Word count: 1,507
Warnings: Some language.
Fandom: Shadows in the Light ("Mirror Universe" Sunday 9s)
Characters: The same as before – Boneshatter, Firefly, Doc Rayvn, Deathhead Drake, and Push.
Note: This is alternate-universe compared to the regular Sunday 9s fics.
Copyrights 'n stuff: The City of Heroes universe is copyright Cryptic Studios/NCSoft. The individual characters of the Sunday 9s were created by their players.
Comments welcome, as always. The title comes from Ben Franklin, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Hang Together, Or...
"Are they still behind us?" Firefly panted, trying to keep his voice down.
"Not sure." Doc summoned his phantoms to act as a rearguard. "Sometimes heroes will chase halfway across Paragon. Bone, how close is this place?"
"We're here," the Skull called back, as he pried a board off a ground-level window. There was a gunshot and Boneshatter's body snapped backward, crumpling to the ground.
"Yeah, a real safe house," Deathhead Drake growled. Everyone tried to stay out of the window's line of sight.
Push bent over Boneshatter, doing some sort of scanning by the sound of it. "He's okay. Just stunned. The mask took the brunt of it." He flicked at the skull mask with one large metal digit and it fell in two pieces.
"Great, now what?" Firefly said. He leaped into the air and looked around. "No sign of them back the way we came."
Push did something else, his minor medical healing from the sound of it. "'M okay," Boneshatter said, and sat up, a bit wobbly. "Just... gimme minute." He crawled over to the window. "Teff? 'S me. Bone."
"I don't like this," Drake said as Boneshatter began a conversation with whoever was inside.
"Here they come," Firefly announced. "Looks like they trailed us after all."
"Bone, can we stay here or not?" Doc said.
"Yeah, we can." The Skull moved aside as Drake pulled the other board off the window with a loud crack!. Then Bone went through first, and the others followed. Firefly picked up the pieces of Skull mask, and Doc kept the rearguard long enough to dismiss his phantoms. He didn't want them hanging around and possibly cluing the heroes in to their location.
Inside it was dark and dusty and smelled disturbingly like cheap beer. They appeared to be in a cellar; one of Firefly's hands was wreathed in fire as he held it upright, giving them enough light to see by. The place was still dark, but Doc could see the usual detritus of forgotten lives that accumulates in basements and cellars, plus several wooden crates that looked newer, less dusty.
"Put that light out."
Firefly did, and the room was momentarily washed in darkness again, with little glowing lights to mark Push's outline. Then the lights dimmed as someone – probably Drake by the sound of it – shuffled between Push and the window.
They waited in silence. The heroes came near, talking, not quite loud enough to be understood, and then left. The group in the cellar kept quiet anyway, just to be safe, until their host spoke again. "All right, someone cover up that window and we can put the light back on."
Some swearing. "You're only here because I owe him for shooting him in the face like that. Do it or get out."
Firefly and Drake moved to the window simultaneously, and managed to arrange some boards in a manner that didn't permit easy access or viewing. Then a light flared – a small storm lamp at the other end of the room, lit by their host, who held a large handgun as though he'd love to use it again, and on one of his guests.
In the dim light, Boneshatter looked like hell. The left side of his face was a mess of blood, but his regenerative abilities seemed to be working fine; not many people could take a bullet to the head at close range and walk away from it. Doc wondered if brain damage would be apparent. The man with the handgun peered at Boneshatter's head wound and began rummaging around in one of the crates.
"Tonight sucked," Firefly said suddenly.
"Maybe if you hadn't aggroed the entire room on us!" Drake snarled.
"Oh, excuse me! I didn't realize that you had a monopoly on aggro! Maybe you could've waited until Doc and I were ready – "
"Maybe you could've gotten your asses in gear in time! Half the time Bone and I can finish the fight before you even start!"
"At least Bone can heal himself," Doc said. "You know how hard it is to keep you people alive when you run or fly all over the place? It's not always easy to drain life away from people, but if you're not together it just drains off, it doesn't transfer to you! How can I keep you idiots alive, it's not even my job – "
"Stop fighting," Push said, and began throwing force fields onto all of them. "Triseti will be angry that we failed."
"We failed because we're a bunch of losers!" Firefly yelled. "We're not a team! The damn heroes know how to work like a team, why don't you?!" Those last words carried in a half-imploring screech.
Firefly, still hovering, threw his hands in the air in extreme frustration. There was a moment of surprised silence. The guy with the handgun dabbed something on Bone's head wound; Bone flinched a bit, then took the cloth and began cleaning his face.
"He's right," Push added. "We don't fight well. And Triseti – "
"Who cares what she thinks?" Drake said. "We're doing jobs for her, but she doesn't own us. She pays us, sure, but – "
"But she is our employer. And some of us, at least, are getting something out of it." Doc wanted to pace, but there was practically no room in here for it, not least because of Push and Drake being so large. "All right. Without yelling. Let's go over this. We need to figure out what we're doing wrong. Specific things," he added, as several people opened their mouths to speak.
"Push is too big," Boneshatter said.
They turned to look at him. Now that he was fairly cleaned up, he was surprisingly non-ugly for a Skull, Doc noticed. He also looked too damn young for this business, which was probably why he'd worn the mask on a constant basis. "Push looks like a tank," Bone continued.
"He is a tank," Firefly said.
Bone shook his head. "No, he's not. He doesn't act like a tank. But every time we get in a fight, people think he's a tank and go after him. Drake and I have to keep him protected. We should be the ones taking the heat," he gestured at the half-dragon, "not Push. Push just does force bubbles and heals us and stuff like that. He's too big and he's drawing fire."
Doc nodded, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Firefly paying attention too. "All right. That's a start. Push, you're ... mostly cyborg, aren't you?" Push nodded. "Any way you can get smaller cybernetics? Look more human-sized?"
Push considered, then spoke in his odd, high voice. "I might, but it'll take some trade. More than I've got right now."
"I'll pitch in," Firefly said, before anyone else could. "If it helps out, I'm all for it."
"Hope you're not saying I need to change," Drake said.
Now it was Firefly's turn to shake his head. "No, Bone's right. You and he are the melee artists, you're supposed to keep our enemies busy so the rest of us can do our jobs – blasting or healing or whatever." He scratched at his chin.
"Look, it's wonderful you're having a 'moment' here," Bone's friend(?) said, and they could all hear the quotation marks in his voice. "But since the danger's past, I think it's time you moved on."
They all looked at each other in the light of the storm lamp. The unspoken question was, where would they go? Not back to Triseti – they weren't quite sure how she'd feel about their failure to keep the Hand safe.
"We could try to get the Hand back," Push said at last. "The heroes have it right now, but they're probably taking it to Azuria."
Doc slapped his forehead. "Damn, you're right, Push! If we hurry we can probably get there just as she's forgetting to lock the back door." He looked at the window they'd entered through, now re-boarded.
"The door's that way," Bone's friend gestured with his gun. "And don't come back unless you've got a good reason, especially if Bone's not with you."
"Right, right," Drake said, waving a large, clawed hand. "Thanks for the hideout and all that. All right, let's go to City Hall. Doc, Firefly, you're the least conspicuous. The rest of us should wait nearby."
They exited the cellar, Firefly never touching the ground once, and set off again.
"I kinda like the name 'the Aligned,' " Boneshatter said, apropos of nothing.
"Can't," Firefly said. "Some hero group's already called that."
"Anyway," the green-haired blaster continued, "we're not really aligned in the sense of all on the same path. We're more of a polyglot, really. Or mercs."
"Silver and Steel," Doc said, half-jokingly, remembering a sword-and-sorcery series by that title.
"Studs and Duds," Drake responded, and laughed, the first time Doc had ever heard him do so. It was an odd sound, but at least it was a positive one.
~ fin ~
Note to readers who don't play City of Heroes: Azuria is one of the staff of MAGI, a city-sponsored group who deal in magic, magical artifacts, and so on, including showing magic-origin heroes the ropes. It is a running joke in CoH that MAGI and/or Azuria forget to lock the doors each night and never check references of employees, because stuff is always getting stolen from the MAGI vaults. People have said MAGI's vault must be more like a drive-thru. So that's the in-joke mentioned above.
And no, they still don't have a name. I might hold a poll about it soon.