"Goner, we have to hurry." Tattletale shouted, "Come on! We already have everything we can carry."
"Just a second." She said, looking at the safe, "So, we're just leaving all of this?"
"Well, we can't exactly carry all of it!"
"Come on!" Grue roared, pulling the trolley loaded up with stolen cash towards the elevator.
Taylor looked back at the money that remained, and decided that it wasn't real. Lisa stared at the safe empty of every single cent, all that was left of the Ruby Dream Casino's money was being wheeled out by them.
Taylor walked back towards the trolley, and then began helping to push it, Lisa joining a second later.
"What were you two doing?" Brian grunted as he pushed.
"Goner left one hell of a devastating calling card."
"They took... all of it?" Battery asked. As one of the local speedsters on patrol, she had been directed towards the casino to see if she could catch up to the Undersiders, but by the time she arrived, the trail had gone dead. More than dead. The normal signs of an Undersider retreat- namely massive claw marks scored into streets and buildings, just weren't there.
Something else that wasn't there was money. The safe was empty. Absolutely empty. There might have been an actual ton of money in there, and the Undersiders had gotten away with every last cent of it. It shouldn't have been possible, but there it was.
"All of it." the PRT man said, "We can't make heads or tails of it either. The best explanations are that there was some kind of Mover abilitiy that they used to move the money they didn't carry."
"What about the cameras?" Battery asked.
"The moment the door opened to let the Undersiders in, they cameras went black. Color and sound returned the moment they left. We're assuming Grue's darkness."
"No, I've seen his darkness, it spreads gradually." she said.
"Then, who else? Tattletale? Hacking?"
"Maybe. Though I've heard her suspected specialty is cold-reading people, or possibly even mind-reading. Hacking seems a little outside her purview." Battery frowned, "I don't like having this many loose ends." But if they were gone, they were gone. As it was, the Protectorate had bigger priorities than tracking down and making a raid on a group of teenagers. Especially the way the ABB was prowling around the area even now.
"This was an insult." Lung growled, his lieutenants wisely remaining silent. Oni Lee and Bakuda were sitting in their own positions in the wings of the room, just as quiet as the unpowered lieutenants. Lung snarls, and everyone in the room flinched as his grip squeezed the steel table, leaving imprints under his fingers. "Those damn children think they can take what Lung has claimed?"
"...It wasn't widely known you were targeting the Ruby Dreams Casino." one of the unpowered lieutenants offered, "I don't think this was meant to hurt us, the Undersiders would have known better than trying to take what is the ABB's."
"I don't care what they meant to do! They emptied it! We told the Nazis, we told Coil, no one touches the goddamn Casino!"
"We didn't tell-"
Lung slammed his hand on the table, and looked up, to see which of them had been speaking out against him, but they all averted their eyes. He breathed out, letting it go. "...I want them dead. This city has too many villains without them making a menace of themselves as well." he turns to Oni Lee, "Find them. Once you have a location, keep them busy. I want a couple dozen of our people with guns. I'll handle the dogs, they kill everyone else."
Oni Lee watched as the group bounded over the rooftops on the back of the giant dogs. He recognized the all-black form of Grue, the lilac skintight costume of Tattletale, the flowy white outfit of Regent, and the simplistic affair of a jacket and dog mask for Bitch.
His eyes lingered on the last member however. She had a basic costume. Black pants, black jacket, black domino mask. She had long curly hair, and was a thin girl. He didn't recognize her. He allowed himself a small grin. She must have joined just a little while ago. How unfortunate for her, joining the group just as Lung declared that it would be destroyed.
Teleporting closer, he pulled out a pistol, and Tattletale screamed out "Regent!" before he could even get a shot off. The teen kicked the dog he was riding, urging it to increase in speed, letting him dodge Oni Lee's shot. Frowning, he pulled a pin from his grenade, before teleporting away. From his new vantage point, he tossed the grenade in his hand, and watched with satisfaction as his clone leaped for one of the dogs, throwing his own grenade. The clone's grenade went off first, and then the clone disintegrated, and then the real grenade went off on the other side.
With explosions on both sides, the dogs were forced to run forward, towards the docks. Towards Lung's ambush.
He teleported to another nearby roof, and began taking pot-shots. He could have simply murdered them all if he devoted himself to it, but Lung felt that this was a personal matter, and wouldn't appreciate not getting to fight at all, so Oni Lee didn't put too much effort into it. As long as they kept along the path to the ambush, that would be enough.
Then, his eyes widened as he saw another person on the opposite roof, with a gun. Another new member? Raising his pistol, he fired once at the other person, only for them to- crumble to ash?
Another new Undersider? A Trump? The costume even looked the same as his own.
Another one appeared, right next to him! And there was another on the roof. Oni Lee drew his knife, and leaped for the copycat, who in return pulled out his own knife.
Then, both teleported away, letting their clones get gunned down by yet another doppelganger. A fourth. The second was still just watching, gun at the ready, dividing his attention between the Undersiders and himself.
Oni Lee remembered, belatedly, that the Undersiders were still an issue. He would deal with the copycat himself, but only after he steered the teens to their deaths. He teleported away, and his clone self-destructed with a pulled grendade pin.
He teleported next to the Undersiders, and tossed a flashbang, spooking the dogs into taking the corner he wanted them to. Then he teleported off again, glancing back, only to see that nearly a dozen doppelgangers were chasing him!
"Goner what the FUCK did you do!?" Grue demanded. He and Tattletale were on Judas, Alec was on Brutus with Taylor, and Bitch was alone on Angelica.
"Hahahaha!" Regent belted, barely able to hang onto his ride, "Oh god, they're trying to kill each other!" he said, deeply and utterly amused.
"I reversed their collapse into ash. I thought maybe it would drag him back from where he teleported." she said, passively, "This is a really weird outcome though. All of them are the real Oni Lee, now."
"Well fucking stop it!" Brian begged, "The ABB were bad enough with one Oni Lee!"
"No. Never stop." Alec said.
"I don't care." Bitch said, "They're spending more time fighting each other than they are hurting us, so it's okay, right?"
"Surprisingly, yeah." Tattletale said, watching the utter chaos unfolding behind them. Grenades kept going off, flashbangs, pistol shots. The cacophony of nearly... twenty six, heavily armed teleporters fighting each other, was overwhelming, "Oni Lee thinks that the others are Trumps, and self-replicators, copying him. He thinks they're a bigger threat to the ABB than we are."
"Which one thinks that?" Brian asked.
"All of them! They all think it." she grimaces, turning to Taylor, "But please, please stop it. Some of them are going to survive, and make peace with each other, sooner or later. Then the ABB will be massively more powerful. They were a force in the city with only only two active Capes. The more Oni Lees there are, the more trouble they'll make."
"We can take care of them later." Bitch said.
"Take care of- how?" Brian asked.
"Bitch, I don't like killing people." Taylor said, "I prefer making people miserable."
"They're not real people." Bitch said, "They're clones."
"They're real now."
"Your powers are terrifying." Brian murmured, mostly under his breath, "Okay, we'll ignore it for now. We need to get out of here-"
"Shit!" Lisa said suddenly, "We aren't escaping!"
"Of course we're escaping-"
"No, we were running from Oni Lee, but Oni Lee wasn't just chasing, he was herding-" she glared at the buildings around her, "-we're in ABB territory. Fuck."
"If we turn around, we'll eventually run back into Oni Lee." Brian said.
"We can take him." Bitch said, "We can take all of them. Goner can heal us, remember?"
"Even Goner can't bring us back from the dead." Brian said.
"Well..." every Undersider but Bitch turned towards her, staring.
"...I feel cheated." Regent said. The first to recover, "Talk about winning the superpower lottery, all I do is make people twitch, and Miss Monotone here gets to play god."
Lisa looked downright terrified, "Okay, Goner, please, please promise me you won't spread that around. If you do start telling people, you will absolutely get kidnapped and forced to revive people."
"The only people I've told are you."
Grue sighed, "I can't fucking deal with this right now... Then, what, we just turn around and wade through it? We take the damage, and move on, have Goner heal us along the way?" he looked her up and down, "Can you heal yourself?"
"Yeah, but I've never died before, so I don't know if I can bring myself back."
"Well, then here's what we do-" Grue began.
"Undersiders! I see them!" shouted a man with a gun, into a radio, he then began repeating his location into the radio.
"Shit." Lisa said, "Lung is right behind them."
"Let's fight him!" Bitch said, "If we have Goner healing us, then we can beat him!"
Grue shook his head, "No way, even if she can keep us alive, I don't want to get roasted tonight."
"...How about just me and Bitch? We'll distract Lung, and the rest of you can use the opportunity to escape."
"I'm not going to let you just..." Lisa put a hand on his shoulder, "-no."
"She's telling the truth. She can really bring back the dead, just as easily as she could fix the TV." she looked to Bitch, "We'll need Judas and Brutus with us, they're the only ones trained enough to follow our directions, and we need to ride them out of here."
"...Fine. Treat them okay, and feed them when you're home."
"Okay. Just... both of you come home safe, got it?"
"Sure." Goner agreed, beginning to slip off of Brutus, when Alec shook his head.
"Nah, don't bother. You two get out of here." I'm sticking around to see Miss Monotone beat up Lung."
"Come on." Tattletale urged Judas forward.
The three remaining watched them go, and Alec turned to look at Taylor, he was grinning widely, "So, just us sociopaths left? Fun!" he turned Brutus around, and Bitch moved Angelica after them as they headed to where Lung would be waiting for them.
Screws impaled ABB to the walls. Spasming fingers and twitching muscles turned their guns on each other. Dogs charged through without hesitation, sending people flying.
Lung turned the corner with the last of his men, and beheld the carnage, "You fuckers!"
He started picking up speed, running to tackle them, but with every step, he was a little bigger, a little shinier, and flame was glinting along his fingertips. Throwing flame forward, Regent swept with his scepter, and Lung's arm was sent wide, the flame blasting harmlessly against a wall, scorching through a bit of ABB graffiti. The dogs met him head-on, the dinosaurs forcing him to the ground, only to find him growing larger and burning hotter the more they bit and chewed at him.
Then, Taylor jumped off Brutus, landing on Lung's chest, the impact pushing him onto his back on the ground. She summoned two screws, and shoved them through his arms, pinning him to the ground. She then took a few steps back and thrust two more oversized screws and plunged them through his calves.
Once he was properly attached to the floor, all three were forced back by a massive explosion of fire. Bitch urging Angelica against her intincts toward the fire to grab Taylor in the giant jaws and drag away her already-smoldering body. In a moment, the burns were gone, both on Taylor, the dogs, Bitch, and Regent.
"UNDURSHIDURS!" he roared as he grew larger, the steel scales pushing past his arms, his shoulders, and going up his neck beneath his metal dragon mask, forcing the two screws out of his arm with a meaty squelch sound as he pushed himself up. The holes in his arms were already closing, and the flames were doing their work on the street, making the tar itself bubble.
"He's pissed!" Alec said unhelpfully.
Lung reached down, ripping the screws from his legs, only to find two more embedded in his head, and then for Angelica and Brutus to bite down on a leg each and drag the gang boss across the street and slam him into a building.
The dogs backed off, and the three of them watched as Lung pulled himself back up, the two screws being pushed out of his head by his regenerating skull.
She healed the burns the dogs received, fixing the rest of the ABB while she was at it. At this point, Lung was going to get out of control, and they didn't need to be pinned down right now. She watched as gang members ran off, and turned her attention back to Lung.
He was almost the definition of an elite. A power that made him stronger the more danger he was in, the ability to regenerate from anything. A gang leader, rich and surrounded by women, too powerful for the law to contain him, his simple existence leaned towards beating down others without ever losing.
She could just make him not exist.
But she didn't like killing people, not permanently. No, what she wanted was for Lung to be miserable. She looked him up and down as he got taller and taller, scales burgeoning across his whole body. His fingers had sharpened to points, and a tail was beginning to snake out of the burned remains of his pants-
Oh wow. He was naked. Nice.
He launched a massive fireball at them. Regent screamed as he fell off Brutus, and Taylor was just as much caught up in it. Brutus jumped like a shot, howling as he returned to Bitch's side where she was riding Angelica and leaped out of the way.
Bitch stared, for a moment, at their unmoving bodies, before roaring in rage, pointing at Lung, "Brutus. Kill. Angelica, kill."
Both dogs rushed forward, wrestling with the still-growing dragon man and forcing him down, slamming him to the floor over and over, creating a crater, and burning bit by bit through the dogs mutated tough skin. But they wouldn't let up, shaking him, biting him, pulling at him.
And then, to Bitch's relief, Taylor got back up again, perfectly fine, not even singed, "Well, that was as good a test of any. Oh, Alec."
Alec got up, and stumbled a bit, before laughing nervously, "What the fuck."
Taylor narrowed her eyes, "Well, now you went and actually killed one of my friends." she said, pointing at Lung, flinging a screw.
It pierced one of his feet, causing him to fall to one knee just as he got up, letting Angelica at his neck. The dog dragged him to the floor, and Taylor walked over, ignoring the flames, and stood on his chest.
"IYALL FRY YU" Lung managed through his transformed lips. "HYU'R GNNA regret this you bitch-" he blinked at his own voice. He then realized that the weight of the girl, which had been almost nonexistant when he was almost fifteen feet tall and made of metal, was suddenly a lot more present. She was also closer- "RRGGH!" -and had driven screws through his arms again, cutting off all sensation from them.
Already, he was ramping up again, but he had to start from the beginning all over again.
She made another screw, and then brought it across Lung's head, rattling his head. And again. Suddenly, steel scales began to erupt around his jaw, flames flickering from inside his mouth, already he was swelling in size- when suddenly he screamed out, and stopped moving beside the ragged fall and rise of his chest. Taylor looked over to where Alec was squatting by Lung's leg, his scepter pulling away from Lung's skin.
"We beat him." Bitch breathed.
"Hah!" Alec laughed, a single, harsh, note. "Ugh. It doesn't hurt any more, but that's one hell of a hard way to die." he kicked Lung again, "What now?"
"Now, we get out of here." they turned, looking to Lisa and Brian, who were now in one of their vans. Judas, having reverted back to a much smaller size away from Bitch, was also in the van. "Armsmaster is heading this way."
"You came back for us?" Taylor asked, "We would have been fine."
"We're a team, sorry." Brian said, "Even if- you're invulnerable, or something, that doesn't mean we should just leave you behind to fight alone. Come on. Just because you guys could beat Lung, doesn't mean that it's a smart idea to go against the whole Protectorate."
"We could win." Bitch said, "We really could."
"I know, but it's not worth it, okay? We already have enough to celebrate, and talk about. Let's head back to the base, okay?"
"Sure." Taylor said, her face twitching a bit. "...Thanks for coming back for us." she undid Bitch's transformation of Angelica and Brutus, and Bitch and Alec led the two dogs into the van, Taylor hopping in afterwards and shutting the door behind them, leaving Lung cruficied to the concrete, unconscious.
Armsmaster's motorcycle rushed down the street on autopilot as he balanced on top of it, using his hands to swing his signature weapon. It crackled with electricity as he slammed it into an Oni Lee- one who thankfully didn't collapse into ash, simply writhing from the shock before falling into blissful unconsciousness. Velocity then followed, stopping in front of the collapsed Lee and blasting him in the head, hands, and legs with containment foam. He turned into a blur as he pulled a multitude of weapons away- motions that were becoming practiced, by now.
After all, the other ones they captured kept their weapons in the same spots. This made the seventh that the two of them had taken down.
Adding that to the six that were still fighting Triumph and Dauntless, not to mention each other, and the five corpses, that added up to 18 confirmed Oni Lees. But based on the signs, there might be even more who already escaped the area before the Protectorate arrived.
More than that, there were reports that Lung was fighting the Undersiders, and if he didn't hurry, he might end up only finding four scorched corpses. "I'm going ahead to challenge Lung." he told Velocity, "Go help Dauntless deal with any they capture." he ordered.
"Got it." the speedster turned into a blur, moving in a moment over to where most of the fighting was still ongoing. Dropping down to his bike, he revved it, speeding ahead towards the docks.
He patrolled the alleys at high speed, almost too fast for him to take in, before his visor alerted him of something he just shot past. Slowing down his bike and reversing, he pulled back into the utterly wrecked alleyway. Flames still went strong in nearby piles of trash. But what took up his attention was Lung.
Unconscious, bleeding, and crucified.
He stared at it for another moment, before he pulled himself back into the reality of the situation. He walked forwards, and injected the gang boss with a specialized cocktail of tranquilizers meant for high-power regenerators and biokinetics. If anything on Earth could keep Lung dead on his feet, it was that.
Sure that the boss would stay asleep, he tried to pull at the huge screws in the man's arms. But, as a screw usually acted, he supposed, it had, well, screwed into the concrete. He didn't have the strength to pull it free. Gritting his teeth, he began the bloody task of turning each one, slowly, until he could pull it free from the concrete, and from the gang leader. Then, he pulled Lung to his bike, and made a beeline for the PRT building, and for the brute containment cells.
Tonight... Tonight was a strange one. He would have to get the Protectorate Thinkers to have a look at the multiple Oni Lees to see what they made of it. Currently, the best theory was that Bakuda made some kind of duplication bomb- the ABB didn't have any other Tinkers, especially not any with cloning capability. But that didn't explain why the Oni Lees were having a death match.
And now, someone defeated Lung, and left him in an utterly brutal position. Sure, the man had a known healing factor, but brutality was brutality. It reminded him a bit of Shadow Stalker, pinning people to a wall.
She had mentioned, that the disappearing girl, Goner, attacked her and her friends with giant screws, hadn't she?
He tried to imagine the thin, frail girl, who had been abused and suffered through M/S protocols while being utterly patient and understanding with them- he had felt intensely guilty, knowing Shadow Stalker had been tormenting her without anyone knowing. And then she suddenly vanished from all their records, even the most secure- his own armor's cameras the only thing that hadn't been touched, the girl's own father having had his memories erased.
He tried to imagine her doing this to one of the most feared Parahumans in Brockton Bay. "...Console." he said, activating his radio, "I've secured Lung."
"You took him down, on your own? What about the people he was fighting?" Kid Win asked.
"...I have reason to believe he was fighting the Undersiders at some point- there are imprints from Hellhound's dogs, but signs point to Goner having been the one to deal the final blow and contain him."
"Goner? The memory manipulator?"
"Shadow Stalker mentioned that she possessed a blaster power- the ability to create screws that were launched with enough force to knock her into a wall. This was disregarded at the time- and then later on we believed it was an illusion caused by Goner, but Lung had been attached to the ground by two oversized screws. This points to her ability having been real."
"They were forced through his arms and then into the concrete."
"Be professional." he barked, "Now call it in. I need the Brute Containment Cells ready and operating. And some M/S tests for Lung, once he wakes up."