Chapter 41 – Infected Chaos
“Overdrive: Speed Break!”
With a renewed burst of energy, Pierce blasted across the WTAC campus, easily zipping past buildings and retreating onlookers alike as he dashed toward the smoking lab. Off to his right, he could see Rebehka trapping infected creatures in ice, and some distance to his left, he could see sparks of lightning over the tops of the buildings. Looks like everyone’s distracted with those stupid animals, he mused, just as he landed in front of the smoking lab. Even better that I decided to help out, then! I’ll have this situation under wrap ASAP — especially with this Overdrive of mine! I feel like it’s increased my top speed by an entire one Mach… not bad! He then jumped up to the roof of the lab and sped over to the portion of the roof that the smoke was billowing from. Now, time to see who’s inside…
On a closer look, he could tell that the roof had been blasted inward from the outside, and the smoke raising out of it was coming from something inside the building. So thick was the smoke that Pierce couldn’t actually see inside, but just as he thought to try dropping in, two figures emerged from the smoke and landed on the roof nearby — both of them wearing the same kind of black and silver armor as the other two attackers Pierce had seen.
“This must be them,” Pierce muttered to himself, and then raised his voice to address the two. “Hey! Stop right there!”
“What—?” The two spun around to face Pierce. Helmets obscured their faces, but their exposed upper arms allowed Pierce to see their tanned skin tones, and their body shapes made it clear that one was a man, and the other a woman.
“Oh great, a student,” retorted the man, “you think you can stop us, huh?”
“Of course I can,” Pierce replied with a smirk. “Chumps like you will be a piece of cake to deal with.”
The man remained silent for a second as he seemed to stare at Pierce, and then exchanged a glance with the woman. “…A’ight, I dunno what the hell you just said,” he responded, “but you fuckin’ outsiders don’t have anythin’ to do with this. Stay out!”
“You can’t understand me?” Pierce stared at the man in confusion. The hell? Everyone around here should have translation implants, why not these guys? …Wait, they couldn’t be…?
“Alright…” The man turned toward the woman and nodded his head toward the forest. “Let’s go.”
“Oh, I don’t think so!” Pierce shouted, lunging toward the armored man. In a split second, his knee impacted the man’s face, launching him off of the lab’s roof and into the darkness beyond the bounds of the Academy campus. Ah, shit, it’s so dark out there! Pierce scowled as he peered into the darkness. I’ll need to grab a light—
His thoughts were interrupted as moving tree branches grabbed him from behind and hoisted him into the air, holding him aloft by his wrists and ankles. “What the hell?!” he exclaimed, and then looked down, where he found that the woman was holding an arm outstretched toward him. …So she can control plants, huh? What was that, again— Chlorotechnism? Hmph. Well plants can’t beat superspeed—!
Just as Pierce moved to force his way out of his leafy bounds, the armored man suddenly appeared in the air next to him and bicycle kicked him so fiercely that he was ripped out of his bounds and launched skyward. That speed—! Ha! So the dude must be a Velocitechnic! A second later, Pierce impacted the underside of Lédia above, and immediately used it as a springboard to launch himself back to the ground, all while ignoring the flaring energy shields that surrounded his body. My first fight with other Chaotics, and it gets to be against another speedster! This’ll be hella fun!
The moment Pierce slammed into the ground, he leaped back to his feet and jumped toward a nearby streetlight, easily breaking it off of its post with a kick. The light flickered, but remained on, enough to prove that it had battery backup power. Now with a means of piercing the darkness, Pierce leaped back to the roof of the containment lab — just in time to see the enemy Velocitechnic scoop the Chlorotechnic into his arms and jump away from the WTAC campus. Pierce immediately leaped after him, kicking off of the roof with such force that it dented inward as he launched himself through the air at Mach 4. His Overdrive-granted speed boost proved to be just enough to catch up to the enemy Velocitechnic mid-air, at which point Pierce whipped his foot overhead to spike his two opponents down to the ground.
A second later, Pierce landed on the ground himself, quickly spinning on his heel to dash toward where he expected his opponents to land. His light held forward, he rapidly scanned the dark forest floor for the two Chaotics, only to be ambushed by vines as they grabbed at his limbs and attempted to pull him down to the ground. As they did, the armored man appeared in front of him and slammed his foot down over Pierce’s head, forcing him onto his back. The Velocitechnic then began rapidly stomping Piece’s stomach, causing his energy shields to flare up brightly under the sustained blows. This asshole— that’s my thing! With a scowl, Pierce managed to yank his feet out of the vines that bound them and then slam his foot into the man’s back, catapulting him forward and giving Pierce the time to yank himself out of his other bonds using his sheer accelerative power. He rolled over and jumped back to his feet, only to suddenly receive a knee to his face that launched him dozens of meters through the air.
Hitting the ground in an unceremonious roll, Pierce was barely able to right himself before the armored Velocitechnic appeared in front of him again. Quickly, Pierce lashed out with his foot to slam his opponent in their chest, just as the man went for another bicycle kick. As a result, Pierce’s kick missed, and he soon found himself mid-air again — only to be grabbed by a tree branch extending out of the darkness. Before Pierce was able to free himself, the branch chucked him groundward, where the armored man kicked him again, sending him rolling across the dirty ground… and then sailing over the banks of the river that ran under Lédia.
“Aw, shit!” Pierce exclaimed with a scowl as the noise of rushing waters reached his ears. He immediately shined his light downward to see the water’s surface, just in time to raise his legs and then kick against the rushing water. His kick was timed just perfectly enough to launch himself into the air again, skipping over the river’s surface like a rock before landing with a roll on the other bank. But there was no time for relief — as soon as Pierce landed, the armored Velocitechnic was on him again, throwing out a series of kicks that Pierce only barely managed to dodge, one after the other. Is this guy just as fast as I am? Pierce thought with a scowl as he desperately searched for a hole in his opponent’s offense. Argh, this asshole—! Oh, wait, I have something else I can try, don’t I? Ha!
Ducking around another kick and diving to the side to evade more vines out of the ground, Pierce then whipped around to face his attacker, transferring his held light to his left hand and then holding out his right. Just as the enemy Velocitechnic threw another kick, Pierce summoned his special weapon into his hand — in his palm appeared a dark blue and silver rapier-like hilt, attached to a long tether of glowing blue energy that terminated at the end of a silver, curved blade with a handle, that for a brief moment hung in the air. As soon as the weapon appeared, Pierce snapped the whip-like weapon forward to wrap it around the Velocitechnic’s incoming foot; a split second later, Pierce tightly gripped the hilt and swung his arm through the air as hard as he could, yanking on the man’s ankle and sending him stumbling. Pierce immediately dashed over to the man and threw his knee into his back, launching the Velocitechnic over the river — only for Pierce to leap after him, catch up to him mid-air, and spike him down into the flowing waters.
A second later, Pierce landed on the other bank of the river and spun around to sweep his light across the water’s surface, in search of the opposing Velocitechnic. As he did so, he summoned his tethered blade back into his hand, just in time to grab the blade itself and whip around to slice up a dozen vines that again attempted to bind him. In that moment of distraction, however, he failed to notice the armored man leap out of the river waters, land on the bank near Pierce, and dash toward him —
— only for a massive four-legged beast, with jagged antlers, a long barbed tail, and a wolf-like snout to land in the middle of the two combatants, driving them both to the ground under its paws.
“What the—?!” Pierce exclaimed in surprise as the beast snarled at him. In the darkness of the forest, it was difficult to see anything other than the beast’s silhouette, but between Pierce’s light and his eyes adjusting to the darkness, he could see that a massive rash of metal covered the beast’s left flank, stretching from its eye all the way back to its tail. Aw, fuck, that’s right! The infected animals… damn it, why are they getting in the way now?!
With an irate scowl, Pierce managed to leverage his arm around the beast’s paw, summon his tethered blade into his hand, and then stab the blade into the paw holding him down. The creature immediately withdrew its paw as it released a pained roar, but Pierce didn’t waste any time feeling sorry for it. He jumped to his feet and backed away several meters before turning his attention to the armored Velocitechnic, who had managed the same.
“Fucking animals…” the man muttered, and then glanced back at Pierce. “…Well, outsider, have fun!”
“What—? No! Get back here!” Pierce shouted as the man disappeared, having dashed off into the darkness. Before Pierce could pursue, however, the massive infected beast lunged forward again, grabbing him between its jaws. The energy shielding that protected him flared up brightly under the pressure of the creature’s bite, momentarily distracting Pierce from attempting a counterattack, particularly as he heard a rapid beeping noise in his ear. What the hell is that noise? Are the shields about to run out? Fucking… damn it—
“Chaos Arrow! Chaos Arrow!”
Two lances of purple energy shot out of the darkness, piercing through the beast’s lower jaw. The beast relaxed its jaw and reeled back in pain, giving Pierce the opportunity to launch himself out of its mouth. As he landed on the ground and jumped back several meters, he noticed that a light was shining upon him; upon turning to look at the light’s source, he found none other than Kestrel and Phoenix, hovering in the air a dozen meters over the ground.
“What the… what the hell are you guys doing here?!” Pierce shouted up at them.
“Saving your ass, apparently!” Phoenix shot back.
“C’mon, Pierce!” came Conrad’s voice from somewhere near the two; Pierce could only assume that he had made himself invisible. “Let’s go back! These animals are out of our league!”
“Bullshit. They’re just fucking animals,” Pierce countered as he turned back to face the massive infected beast, that was now beginning to recover from the sudden blows to its jaw. “Besides, with one this big around, we can’t just let it go! You guys heard about how dangerous it is to let the infection spread!”
“The lab attackers?” Kestrel questioned.
“…Hmph!” Pierce snorted in response. “…We’ll talk about those assholes later. For now, we have a new target!”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Pierce launched himself forward, just as the beast did the same. Its paws came down on top of him, but with his far superior speed he was able to deflect the beast’s paws by throwing his held light at them — after all, now that Kestrel had arrived with a light of her own, Pierce was free to discard his and use both of his hands to handle his tethered blade. Now no longer burdened by the light, Pierce was quickly able to follow up with slicing at the creature’s heels with his tethered blade. With a roar, it collapsed onto its front legs — but as Pierce dashed back to slice at the creature’s hind heels, he noticed the silver rash that covered its flank expand down the creature’s legs. The blood leaking out of the beast’s heels ceased, the wounds stitching shut with a metallic sheen as the creature snarled at Pierce and slammed its barbed tail into him. Surprised by its quick healing, Pierce failed to dodge out of the way of the tail and was launched across the dark forest floor.
“What the hell…?” Pierce muttered as he jumped back to his feet. He eyed the beast warily as Phoenix rained Chaos Energy projectiles upon it from above, managing to pierce its skin multiple times. Yet each time, the wound was quickly filled in with a silvery metallic substance, causing more and more of the beast’s hide to be overcome by the rash. …By making it bleed, are we somehow speeding up the infection? Pierce mused. If that’s the case, then I need to lay off with the blade… and focus entirely on one, decisive blow!
With that, he dashed back onto the scene, slamming his foot into the beast’s flank just as it made a lunge toward Phoenix in the air. It crumpled to the side, and slowly began to recover, during which Phoenix turned to look at Pierce. “It’s just healing, over and over again!” she shouted, “I think we’re just making things worse!”
“I figured that out, too,” Pierce replied. “But there’s still a solution, here. The metallic infection needs a living creature to spread, so we just have to kill this thing in a single blow!”
“What?!” Phoenix responded incredulously, “how? Do you see the size of that thing?!”
Pierce eyed the beast as it finally jumped back to its feet and turned to bare its fangs at him. Even on four legs, the creature’s shoulders easily stood five meters above the ground, and its tail extended out behind it nearly twice as far. “…We can do this,” Pierce insisted as he brandished his tethered blade. “It doesn’t have any ranged attacks, so you and Kestrel just stay up there and knock it around. When I see an opening, I’ll take it!”
“Tch…! Fine! If you want to pointlessly risk your life, then I won’t stop you!”
“I knew I could count on you,” Pierce retorted, only to then dodge to the left as the beast lunged forward and snapped at his prior location with its maw. A shout of “Chaos Impact!” from above preceded a nigh-invisible force striking the creature’s back, staggering it as it attempted to remain standing. Pierce took advantage of that brief opening to dash in close to the beast, but before he could get under it, its tail whipped around and slapped him away. Immediately, the beast dashed forward, moving fast enough to escape Kestrel’s tracking of it with the light she was holding. Snarling emanated from the darkness, indicating that the beast was still present — though Pierce had no time to react as it suddenly lunged out of the darkness and pounced on him, slamming him to the ground under its paw. Just as soon as it had pounced on him, it moved its paw to began battering him with its barbed tail, striking thrice in as many seconds. The force of the blows kept Pierce prone, unable to pick himself up as the golden light of his energy shields encased him.
However, as the beast went for another strike, Kestrel’s light fell upon it again, followed almost immediately by an immensely powerful blast of air. The creature staggered to its left as a cushion of air lifted Pierce back to his feet; with barely a glance of acknowledgment toward Kestrel, Pierce quickly jumped backward to evade one more tail swing and then dashed around to the beast’s backside.
“That fucking tail,” he muttered, taking a moment to tighten his grip on his summoned blade. He attempted to dash forward, straight at the creature, only to stop himself and jump back as its tail moved to intercept him. “…It’s so fucking fast! I have to take it out…”
With a snarl, the beast began to turn toward Pierce again, only for him to lunge to the side and then dash forward. A sharp crack echoed through the air as the beast’s tail whipped around to slap Pierce again, but this time, he was prepared. Deftly, he ducked to the side, and then threw himself to the ground to evade the tail’s quick follow up. Rolling to the side, he leaped to his feet and jumped back to evade a third swing, and then dashed in closer. The beast moved to attack with its tail again, but staggered as Phoenix slammed it with Chaos Impact; in that moment, Pierce reached the beast’s hind legs. Holding his summoned blade just in front of him, he leaped skyward with all the force he could muster in his legs — an instant later, his blade sliced through the base of the beast’s tail, completely severing the limb and allowing Pierce to continue on his skyward trajectory.
Well that was easier than I expected, he mused, keeping an eye on the beast below as he sailed through the air. I expected the extra force from my speed to make it easy to cut off the tail… but still, that was literally like taking a knife to hot butter. He then glanced at the silver blade in his hand. Just how fucking sharp is this thing?!
A deafening roar returned Pierce’s attention to the forest floor below. The beast’s tail stump had already been covered in metal, even as the tail thudded to the ground — but before Pierce even had the time to fall back to the ground after his momentous leap, the beast snatched up its tail in its mouth and shot off into the darkness.
“That thing better not reattach its fucking tail,” Pierce muttered to himself as he finally landed on the ground, but as soon as he did, a new sound reached his ears: the sound of cracking tree bark. Kestrel quickly directed her light toward the sound, allowing everyone to see that the beast had begun clawing at the trunk of one of the massive trees, ripping and tearing into the protective bark.
“The hell is it doing?” Conrad questioned aloud.
“Whatever it is, it’s not good,” Pierce declared. “But I cut off its tail, and it’s distracted… now’s the time to finish it off!”
Without waiting for a response, he blasted forward to reach the beast. With its tail gone, he was able to dash up to and between its hind legs unimpeded. The creature began to look down at him, with its front paws still clawing at the bark, but before it could act Pierce had sprung up toward the base of the tree. During the split-second he was in midair, he spun himself around to plant his feet against the bark, allowing him to immediately rebound toward the beast’s exposed undercarriage with his tethered blade held out in front of him. In the blink of an eye, his incredible speed — coupled with the excessive sharpness of the blade in his hands — allowed him to shoot straight through the beast’s torso, ripping and tearing through its internal organs.
Pierce landed on the ground a second later among a torrent of blood; the sight of the red liquid on his arms caused him to stagger, as his vision blurred. A dull throb passed through his torso, but he clenched his teeth and furrowed his brow in an effort to suppress the nausea welling up inside of him. He then launched himself across the forest floor, toward the river running through the darkness, where he then chucked himself into the running waters to cleanse the filth off of his armor. Only a couple seconds passed before he climbed back up onto the river bank and took a deep breath to calm himself. It was necessary to stop that thing… he thought bitterly, and then looked down at his right hand. But… ugh. I should’ve expected a mess. …That DID kill the beast, right?
Tentatively, Pierce rushed back to the beast’s location. Kestrel’s light shone near it, but not upon the body itself — which indeed seemed to lay still and unmoving. Pierce released a deep breath of relief, only for his brow to furrow again a second later. “Shit, I forgot! Those damn attackers are still out there—“
He glanced up, finding Kestrel and Phoenix still hovering in the air. Kestrel was staring at something near the beast, while Phoenix’s attention was directed down at Pierce.
“We need to get back! Now!” she demanded.
“The hell are you talking about?!” Pierce countered, “those assholes that attacked the campus are still out here! We need to stop them!”
“They could be anywhere at this point,” Phoenix argued. “We should leave them to people who actually know what they’re doing. For now, we need to warn the Deans!”
“Huh? About what?”
“That!” Phoenix exclaimed as she gestured forward.
Pierce turned to follow her finger, seeing that she was pointing at part of the nearby massive tree. Kestrel’s light was shining on the portion of the bark that the beast had been clawing at, creating a large gash on the side of the tree — and attached to the gash was the creature’s severed tail, hanging limply from the bark as hints of metallic silver slowly spread across the bark’s surface.
“…What the fuck?” Pierce muttered. “When did that happen?!”
“Right after you blew through its chest,” Conrad replied. He remained invisible, as he had this entire time, though the direction his voice was coming from indicated that Kestrel was holding him aloft nearby. “It managed to stick its tail to the tree before collapsing.”
“And it looks like the infection is getting into the tree,” Phoenix stated, “which is why we need to warn the Deans! We don’t have the time for your fucking grandstanding, Pierce!”
Pierce passed her a wary glance before returning his attention to the tail attached to the tree.
“…Right,” he muttered, and then spun on his heel. “…Let’s go.”
“It would figure that you— wait. What?” Phoenix stared at him incredulously. “You agreed? That was fast…”
“Do you want to go or not?” Pierce snapped.
“Don’t snap at me,” Phoenix shot back, and then looked up at Kestrel. “Let’s get out of here.”
With a curt nod, Kestrel began flying herself, Phoenix, and Conrad in the direction of the WTAC campus. Upon seeing them fly off, Pierce glanced back at the tree again, noting that the metallic rash seemed to have spread a small distance since he last looked. With a scowl, he then turned toward the direction of his friends and dashed off, leaving the remains of the infected beast behind.