Chapter 210

                “There must be some sort of distress system in place, fighting or dying Sims calling out to other nearby units. That’s the only explanation for how they keep traveling toward our people after a battle.” Will was hunched over his portable drone console, clacking away furiously. Thomas, unsure if anything he could say would help, focused on keeping the energy dome intact.

                While for most his energy was hard to see through, Thomas could peer through it with ease. That was how he was able to wrap himself in the stuff like a suit, and that was why he knew how many Sims Shane had already taken out. Thomas had no idea why Shane wasn’t calling the fights in, maybe he didn’t want to worry or distract Will from the task at hand, but it was getting brutal. Three groups had come through already, each progressively bigger than the last. Will was too busy tracking the potential-Armageddon targets to check his own area, though that hadn’t hindered Shane in the least. He’d torn through each group relentlessly, shadows whipping about and striking from every angle. Some Sims took a few more blows than others, however Shane was able to deliver dozens of strikes, often to the exact same spot, in the span of seconds.

                All that training Shane had done, all the work on precision and control, it hadn’t just given him the ability to use his power non-lethally. When applied with intent, Shane’s training had also turned his power into a brutally efficient killing machine. He knew where the vital organs were, precisely, and he knew exactly how to hit where he wanted. There had been a few dark, prideful moments when Thomas had wondered if Shane was really a better choice than him for Intramurals; after all, wasn’t malleable energy a more versatile fit? Now, standing under his dome and watching the carnage, Thomas understood what Chad had meant about Shane’s strength. He might not win Intramurals, where killing was frowned upon, but there wasn’t a doubt in Thomas’s mind that Shane would be a legend among Heroes once he was out in the field. Perhaps a terrifying legend, one used to scare criminals into compliance, or a legend of destruction when people saw what remained in his wake. No matter how it went down, Shane’s ability to cut through entire swaths of enemies was going to be noticed and depended on by the public at large, regardless of how terrifying it might be.

                Maybe the other Heroes were right. Maybe they were the Class of Nightmares after all.

                “Shit. I might be able to rework the sonic taser to neutralize the Sims’ distress frequency, but I’d have to land the drones and stop coordinating to do it.” Will was chewing on his lip, visibly weighing his options in the few seconds he had to make these sorts of calls.

                “Keep up the tracking, we need that more,” Thomas said.

                “You think? But it would only be a couple of minutes, and then our people wouldn’t risk getting swarmed.”

                “We don’t have a couple of minutes to spare.” Thomas looked over to the edge of his dome, where he could see a fourth group of Sims, the biggest lot yet, just beginning to their charge at the entrance of the alley. Shane was already poised and waiting, the moment they appeared his shadows sprang into action. “And our class can handle a few gangs of Sims. They need you for guidance above all else right now. The ass-kicking, we’ve got handled.”

*             *             *

                Vince hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect, but the unremarkable male Sim hiding in the Origin of Supers exhibit still surprised him. He’d been certain there would be at least a gang of Sims waiting, maybe with a tiered floor that required fighting his way up it one enemy at a time. There was a strong chance he might have cobbled this imaginary battle together out of memories from watching Hershel play video games, but it still would have been exciting to have something a little grander than a shabby guy in the corner with a flickering ball of light between his hands.

                “Stop!” Vince yelled, more on reflex than intent. Since they were dealing with an Armageddon Sim, he probably should have attacked first, but some instincts were hard to curb. To his shock, the Sim did exactly as instructed, letting the ball of light disperse and raising his hands in the air, showing the universal sign of submission.

                “Huh. I did not expect that to work.” Chad appeared from the shadows behind the Sim, he’d slipped away moment’s prior and taken a stealthier route. The original plan had been for Vince to draw fire while Chad snuck in and delivered the killing blow, but that seemed a little unnecessary at this point.

                “What do we do now?” Vince had been geared up for a no-holds-barred fight; he wasn’t sure how to proceed in the face of immediate surrender.

                Chad considered the question briefly before a blade of bone extended from his forearm. With a single slash, Chad severed something in the Sim’s neck and the unkempt man went tumbling forward. “Killing without need is not heroic, however we can’t risk him attacking us or starting things up when we leave. Paralysis is our best option, and I was careful with the spinal nerves I cut. Or what would be spinal nerves on a human. The point is: he’s out of the battle.”

                Touching his earpiece, Vince quickly relayed the situation to Will. “Did we get him, is this our guy?” He didn’t have high hopes, this whole thing screamed “distraction” more than someone trying to wipe out the world, but it was worth asking.

                “Since no one has passed down word that the test is done, I don’t think so,” Will replied. “That means Alice’s team has probably got the real one cornered, I haven’t spotted any other targets yet. All forces: converge on that location. We’re running low on time and we have to stop the Sim before the ten minutes are up.”

                “We should get moving,” Chad said. “We’re pretty far away, the odds of us making it in time are slim, but we might if we rush. At the least, we can take out any Sims we see approaching to back-up the ones under attack.”

                “Yeah, that’s probably right.” Vince’s eyes lingered on the Sim still slumped over. Moving as quickly as he dared, Vince walked over and hefted the Sim into a position with his back against the wall. “Sorry we had to hurt you, even after you surrendered. At least you’re still alive though.”

                That done, he rejoined Chad and the two of them took off in a dead sprint, racing out the museum doors in no time. It was a pity they didn’t linger a bit longer. They might have noticed the other figures entering the museum from the other side, Sims who quickly rushed to their downed comrade’s location.

                That was the trouble with teamwork, it cut in both directions.