Blades & Barriers: Chapter 30

                A huge shifter that looked like a bear-raccoon hybrid came bolting out from behind a stack of knocked over shipping containers, clearly intent on catching Bloodfyre from the rear. Instead, it nearly ran right into Barrier, who was trailing behind his teacher as instructed. For a moment, the beast seemed uncertain which target to go after, but after the initial hesitation passed it decided that the nearest Hero would make for the best prey. Rearing back, it slammed a heavy paw directly into Barrier’s torso… where it stopped cold as it made contact with his shield.

                “Be grateful,” Barrier said as he stepped in, expanding his shield-hand and getting a firm grip on the shifter’s left leg. “If you’d tried that with Bloodfyre your arm would have been disintegrated.” A quick squeeze, a series of pops from the leg, and suddenly the bear-raccoon creature was collapsed onto the ground, whimpering in pain. “Stay down. If you try and move, the only thing you’ll accomplish is to get both of your legs broken, or worse.”

                Barrier darted away from the shifter, hurrying to catch up with Bloodfyre, who’d dropped two assailants in the time Barrier had been dealing with his. It took a hard run to close the gap, which made it nice to know that all the cardio drilling they’d done in the HCP wasn’t just to drum people out. On a battlefield, being able to move quickly and frequently was a necessary skill. Linger too long in any one place, and you became a sitting target.

                Chatter ran through his ear as Barrier darted across an open section of the wharf, keeping a steady distance from Bloodfyre. Most of it was about the fight inside, so he listened as closely as he could in case anything impacted the outer battle, but for the most part focused on his portion of the fight. Important as coordination was, it was still vital that he not get so blinded by the big picture that he missed the small warning signs.

                Warning signs like the shadows that appeared on the ground to his right, seconds before three barrels came slamming down into his back. They bounced harmlessly off the shield, of course, but Barrier still stopped in his tracks, spinning around to scout the area. If the advanced mind was throwing shots that precise, they had to be making visual contact. Sure enough, Barrier caught sight of a man in a green coat ducking behind a large pile of rope near more containers.

                “Hey team, I think I’ve got eyes on the advanced mind.”

                “As I recall, your shield keeps you from being lifted or moved by telekinesis, correct?” Unseelie sounded calm, despite the fact that there were explosions and gunshots coming from her direction.

                “Yes ma’am,” Barrier replied.

                “Then you’re the one best suited to take them out. Can you handle that, Barrier?”

                “I’ll sure do my best.” Barrier turned and began racing toward the pile of rope where the advanced mind had ducked. It was a trap; obviously, the crook couldn’t really have been more blatant about it. That was fine though. Barrier was a brute force Hero, his role had always been taking the dangerous positions and springing the traps. Dashing around the corner, he was unsurprised to find that not only was the advanced mind waiting there with a cluster of barrels, but there were two more people flanking him. A short woman with orange hair and matching eyes, as well as a large guy whose head was either bald or shaved.

                “Classic combo, right?” The advanced mind was grinning; he clearly thought he had Barrier dead-to-rights. “Strongman, blaster, and advanced mind. And you Heroes don’t think we learn anything from watching you. Now just back down and let us get away. Nobody needs to get hurt.”

                “You’re kind of stealing my lines here,” Barrier replied. “Surrender now and you can go to prison, not a hospital.”

                “Feeling pretty good with that energy of yours I take it. It did a nice job of stopping physical objects, but I wonder if it can really take the heat?” The advanced mind had barely gotten the word “heat” out before the woman with orange hair struck, firing a pair of flaming beams from her eyes directly into Barrier’s chest. It was an impressive display, which made it all more satisfying to see the surprise on their faces as Barrier stepped forward, unaffected.

                He let the shock linger for just a moment, then attacked, racing forward and expanding his shield. The right hand he wrapped around the woman’s face, stopping her beams before they could do any more damage, and the left he used to grab both of her legs. With an ability that destructive he couldn’t afford to take chances, so he squeezed them both until he heard the telltale pops, then set her down onto the concrete softly.

                “As a matter of fact, my shield can take quite a bit.”

                Barrier turned to face the advanced mind, but the big guy had leapt between them. He grabbed ahold of Barrier’s shoulders and yelled back to the advanced mind. “Run boss!”

                Boss, huh? Well, that made it all the more important that they not let this criminal escape. Using his already giant shield-hand, Barrier brushed aside the strongman’s grip and took hold of his shoulder. Rather than try and snap his limbs, however, Barrier just lifted him up and carried him along as he chased after the already fleeing form of the advanced mind. The large Super smashed his fists against the glowing hand holding him aloft, but he wasn’t able to so much as budge it. Short of someone like Titan, it would take more than raw strength to beat Barrier’s power.

                As he ran, the advanced mind began to fling things into Barrier’s path, most of which he simply plowed through. This guy was pretty skilled, and he was quick, but a little bit of talent was no match for the training Barrier had been through. He closed the gap in seconds, grabbing the advanced mind by the legs and lifting him upside down into the air along with his strongman friend.

                “Shit, looks like you got me.” The crook raised his hands, which actually made them point at the ground, and put on a wide smile. “I surrender, Hero. I will go without objection or resistance. You have bested me, and I accept my defeat.”

                For the first time since the fight had started, Barrier hesitated. What should he do now? When one of the HCP’s robot enemies, a Sim, gave up then that was that. But this guy could claim to quit, then go running again the moment Barrier let him go to help the others. So should he break the man’s legs? That felt like excessive force for someone who was surrendering.

                Thankfully, he was saved by the wisdom of someone more experienced. Bloodfyre stepped into view, having apparently raced over, and thrust two fingers coated in red energy through the advanced mind’s left ankle. “Your surrender has been noted, and once incarcerated you’ll be entitled to healing for your injuries.” The glowing red hand moved over and jammed through the other ankle, eliciting a small squeal of pain from the advanced mind, who was otherwise remaining stoic. He turned to the strongman, who had paled visibly at the display.

                “How about you? Surrender and healing, or resistance and a hospital?”

                “I’ll take the surrender.” There wasn’t even a moment of hesitation in the large crook’s reply.

                “Good call,” Bloodfyre said. “If you’d given up without fighting, this wouldn’t be necessary, but since you attacked a Hero we can’t exactly trust you to play nice. Surrender means this is a temporary measure, although it is a painful one.”

                Despite the fact that Bloodfyre was speaking to the criminals, Barrier knew the words were really for him. This was how to deal with Supers who attacked and then surrendered, they were incapacitated but not left on their own for recovery. The technique seemed a bit brutal as Barrier watched his teacher burn through another set of ankles, however it wasn’t as if they could just take people who’d attacked them at their word. Maybe when he was more experienced, he’d be able to think of a better way. For right now, however, they still had a fight to finish.