end of the pole. And then with roars of vengeance and death in his throat, Cinderblock swung the pole at David, who was standing too far away to be hit by the pole, but consequently didn't realize his own danger until it was too late.
David threw his hands up to protect his face, and jumped back, but in vain, as the metal wires attached to the telephone pole lashed at him like a whip. He screamed as his arms and forehead were sliced open by the still crackling wires, and the jolt of electricity they delivered literally blew him off his feet and onto his back on the ground. Blood dripped into his eyes, blocking his sight, and his arms felt like they were on fire. Desperately he tried to blink or brush away the blood and smoke so that he could see what was happening, and finally he resorted to his other senses, feeling out with his mind for the tell-tale mass of solid silicates that represented the brutish monster that was trying to kill him. The instant he did, he cried out again, this time in fear, as Cinderblock was standing directly over him, the telephone pole held up like a giant pestle, and he was preparing to bring it down to crush him underneath it.
Unable to do anything else, David rolled over to his side, and the telephone pole came down next to him, missing by inches. The bottom third of the pole shattered under the impact, and the wires detached, but Cinderblock still held a fifteen foot long piece, and he hefted it once more like a club as David shakily got back to his feet. Cinderblock swung the pole at him wildly, missing high, then right, as David fell back, no longer trying to find something effective, but simply something that would stop him. A mailbox burst, sending letters and packages flying through the air like feathers from a bird. A parked car's tires ignited and exploded next to Cinderblock's feet, followed shortly thereafter by the car they were attached to, but nothing seemed to phase the enraged monstrosity, and Cinderblock swung again and again. Quick enough to dodge Cinderblock's ponderous swings, at least for the moment, David was still searching for something else to detonate when Cinderblock, instead of swinging his club once more, jabbed at him with the tip of it, catching him in the chest like a speared fist and tossing him back like a toy.
He slammed into the side of a Porsche, hard enough to dent the door and shatter the car's window above him, and he lay there winded, stunned, his lungs on fire, blood running freely down the side of his face. There he lay, moaning softly, his chest throbbing and burning, and when he looked up, he blearily saw Cinderblock, now standing still, looking pleased with himself at having apparently defeated his enemy. And then, implacably as ever, the nearly-unharmed monster began to walk towards him.
He couldn't breathe. He could barely see. He was certain at least one of his ribs was broken from the impact, and it hurt to move, and hurt to sit still. His brain was telling him to get up and get out of the way, to find something else to do to Cinderblock, but the best he could do was to slowly stagger to his feet, leaning against the Porsche he had been thrown into. He wanted to run, but couldn't get his balance back, and besides, where was he going to run to? Cinderblock was faster than he was, and the only escape route meant leading him straight through the crowd of civilians.
... and that's when he realized that it was awfully quiet.
It was an odd thing to realize, given the circumstances, but the fact that, Cinderblock aside, he hadn't heard any noise in a while from what had not long ago been a screaming, panicked mob, prompted him to make the unforgivably stupid mistake of turning his back on Cinderblock for a second and looking back at the crowd. It was larger than he had thought, hundreds and hundreds of people of all ages standing and hiding behind cover, all of them silent, all of them staring at him.
That part stopped him short. They were all looking at him. Not at Cinderblock. At him. Every pair of eyes that he saw was fixed on him, and in them he saw fear and surprise, of course, but also something else, but he couldn't tell what. So good usually at watching and gauging people's reactions, this one was hard to interpret. And it wasn't until he turned his head slightly and saw all of the other foster kids and the social workers from the DCS staring at him with wide eyes and gaping mouths, that it really clicked.
It was wonder.
Wonder and awe and amazement was dancing in the eyes of every single one of the foster kids, from the youngest to the oldest. Some of them he recognized, vaguely, from elsewhere, and some he did not, and he could not tell if they recognized him as one of them, as one of their own little group of orphans and runaways and wards of the state, but he suspected that most of them didn't. And the reason for that was suddenly clear. He wasn't one of them any longer. They were standing off to the side of the crowd, and nobody was paying them the slightest mind, not even the very monster that he was afraid was going to kill them. They were unseen, un-noticed, anonymous, as he was, as he had always been, as he had always wanted to be.
But not now.
Every eye, from the tourists and residents of the city, to the police and medical personnel, every single eye was on him, with only the occasional glance aimed at his nemesis to ensure it wasn't threatening them directly yet. Every man, woman, child, everyone that he could see was watching him, staring at him, willing him silently to keep them safe or to beat Cinderblock back to the hole he had crawled out of. They didn't see a terrified kid, desperately trying to fight off a monster that was totally out of his class. They didn't know that he was scared witless, unprepared for a challenge like this, that Cinderblock was almost certainly about to kill him. They saw someone larger than they were, a champion, a protector, something that could stop Cinderblock. They wanted him to fight. They wanted him to win. Their worry, their amazement, their fear... it was all for him.
Behind him loomed a giant shadow, gathering up like an ocean breaker about to thunder down on his head, and he half-turned to look back at Cinderblock, who was holding his telephone pole/bludgeon high in the air with both hands. David's expression didn't change, and he made no move to evade as the monster roared one last roar of victory, and swung the telephone pole down like an executioner's axe. Dozens of people cried out in alarm, screaming a warning to run, to dodge, or anything, but David simply closed his eyes.
And that's when the entire telephone pole exploded.
Flames and shrapnel burst into the air as Cinderblock's weapon disintegrated in his hands into a hail of flying wood splinters, and he gave a surprised yelp of pain and astonishment as the blast shoved him back several steps. Bits of burning wood plunged out of the air onto the street, the buildings, the bay, and into the crowd, who fended them off with briefcases and jackets and umbrellas. David, less than four feet from the epicenter of the blast shuddered as bits of wood hit him and knocked him back a pace or two, and he bit back a cry as a large splinter embedded itself in his upper arm, quivering like an arrow and forming a slowly expanding red stain on his shirtsleeve and what was left of his tattered jacket. But when he opened his eyes again, he saw Cinderblock, standing back from him, his arms and torso covered in so many splinters that he resembled a porcupine, and his right hand mangled by the blast wave. And he couldn't be certain, but he thought that for a second, he saw what might have been fear in the monster's gaze.
But what he was certain of, were the cheers emanating from behind him, and the cries of “let him have it!” and “get the bastard!” from some of the more aggressive onlookers. David didn't pay them too much mind, after all he was still in fairly extreme pain, his lungs were still aflame, his forehead and arms still leaking blood that ran down his body onto the ground, and Cinderblock was still stronger, faster, tougher, and a hell of a lot less afraid than he was. But the cries of the crowd seemed to wrap around him like a warm blanket, and took the edge off the fear, and the spikes off the pain, and he found that he could walk, and move, and he stepped a few steps forward, and stared at Cinderblock, armed with the realization that however bad the odds were, he wasn't yet dead.
It wasn't exactly confidence, but it was something.
The electricity seared through her like fire in her veins, and she cried out without realizing she had, as the joy of flight evaporated and was replaced with agonizing pain. Only dimly did she realize she was falling, and the impact with the grassy ground was barely tangible next to the agony of the electric net, but while she could not feel the joy of flight or really the joy of anything in such a state, but she could still feel the boundless confidence that flowed through her whenever she had need for strength, and more importantly, the agony lent itself well to the righteous fury that powered her starbolts. It was partly for this reason that Tamaranean warriors were so feared by their enemies. Pain tended to make them more dangerous.
This was, obviously, a lesson lost on the mechanical assassin that had done this to her.
She shouted a wordless cry of defiance, and forcing her way to her feet, ripped the electrified restraint apart and cast it to the ground. The robotic assailant which had projected it at her was at hand, and she lunged towards it with one glowing fist, tearing its mal-formed head from its shoulders and letting its body crumple to the ground like a Wuserloop in mating season. Behind her there was the sound of more enemies, and she spun round to engage them, starbolts at the ready in her hands, but as she turned, she heard the sound of gears and machinery spinning, and then a harsh, grating noise, like that of a disposer of garbage.
And then something hit her.
Starfire screamed once again as something, a thousand somethings, projectiles, heavy and cold and solid metal, ripped into her abdomen and chest and sent her toppling over onto the ground. She clutched at her stomach, and felt a hot, wet, liquid flowing over her, and she knew it to be blood. The impact had knocked most of the air out of her lungs, and she could not breathe, though fortunately, she did not need to. Dazed and bleeding, she lifted her head slightly, enough to watch as three of the robots with the spinning projectile weapons strode up to her, and lowered their weapons towards her face. Once more the rotating projectile launchers began to spin, and she gasps and raised a hand to conjure a starbolt.
But she didn't get that far.
There was a blur of motion, and suddenly Robin appeared as though conjured by magic, his staff swinging underneath the robots' weapons and forcing them all skyward, causing the bursts of metallic projectiles to pass harmlessly overhead. The robots turned on Robin, but he struck them with his staff again and again, the staff whipping and flailing about in his hands like the tail of a scorpion. One robot fell back with its eyes demolished, firing its weapon blindly into the sky and ground, before a beam of blue energy struck it in the side and tore out the sparkling materials from which its organs were created. The second's weapon was wrenched from its grasp and fell to the ground, and it swung its long, spindly arms at Robin like the clumsy motions of a man who had imbibed too much of the alcohol. Robin ducked and spun around the robot's uncoordinated strikes, and draw a birdarang to slash open its neck. No blood ran forth, but the robot toppled onto the ground. The last robot was already spinning its projectile weapon at Robin, but Starfire had by now managed to conjure a starbolt, and with a flick of her wrist, she threw it into the robot's chest, blasting a hole through it as wide as Silkie, and it too fell lifeless to the grass.
No sooner had the last robot fallen, than Robin was rushing over to her, his eyes leaking tears from behind his mask. “Starfire!” he shouted, sliding to a stop and dropping his staff. Cyborg was coming up behind him, but as he approached, she pushed the pain of her injuries to the back of her mind and smiled broadly as she threw her arms around Robin's neck.
“Robin!” she cried happily, and only in the nick of time did she remember to reign in her strength to avoid causing damage to Robin's skeleton (again). It was several moments before she realized that Robin was not responding to her, and when she looked up, she saw his eyes wide in astonishment, and Cyborg standing behind him, looking equally shocked.
“Friends... you are unharmed, yes?”
Robin did not answer the question, staring at her as though she was undergoing another transformation. “How... are... what? Are you all right?!”
“I am not seriously hurt,” she said, standing up, brushing the metallic projectiles off of her skirt as she did so. The cuts from the projectiles still throbbed, but the bleeding was already beginning to stop. Still Cyborg and Robin were staring at her strangely, and she worried if perhaps she had done something that she was not supposed to do…
“Is something the matter?”
“Star,” said Cyborg in a quiet voice, “those were miniguns…”
She turned and looked at the broken robots. “They do not appear small to me…” she commented.
“They should’ve cut you in half!” exclaimed Cyborg, “You got hit with two hundred rounds, how are you all right?”
“It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re all right…” said Robin, his voice already returned to the tone he used whenever he was giving orders. “Are you able to move?”
“I will be fine,” she assured Robin, still not quite certain what all the worry had been about. It wasn’t as though the projectiles were fired particularly hard.
“Starfire, where are Raven and Beast Boy?”
Starfire suddenly a bitter coldness flowing through her. “You mean… they are not with you?”
“You were the one in the ship, Star. What happened?”
“I… do not know what happened,” she said, trying to recollect as best she could what she had seen. “The engine of the T-ship exploded, and there were missiles about us. Beast Boy was attempting to land the ship when they began to hit, and my seat was ejected from the rest of the ship. I was attacked by these robots when I arrived on the ground. I did not see where Beast Boy and Raven went…”
Starfire saw the fear in Robin and Cyborg’s eyes as she spoke, and a moment later, she realized what they were afraid of.
“But… are they not… have you not found them yet? Where did their seats land?”
“They’re not responding to the communicators,” said Robin. “We don’t know if they ejected or not.
“But… surely they must have… if my seat was thrown out of the ship, should not theirs have also been?”
Cyborg was pressing buttons on his arm, and reading something from the screen built into it. “Your seat didn’t eject, Star… there’s transponders built into the ejection system that broadcast right to my scanners. If you’d ejected, I’d have seen it. I think you got blown out of the ship.”
”But then… Beast Boy and Raven?”
“I didn’t read any ejections.”
Starfire felt something catch in her throat. It couldn’t be. Cyborg couldn’t mean that…
”They’re not dead,”
Robin’s mask made it impossible to tell what he was thinking, but his voice was as steady as she had ever heard it. “Both of them can escape the T-ship without having to eject, and if they had a chance to see the missiles coming, then they could have gotten out. We just have to find them.”
Robin sounded so certain that the cold feeling in Starfire’s stomach began to recede, and she brushed herself off. “I shall seek them from the air. They cannot have gone far.”
“No, Star,” said Robin. “They have surface-to-air missiles. We can’t risk that. We’ll have to search for them on foot.”
”I’ll use my scanners,” said Cyborg, already pressing more buttons. “Beast Boy could be anything, but Raven should show up. C’mon.”
Cyborg led the way into the forest, and at Robin’s insistence, she went second, leaving Robin to bring up the rear. She did not allow herself to think that they might not find Raven and Beast Boy alive. Robin did not believe they were dead, and neither would she.
But she did hope they would find them soon, and remove all doubt.
”Come and get me.”
More startled than hurt, Cinderblock tore the larger bits of wood out of his hide with broad strokes of his arms, and his beady eyes narrowed as he glared down at the young psychokinetic, but David was long past the point of running away at a glare. Despite his injuries and the pain they entailed, despite the blood still leaking into his eyes, he continued to stand in the middle of the street, trying to stay upright, one hand pointed at the ground before Cinderblock, where a strip of asphalt had frozen solid by his will. He did not remove his eyes from his foe, nor so much as twitch a finger. It was perhaps all hopeless, in fact it was probably all hopeless, but even if he couldn’t stop Cinderblock, he knew he could hurt him, and he knew that Cinderblock knew that too. The civilians were watching from behind their cover. Many had managed to flee, but some remained behind, though God only knew why. Ironically though, given his penchant for going un-noticed, he was glad they did. It helped, a little, to know that he wasn’t about to die alone…
… in one sense or another.
Cinderblock lunged forward all of a sudden like a springing panther, hoping to clear David’s frozen chunk of asphalt before the young kineticist could react. Unfortunately for Cinderblock, David didn’t have to react, simply release the energy he had already stored, and the ensuing blast upset Cinderblock’s lunge, causing him to fall flat on his face on the ground. This elicited a cheer from some of the civilians behind him, and David felt his blood beginning to run hot as the fear began to give way to anger.
“Devastator…” he said, borrowing the term from Cinderblock for the occasion, his voice half-choked with pain and furious anger at all that Cinderblock had done and was doing. “That’s me, isn’t it? I’m the one you want? You wanted to find Devastator… get Devastator…”
Cinderblock for once did not repeat his favorite catchphrase, and he instead reached up and tore the hood off a sedan sitting nearby, throwing it at David like a discus as he scrambled back to his feet. David ducked low, and the hood passed overhead, but as he ducked he turned, and extended his hand, causing part of the hood to explode. It arced up into the air and over the heads of the other people, before plunging down into the bay behind them harmlessly. No sooner had this happened, than David turned back to Cinderblock, and pointed a finger at the now-exposed engine block of the car the hood had come from. It flew to pieces like a fragmentation bomb, knocking Cinderblock back another pair of steps. Cinderblock looked... worried now, still defiant, still ready to kill, but clearly this was more resistance than he had been anticipating.
“You want to kill me?” asked David, as he stepped forward again, trembling once more, this time with a mixture of fear and indignation. “You could have killed me before, but you didn’t! And now you’re here to kill me? Kill Devastator? Is that it? Sixty people dead already because of you, and that’s not enough, you’ve got to start ripping busses apart and throwing rocks into crowds?! What do you want with me?!”
Cinderblock did not answer, instead racing forward again, fists held high. David did not even glance to his side as he shot his hand out and blew the base off another telephone pole, which crashed to the ground in ruins ahead of Cinderblock. The rampaging monster hesitated, grinding to a halt, as he regarded the live wires sparking on it, and kicked it aside carefully, to avoid contacting the electric current.
David was clearly livid now, his face flushed red with more than just the blood on his forehead, and he kept his gaze to the concrete monster and shouted to be heard above the crowd behind him. “You want Devastator?!” he screamed, his voice shrill and furious, as he planted his feet securely the way that Robin had taught him to when preparing to receive a charge from an enemy. “You want Devastator?! I’ll show you the goddamned Devastator!!!”
All further words were lost in the cacophony of the explosions that followed.
Cinderblock howled, howled in pain and surprise and rage as pineapple-sized pieces of his own body cracked and froze and exploded all across himself, blasting divots in his concrete hide as though he was being shot with anti-tank weaponry. Explosion after explosion racked his form, and he staggered, but did not fall, and in a blind fury he charged David, ignoring the blasts that sent bits of stone and cement flying in every direction. Focused intently on generating these explosions, a task which would have been well beyond him in this mental state only months ago, David saw his own danger only in the nick of time, and he threw himself to the side of the street just as Cinderblock brought his fist down on the place he had been standing.
He landed in the gutter, which was somehow appropriate, perhaps, and he got back up as fast as he could and turned to see Cinderblock bearing down on him again, equally livid it appeared. He could have run, perhaps, dodged this strike as he had the last, and come up with another plan, but he glanced to his side at a minivan parked nearby, and instead of retreating and trying to find a better plan, he marshaled what energy he had left inside him, and pointed his finger at the tires on the passenger side of the minivan, and blew them up.
Both tires exploded in unison, and the car was propelled into the air and sideways, a simple physics reaction whose purpose was immediately apparent, as the car collided with Cinderblock head on, and arrested his advance instantaneously, knocking him onto his back and landing atop him, pinning him to the ground. David felt his legs give out, and he collapsed onto the sidewalk. Footsteps, normal footsteps were coming up behind him, but he did not turn to look at who was making them. Cinderblock was roaring and trying to shove the multi-ton vehicle off of himself, and David slowly extended his hand, closed his eyes, and focused on the fuel tank, clenching every muscle in his body and letting out a savage cry of pain and fury as he shoved the energy in the gasoline tank one last time.
Cinderblock’s roars were subsumed in the explosion, as the vehicle burst into flames and exploded like a car bomb, casting pieces of itself in every direction. Utterly spent, David flopped onto the ground like a corpse, barely able to keep himself sitting up. His head pounded like a timpani drum, his forehead bled profusely, as did his arm, and several other spots where he had cut himself or scraped his skin off on the asphalt. He felt someone touching him on the shoulder, a strong grip, and he looked up wearily, to see Carrie staring down at him. She might have been trying to say something, but the roaring flames, and the other background noise made it hard for him to hear, to say nothing of the fact that he felt rather like a boned fish. She reached down and grabbed him around his chest, and pulled him up to his feet as best she could, and he cried out and clutched his side as his broken ribs jarred with the motion.
”Come on,” she said, “we need to get you to - “
Carrie was cut off, by a all-too-familiar sound. A roar.
The roar was low, and guttural, and unmistakably malevolent, a bitter, sick roar from a beast that was now well past the pale of anger. Carrie froze, and David’s breath caught. Surely not even Cinderblock could possibly sustain…
The burning wreckage of the minivan fell aside, as a giant, cracked, concrete fist was shoved it off of the thing it had landed upon. And slowly, like Nosferatu rising from his coffin, Cinderblock sat up. His body was broken and mangled, his hide shattered, his face cracked, but his eyes burnt like miniature suns, like nuclear explosions contained within his boxy head. And right now they were burning in pure, unadulterated, vengeful rage.
But no words of David’s however sincerely felt, could banish this thing that simply refused to fall. The civilians who remained shouted and pointed and stumbled back, even as Cinderblock began to slowly pick his way out of the ruins of the destroyed minivan. David had no idea what to do now. He could barely stand, the pain of his injuries was almost debilitating, and what’s worse, he wasn’t certain that he could conjure the energy for another explosion, not for one large enough to take out Cinderblock.
Carrie, for her part, did not wait around to see what Cinderblock intended to do, but draping one of David’s arms over her shoulder, she moved down the street as fast as she could, away from Cinderblock, but they hadn’t gone more than twenty yards before David simply collapsed in the center of the street and fell to his knees, unable to rise further.
“Come on!” she said, kneeling down next to him. “We have to get going! Cinderblock is…”
But David wasn’t listening. His rage and adrenaline were spent, and he could barely keep his eyes open. His senses reached out, and he felt the world spinning, his perception floating back and forth from visual to molecular. He could feel the molecules of the asphalt beneath him, of the steel of the nearby cars, but he could not so much as twinge any of them. He had nothing left, nothing powerful enough to stop…
He noticed something.
“David? David, can you hear me? We have to go! I know you’re hurt, but we have to get out of here before…”
Carrie stopped short. “What?”
David blinked, and raised his head to look Carrie in the face, and he was actually smiling, like a little kid who knew a secret that nobody else knew. “J.C.G.E” he said, as though the meaning were perfectly obvious, and using Carrie as a support, he slowly forced his way back to his feet.
“Carrie,” he said as he stood up again, his voice adopting a tone of urgency. “I need your help. I need you to do something.”
Carrie did not appear to like the sound of this. “What?”
“I need you to get everyone back. Way back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“All the other civilians. Get them back from here, as far back as they can go. Get them all moving and then run. Run as fast as you can.”
Carrie hesitated. “What are you going to do?”
David closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath to steady himself. “Something really stupid…” he said, “Just trust me. Run!”
Carrie plainly did not understand, but with only another second’s hesitation, she turned and ran, shouting to everyone who could hear to do the same. The civilians, seeing Cinderblock back on his feet and slowly approaching, needed little encouragement, and David took one more glance back at them, before he returned his gaze, one last time, to Cinderblock.
Cinderblock was standing again, moving towards David with a single, bloody purpose in mind, limping, and clearly damaged, but alive,
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