Chapter 40

“We’ve got two incoming, about half a mile to the southeast,” Alex said, breaking the silence in which the three stood around the flag.

“Any idea who they are?” Vince asked.

“Not a clue. They seem to be weaving a bit about. I think they’re canvasing the area thoroughly, which at least means they don’t know where we are.”

“It also means if we leave them be they’ll eventually find us,” Vince pointed out.

“That, too,” Alex agreed.

“So what should we do?” Camille asked.

“We stick to the plan,” Vince replied. “Without knowing the size of their offensive force, we can’t afford to leave the flag unguarded. Since Alex is the only one who can sense incoming presences we can’t risk him at the outset. That means you and I go handle these two. If we fail then at least he’ll know they are still coming.”

“And if we succeed I’ll take care of your wounds and we’ll hurry back to this spot to strengthen our position,” Camille added.

“You sure you can handle this? Two versus two seems good, but only one of you is a fighter,” Alex pointed out. “I could come along and help. I don’t sense anyone else getting near yet and it would probably take them a while to find this spot regardless.”

Vince shook his head. “Nick and Mary came up with this system for a reason. I trust them both more than myself at this sort of situation, so Camille and I will go handle things. Besides, they’re weak on combat personnel anyway. Maybe they did like us and paired people who could fight along with people who had other skills.”

“It’s something to hope for,” Alex said. “Make a wide swing when you leave. We don’t want them knowing the direction the flag is in. Most importantly, you two keep safe.”

“Don’t worry, we will,” Vince assured him. Camille merely nodded her agreement and tried to calm the intolerable churning in her stomach.

*    *    *

“Anything?” Nick asked impatiently.

“Vince and Camille are on their way to intercept Allen and Hector, Michael and Britney are still searching for our flag, Roy and Alice are fighting Adam, who I’m guessing took on Michael’s shape, and Gilbert and Terrance are blinking at random through the area, looking for any opponents,” Mary doled out concisely.

“I do adore that ridiculous range of yours,” Nick complimented. “So where is their flag?”

“No idea,” Mary replied.

“Not one of them is thinking about it?”

“Worse. None of them know where it is.”

“They don’t... oh that sneaky, sneaky bitch. She found a way to take away the advantage of having telepaths.”

“So it seems. They never even looked at the map, they just huddled up and established perimeters to search,” Mary elaborated.

“Getting rid of any chance of us gleaning the location and giving them a head start. A defense of ignorance that allows them to put all of their resources into offense. Ballsy.”

“You almost sound impressed.”

“I’m impressed by strategies that work. Right now it’s a gambit designed to overcome their biggest weakness. It does so, but only by opening other holes for us to exploit,” Nick evaluated. “But it could work, especially if they converge on our flag fast enough.”

“You could throw a little bad luck their way,” Mary pointed out.

“Too risky. Bad luck for one of them might be meeting Vince who kicks their ass, but another merely runs past him and grabs our flag. Besides, they won’t be depending on luck. If Britney was smart enough to come up with all this, she’ll have them using methodical canvassing techniques so that no stone goes unturned. Wit and skill can beat out luck when properly applied.”

“You sound like you speak from experience.”

“Let’s not pretend you're asking questions when you’ve scoured my brain enough to know the answers.”

“Fine, we’ll just- damn it,” Mary swore.

“What damn it?”

“She’s probably referring to us,” Gilbert said, bounding over a hill and into view.

“They teleported in and heard our voices,” Mary explained.

Sure enough, a second, taller figure came right on Gilbert’s heels. He wore his hair neatly styled and spun a coin deftly between his fingers. Terrance was a student Nick and Mary had only seen bust out his skill in Ranged Combat class, however it had left a large enough impression that both recognized him immediately.

“Why, Gilbert, I didn’t know you could bring people along when you teleported,” Nick said casually.

“It’s a new skill I’ve developed. Funny thing about us real Supers, we just keep on improving.”

“We take out the weaker one first, then combine forces against Mary,” Terrance directed, his eyes looking dead at Nick as he said ‘weaker one.’ If he was hoping to rile his opponent, he chose a poor strategy. Nick was under no misimpression of where he ranked in the hierarchy of fighting prowess.

“Good idea,” Nick agreed. “You wouldn’t want Gilbert to come at me alone and lose again. Especially now that he knows he’s just fighting a Powered.”

“You handle the girl,” Gilbert told Terrance. “I owe my good friend Nick here a solid punch to the jaw.”

“He’s baiting you,” Terrance said. “He wants to split our attention.”

There was a thudding sound as a large branch dropped to the ground a few feet from Terrance.

“What makes you think I’d let you gang up on him anyway?” Mary asked politely, mentally cracking the branch in half to drive home the point.

“Very well,” Terrance acquiesced. “I can handle her for at least some time. Be swift.”

“It’ll be over in a blink,” Gilbert promised.

“Wow, really? I mean, are you proud of that one? Is that a line you’re going to repeat when telling this story later in life?” Nick jeered.

“I... shut up. I’m going to kick your ass,” Gilbert said, vanishing from sight.

Nick braced himself. He didn’t know where the punch was coming from, but he knew it would be coming hard. Even worse than that, he knew that no matter what he did, he couldn’t block it. These next few minutes were going to suck heavily.