The following is a complete work of fiction.


This is my first City of Heroes Fan Fiction. If you are not a person who knows the City of Heroes MMPRPG, some of this story may not make sense. However, like my X-Universe Fan Fictions, I have written enough background into the story that I believe it is accessible to anyone who likes science fiction and comic book worlds.


The following story may contain erotic situations between consenting adults. If it is illegal for you to read this please leave now.

Any resemblance between the characters and any real life person is completely coincidental. Please do not copy or distribute the story without the author's permission.

The characters, places and world of this story are the exclusive property of their original authors, publishers and production companies. No assumption of copyright has been made in this work.

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City of Heroes - Book 1

Awakenings - Chapter 12

"What the hell are these guys again?" I grabbed two gunners from the upper level and smashed them against the bunker ceiling.

"Lost," Urioch grunted, blasting aside a big bruiser with a really big, nasty blade.

Lost. What the hell kind of gang name was that? "They look like genetic rejects from a mutant love fest." The big bruiser with the blade launched at us again, but I caught him in mid-leap and held him while Urioch gave him an in-the-face introduction to Mr. Energy Blast. For moment, the room quieted to the hum of equipment, surviving florescent lighting, and an odd pulse that I couldn't identify.

Urioch nodded, panting, and braced himself on his knees to catch his breath. He'd been using his powers non-stop since we hit the bunker. I ran my palm over his skull, letting my power flow into him. I couldn't give him a second wind, but I could minimize the long term ache and discomfort from extended use of his powers. I swore he leaned into my touch, and for a moment he pressed against my hand, eyes closed, as if needing the touch more than the power I was providing. Just as quickly as he'd pressed in, he took a deep breath and stood up, snapping away from my hand. "I do not understand why they are here."

I nodded absently, wondering why he was going so hot and cold with me. Urioch had been edgy for days, and it worried me. I rubbed my palm, feeling the slickness of his sweat, and tried not to think about the problems. He was just under a lot of pressure to perform. He was the newest member of the Warriors of Valhalla. That was it. It had to be.

Valkyra landed beside us, keeping an ever watchful eye out for more enemies. "My source mentioned that the Lost intended to destroy the Memorial. No one understands the Lost. Their motivations are alien." With a smile, she added, "Present company excepted of course."

Urioch smiled at Valkyra as Valkyron emerged from the mists that he had summoned to give us cover. Like Lenny's darkness, it didn't make him invisible, but it was almost like he was living distortions of air before he released his power. The WoV were powerful as hell and fucking cool. "There are more down the corridor, in the Memorial Chamber."

"Blessed Frigga," Star Viking grumbled, landing near us, "is there no end to these trolls?"

"Trolls are easier to kill," Muspel grunted, crossing his arms. "At least Trolls burn. The Lost are a most uncooperative enemy. They do not fall."

Blue Belle brushed back her hair and wiped the blood from her hands on the torn shirt of a fallen Lost. "At least they aren't Freak Show. I hate when one of those guys recharges after you've kicked their asses. Then you have to do it all over again. I like my enemies to go down hard and stay down."

I eyed the blasters and bruisers lying near us. They were definitely staying down. "I still say they look like mutants."

"We suspect the Lost are the results of genetic-fusion between humans and an alien race." Valkyra rose into the air and motioned for us to follow. "Rumor is that they might be an attempt to assimilate to our world by refugee Rikti after the war. I obtained some genetic samples from numerous Lost a few months back and that was the best the scientists can offer as explanation."

"Blech." I made a face at one of the distorted, vagabond clothed Lost that we had taken down. "No alien gene splicing for me."

"Agreed," Star Viking concurred in a hushed tone as we landed near the end of the hall.

Valkyron's power swirled about us as Valkyra gestured for us to be quiet. We made it to the main chamber of the old Rikti bunker,. On a pedistal in the center of the room was the Memorial to Hero One. The Memorial was protected by a force field. The Lost had obviously been trying to break the shield for a while. It was wavering.

Valkyra floated back to us. "It looks like my contact was right. We can't let them destroy the memorial."

The memorial hadn't even been opened to the public yet. In fact, no one was supposed to know about it but a few politicians and high level beaurocrats. I wasn't about to ask how the Lost, or Valkyra's contact, knew about the place, but I was curious.

"Valkyron, Death's Head, and Star Viking will provide us cover and support." We nodded. "Blue Belle, Muspel, Urioch and I will clear the Lost away from the memorial before they can disable the force field." Under the magical protection of Valkyron's mists, we slipped into the partially lit chamber without commotion and the blasters selected their targets. Valkyra whispered over the headsets, "Three, two, one..."

Her lighting lashed out at the apparent leader of the group while Valkyron hit the area with a ball of electrical power. The electricity coursed across the floor and around the memorial force field, and I swore the thing flickered. Urioch unleashed a torrent of energy as Viking cast a spell of confusion on the Lost. Muspel charged in, ringed in flame, with his giant battle axe lifted high. There were no silent operations with Muspel around. His battle cry could wake the dead. Blue Belle dashed passed the giant, blurred by power as she began kicking and punching her way through the crowd. I reached out, grabbing as many as I could, and simply tried to hold them in place so that the team could take them down.

The tactics didn't work. Though Viking's magics had protected us from the Anathema earlier, their psionic powers were nothing compared to the things with the last group. Two looked like wrinkled, muscle bound hobbits in hoods. The last looked like a cybernetically enhanced Anathema. Anathema were scary enough, standing seven feet tall, with warped, steroid pumped bodies and distorted heads that housed brains that could fry a person's neurons with a thought. The cybernetic one was just that much worse.

I lost my hold on the bad guys as the first psionic wave hit. It felt like someone was trying to run my brain through a shredder. Urioch, Valkyra and I were incapacitated by psionic attacks. Both Valkyra and Urioch hit the ground, gripping at their heads, while I dropped to my knees and tried to block out the pain. My power erupted, partially undoing the affects of the attack. I staggered to my feet as the cyber-Anathema leapt from the dais and landed near Urioch. He had one of those big-ass blades too. I thrust my will at him, knocking the thing back as I tried to get between him and Urioch. Fuck, he was at least eight feet tall! I tried to lock him in place, but my head was still throbbing from the psionic attack. He just kept on coming, his fist swinging in a wide arc almost faster than I could see. If it hadn't been for my elastisteel suit, I'd have been paste. The fist caught me at the skull logo on my chest and it felt like a tsunami had blown through me. I flew back, unable to catch my breath, and hit the ground. I could hardly move as I watched Urioch and Valkyra hit the thing from both sides. I couldn't breathe. Oh, God. That was blood I was tasting.

As the cybernetic monstrosity fell, Urioch launched himself to me, blasting at things near me that I couldn't see. All I could see was Urioch as he lifted my head. "Jason?" His emotions were so chaotic that I couldn't get a fix on them. Urioch yelled into the chaos of the battle, "Star Viking, Death's Head is down!"

There was an explosion of electricity and lightning around us as Valkyron and Valkyra cleared the way. Star Viking's face came into view as my vision started to fade. His hands went to my chest and his magic swirled about us. "By the Blessings of Baldar, be healed and grow strong..."

I took a shuddering, painful breath, swallowing more blood than I wanted to think about, and tried to move. No, tried to breathe. I shook and rolled out of Urioch's hands as my lungs tried to evacuate the blood and bile I'd just inhaled. The next few moments were a haze of hacking, gasping and trying to clear my vision of the pain induced tears. Throwing up blood was definitely not top on my list of things to do.

As I recovered my wits and pushed myself up, Star Viking put his hand on my shoulder. The others were back in the thick of things, and the battle looked like it was turning in our favor. "Come on, Lad. Let's show these bastards what we can do."

Nearly dying no longer scared me. It pissed me off. I vented a lot of frustration on the Lost before the mission was over!

I couldn't believe Urioch was being such a stubborn, arrogant asshole. I threw my costume top at my bed before I turned on him. "I did exactly what I was supposed to, Urioch. I covered your ass and kept you safe!" He was putting me on restriction? Was I getting a curfew again too?

"You needlessly put yourself in harm's way, Jason. I will not tolerate your recklessness." His whole, standing tall, looking down, crossing his arms thing wasn't going to cut it.

"Needlessly? You were sprawled out on the floor, psi-blasted, and that fucker was about to cut off your head! Unless I missed my guess, you aren't so alien as to be able to survive decapitation!" I looked at my chest in the mirror. Viking's magic had saved my life, but there was definite bruising and I felt anything but completely restored. I'd been so angry during the end of the battle, and frustrated with Urioch since then, that I hadn't been able to draw upon my own power to heal.

"I told you to stay in the rear and provide limited support."

"Valkyra told me to provide cover and support. I provided cover." Wincing as I twisted, I felt around for any loose bones. "I just ended up doing it physically instead of metaphorically."

"I'm your mentor!" Why the fuck was he so mad? I didn't even come close to dying.

"And Valkyra was mission leader! I can't follow two sets of orders, Urioch. On group missions, we can only have one leader!" Walking up to him, and I tried to get in his face. Okay, so I was arguing to his chest, but it didn't matter. "What the fuck is wrong with you lately? Is this some sort of Alien Annual PMS? I'm doing what I'm supposed to, and you've been biting my head off and flinch away from me when I do healing!" It was the flinching at my touch that hurt the most. I could deal with being a fuck-up, but being repulsive was hard to take.

His eyes were dark, so incredibly dark, and I could feel he was struggling. What I didn't know was what he was struggling over. "Jason..."

His issues were his. I wasn't backing down just because I knew this was about more than one stupid mission injury. "I'm SCL6, Urioch. One more level and there won't be any more 'mentor-sidekick'. Being a paranormal law enforcer is dangerous. We get hurt. Sometimes we're killed. I'm neither injured nor dead, so maybe all the training and team work has paid off."

He stared at me, saying nothing, until he took a deep breath and stepped out of the bedroom. "We will discuss this later." He walked out and got to the balcony doors before I could get around the corner.

"Where are you going?"

"Debriefing." He slid open the balcony door. "I expect you to be here when I get back." Before I could answer him, he flew out and vanished into the night sky.

Something was definitely wrong.

I blinked awake and groggily looked at the clock. Three thirty-four in the morning. I hadn't been having a nightmare, and I hadn't been dreaming about hot sex with a muscle-bound elf, so I wasn't sure why I was feeling restless. I rolled over, rubbing my eyes, and noticed Urioch standing in the doorway, just watching me. The sensation I got from him was much calmer than when he left, but there was still an edge to his emotions I wasn't comfortable with. Sitting up, I rubbed my face. "Is it later?"

For a moment, he didn't say anything, and then he shook his head. "No. I was simply checking on you before going to bed."

He was only now going to bed? He'd left over six hours ago. "Are you okay?" Urioch never stayed out if he wasn't on a mission. He was a homebody. It was one of the things I loved about him.

"Yes, Jason." He still hadn't stopped looking at me. I wished I knew what he was thinking because the emotions were prickly as hell. "I apologize for my behavior earlier. I do not want to bury any more friends."

So that was it! We'd been to two funerals in the last month. I hadn't known either of the heroes who'd died, but they had been friends of Urioch's. I wanted to hug him and tell him I wasn't going to die, but that was a worthless promise. I would, eventually, and in our line of work it was more likely to be sooner than later. "Apology accepted."

"Good night, Jason."

"Good night, Urioch."

He left me sitting there, and after a minute I stretched back out and stared at the ceiling. It took me forever to get back to sleep.

"Look who the cat dragged in," Jonathan called out as I stepped into the Cauldron. He put out his hand as I came up to the counter, and I shook it. His touch no longer gave me the chills. "Where have you been? And where's your partner?"

"Big, strong and monacled is at a WoV meeting. He'll be here after it's over." I settled onto the stool. "My usual."

Jonathan began my latte as he talked. "Why aren't you at the meeting?"

"I'm only an honorary member because I'm 'the side kick'." I shrugged. "I got hurt a couple weeks ago and they haven't included me in the latest missions." I shrugged. "Means I get a day or two off from patrols every so often."

"I bet Urioch wasn't pleased with that. Higher profile activity is a sure fire way to be promoted. You've only got one level to go before you're an independent hero." He set my latte down on the counter and walked over to refill another customer's cup.

I hadn't thought about it that way. I sat there, sipping my coffee, and wondered if I was relieved or irritated. He wouldn't penalize me like that, would he? I turned as I heard a familiar laugh at the door.

Shaed and Magdalene dashed in, laughing while they shook off the rain. I'd used my powers to keep dry on the walk over. Magdalene looked up and smiled. "Jason!" I got off the chair just in time to get a warm, if a bit damp, hug.

"Hey Mags," I replied, kissing her on the cheek before releasing the hug. "Hi, Professor Duggan."

He shook my hand and his head. "You're never going to call me by my hero ID are you?" I shrugged. "You're still one of my college professors."

"Not for the next couple months. I'm not teaching over the summer semester so that I can mentor Lenny."

"That doesn't seem fair, I know he's got classes. We've been comparing schedules to figure out when we can workout together." Lenny had never been a fan of the gym, but Shaed had insisted he improve his physical as well as metaphysical abilities.

"It is a good life lesson for him. Life is never fair; at least by human standards." Shaed looked over at Pentacle. "The others here?"

Jonathan nodded. "Upstairs. I'll be up shortly. My new employee hasn't arrived yet."

Shaed frowned. "I'll have to talk to him about being late."

"He isn't late. I asked him to pick up some supplies that weren't delivered with my last shipment. He called a half hour ago to let me know he had them and was on his way. I expect him shortly." He looked up at the door. "In fact, I believe he's arrived."

I took me a moment to recognize the guy who was trying to push the door open while balancing a few boxes in his arms. I waved, opening the door and supporting the boxes at the same time. Lenny stumbled back and landed on his butt. Fortunately, he was the only thing to go down. I walked over and gave him a hand up. "You're working here now?"

Lenny grinned, more than just a little embarrassed, and nodded. "Yeah, this is my first week."

He reached for the packages but I shook my head. "Nah, I got them. Just tell me where they go and then you can get your orders from the two enigmatic guys you work for before they disappear." Lenny showed me to the back room, pointed out where the stuff went and then dashed back up front to get his instructions. I put the boxes away and returned to the main room as Mags, Shaed and Pentacle climbed the stairs to the upper level. I looked at Lenny as he tied on his apron. "What's going on?"

"They're recovering some artifact that the Circle of Thorns stole." He shrugged. "I know a little about the Quaballa, but I don't know shit about most of this magic stuff. I'm a mutant, not a magician."

"That why you're staying behind?"

"Yeah. I'm still only SCL1. Shaed thinks it would be better if I stay out of heavy duty magic missions until I'm more experienced."

"It sounds like you're going to get a lot more training and patrol time in a few weeks."

Lenny smiled. "Yeah. It's been a slow start, but I think once I get going, I'll be following in your footsteps."

I laughed. "You'll be insecure, temperamental and gay?"

Lenny laughed. "No. Well, not the gay part at least." He looked at me, and I realized there was something more in his look than just a joking friendship. "I just want a chance to prove myself like you have. I've been here since the first day, Jason. I've watched everyone in the group, and of all of us, you're the one who's changed the most."

"I haven't changed all that much," I protested.

Lenny shrugged. "Maybe changed is the wrong word. You've grown up. I guess what you've really done is just learned to be you." He looked down at the coffee he'd poured for himself. "I'm still working on that one."

I lifted my mug to him in salute. "Well, whoever you end up being, I look forward to being your friend."

"Right back at you," he replied, clinking his mug to mine.

Urioch and I got off the Tram and took to the air. I was looking forward to finishing our patrol and spending some time having coffee at the Cauldron. "It's been a slow couple days," I observed as we soared over Skyway City.

"I have been relieved by the absence of crime," Urioch replied.

"Yeah, but too much idle time makes me edgy." The fact that we had never really resolved the tension from earlier in the month didn't help. "I keep waiting for the axe to fall."

As if fate had heard me, our communicators buzzed in unison. Urioch tapped his. Unliked me, he had a more sophisticated one which had GPS mapping features built in. He'd rewired the thing so he could get the readouts on his monocle. "Team emergency signal." I knew that already, but kept my mouth shut. "They need additional fire power and healers." Shifting his flight direction, he homed in on the signal. "They are only a mile away."

"Sounds like we won't get our coffee break after all," I joked, trying to keep the mood light. I knew as well as he did that Emergency signals meant heroes were down and more were in danger.

"The Cauldron is open all night, Jason. Let us remain optimistic." We soared between the suspended highways and dipped into a rundown industrial district. We'd just started patrolling Skyway, so I wasn't familiar with the area yet. Urioch pointed as we closed in on the signal. "Clockworks."

"God those things are annoying," I grumbled, waving at them as we closed. The little mechanical monsters floated into the air, immobile, as we landed. "All yours."

"You are too kind." Urioch blew apart the little shits before we opened the door. The building was one of the few skyscrapers in the area. It had been abandoned after the Rikti invasion. There was no telling what the Clockwork were doing there. Once inside, it wasn't hard to tell where the battle was being fought. "Stay close." We flew down the hallways and up through a hole in the ceiling to the second level.

There was a team of six heroes pinned down by over twenty clockwork. Four of the six heroes were incapacitated. Over the fallen bodies, a red and white clockwork looking robot was floating, blasting radiation bolts at the attacking clockwork. Behind the robot, almost back to back, was a guy in a black, armored body suit. He deflected most of the electricity through some form of grounding rods while kicking and punching the clockwork cogs that got within hand-to-hand combat range.

"I will create a distraction, while you help the injured." Urioch soared over the heroes and drew fire by unleashing a barrage of blue-white blasts at the Clockworks.

Great. I was on bandaid duty again. I'd rather have tossed around a few buckets of bolts myself. I landed behind the guy in black, calling out to make sure he didn't turn on me. "I've got your ass, bud. You keep them back while I check on your injured."

"Fucking bitch," the guy snarled, not turning to look at me, "We needed a full team!" Something about his voice was familiar; too familiar.

"The information I compiled did not allow us the luxury of waiting, Night Marauder." The red and white robot blasted another clockwork.

Night Marauder? I snapped around, looking at the narrow hips, wide shoulders, powerful legs. He wore a complete cowl so I couldn't see the hair, but the rest of the package was about right. Shit!

"Well if green-ass would have answered her team call, we would have been fine!" Marauder smashed another Cog.

"That is an unrealistic assessment, Marauder," the robot countered, blasting another clockwork with some sort of green eyebeam. "Demonicalle is more effective against organic enemies than mechanical ones. Her powers, like my own, are specialized."

"Yeah right! She's just pissed because we didn't hook up last time after the battle." He dodged a bolt and threw a broken clockwork back at the group closing on us.

"Demonicalle wouldn't do that, Night-Ass," I snarled, "Less whining and more muscle would be appreciated!" I wasn't going to stand there, trying to heal people, with someone bad mouthing one of my friends. I dropped to a knee and checked on the first person. He was elfin looking, like a shorter, skinnier, prettier version of Urioch with a full head of hair. He was trembling and clenching his teeth.

"Fucking newbie," Night Marauder grumbled, but put more effort into keeping the clockwork at bay than bitching about it.

"Neural-overload from a tesla bolt," the robot commented as I felt for a pulse.

"Thanks." Not that I really understood what neural-overload was, or how to fix it. I just let my powers handle the particulars. I looked at the guy's face and imagined what I'd feel if Urioch was the one on the floor. The light flared and I put my hand on his chest. He'd barely stopped shaking and opened his eyes when I was knocked onto my ass by an electric bolt. Thank God my suit was insulated. It still hurt. "Fuck!"

A blue bolt from above obliterated the offending clockwork. "Death's Head, are you alright?"

I looked up as Urioch paused in his barrage. "Yeah, just sizzled."

Night Marauder eyed me. "You?"

I ignored the uncomfortable twitch I felt and knelt down near the next hero. "Me. Shut up. I have work to do."

My power flowed into the woman in a lightning patterned body suit. She gasped, spasmed, and then looked at me for a moment before realizing I wasn't death incarnate. The elfin guy was already on his knees and casting spells. His magics really weren't suited for fighting robots.

As the fallen team members recovered enough to continue the fight, the clockwork fell back. Urioch soared past us and blew apart the last Tesla Knight before landing. Night Marauder looked at me as I finished reviving the last hero. Our eyes met, and I felt like a caged rat.

"I thought I recognized that smart mouth." He helped one of his teammates up. "You're still good on your knees, kid. Demonicalle must be a great teacher."

I glared at him, but didn't say anything.

The robot settled down on a broken desk and began repairing itself. "Your assistance was most fortuitous, Urioch and Death's Head."

Urioch nodded to the robot as I moved closer to him. I wanted to get him between me and Marauder's dominant, almost hungry, expression. "I am thankful that we were close by." He turned to me. "Death's Head, this is BioTech, leader of Muse. BioTech, this is Death's Head my partner."

BioTech inclined its head. The voice was definitely female, as were the mannerisms BioTech displayed. "Our mission is of an urgent nature. The clockwork have stolen an isotope from Crey Labs that must be returned and put back into electromagnetic containment within another seventy minutes or it will become unstable and volatile."

"Joy," I mumbled.

"The isotope is here?"

BioTech nodded. "My radiation scanners are able to track the emissions from the damaged container."

"Bio, where is it?" Marauder stretched his shoulder as he kept an eye out for trouble.

"Four levels up." BioTech's self repair systems completed their tasks and she stood. "Has everyone recovered?"

Tesla Witch, Dal Shannara, Goth Industrial and Grey Wolf all nodded. Marauder gave her a thumbs-up. Urioch and I had just arrived; we were fresh.

"Our goal is the recovery of the isotope. Keep close, be cautious, and restrain impulses to dive headlong into combat." I wasn't sure, but I think the little robot was directing her words at Marauder. "We'll take the stairs. Elevator shafts are ideal for traps."

Those of us who could fly took point. Grey Wolf mumbled quietly about the disruptions in the spirit world caused by recent events. I wondered how BioTech had managed to assemble such an in cohesive team. A mutant, an augmented mercenary, a shaman, a power suit blaster, a sorcerer, an empathy-PK, an alien warrior and a sentient machine were banded together to recover a dangerous substance stolen by insane, living machines bent on the destruction of organic life. If that wasn't a plot for a bad B movie, or wacked out reality show, I wasn't sure what was. All we needed was guidance from a mysterious, all knowing entity; that would have made it complete.

As we took positions for the next combat, I cursed my luck to be assigned a central position with Marauder. He grunted as he prepared for the assault. "Just keep on your knees and keep your mouth shut, Head. You can put it to better use than talking."

Clenching my jaw, I stared ahead. "I know my job, Marauder. Use your brain instead of your balls this time."

"Go," BioTech's voice came over the team frequency, and we launched our next assault.

Dal's spell of concealment allowed us to get into position without notice, but it didn't do much good in combat. The little mechanical fuckers were as accurate as snipers. Dal dropped within the first thirty seconds. I got to him, using my PK to shield us with loose equipment, and began the healing process all over again. Healing during combat was nothing like doing it at the hospital. In the hospital, I could link in with the patient's emotions and spend time to build up power. In combat, fueling the healing was up to me. Sometimes I had to imagine myself in the hero's place, or pretend he was Urioch or one of my friends. Then there were times when nothing but gut wrenching fear and loss could pry open the doors. Those healings hurt. I opened the door this time by remembering the feeling of holding Urioch in my arms, praying he'd live. I'd opened the door using the memory of my parents several times. When time was of the essence, anything that could force the power to flow was fair game. My heart didn't agree with that. I spent more than a few nights curled around my pillow, crying, because of reopened emotional wounds from combat healings.

"Wake up, twinkle toes," I joked as Dal opened his eyes, "you're missing the dance."

"Powers forbid," he groaned, rolling to his hands and knees. "Have I mentioned that I hate Clockwork?"

I laughed. "I'll trade you. I'll take your Clockwork dance card if you'll take my dates with the Vahz."

Dal grimaced. "Thank you, no. I have had all the intimate time I care to have with the Vahzalok."

His magic began to swirl around his fingers as I caught an attacking Oscillator in my PK and smashed it against the floor. "Good luck with that. The Vahz don't know the meaning of 'no'."

We shut up and fought after that. Humor was the only thing that kept the stress of the work even close to bearable. I'd always thought the quick quips, puns and bad jokes made by Capes were stupid. They were, but they also kept us sane. Well, as sane as you could be when throwing yourself in harm's way day in and day out.

Marauder and Tesla Witch were battling a couple of Assembler Knights when the little mechanical fiends turned their weapons on the ceiling supports. The roar of collapsing concrete and steel was deafening. There was no way those electrical bolts could have taken out the floor. It had to have been rigged with explosives. Witch super sped out of danger, but Marauder wasn't so lucky.

He cried out, cursing to cover the pain, and tried to pull himself from the rubble. His leg was pinned, probably crushed, under a broken support beam. "Fucking Shit!"

Urioch took to the air and began to lay down cover fire as the team tried to regroup. I flew over to Marauder, not landing for fear of causing more rubble to shift. "Hold still, I'll get you out."

Marauder cursed through gritted teeth and a clenched jaw. "The thing weighs tons, kid. I'm gonna have to be cut out."

I glared at him. He really thought I was just some pushover bleeding heart. He was about to learn that guys who cry weren't all wimps. "Just bite down and bare it, Marauder. I'm not leaving you to lose a limb just because you're a narrow sighted prick." I focused on the rubble, grabbing as much of it as I could visualize, and hefted with my thoughts. The shit strained, cracked and groaned as I forced it up. "Can you crawl out?"

Marauder nodded, pushing himself back with his arms until he was clear of the debris I held. I set the shit down, slowly, as he propped himself up to examine his leg. Compound fracture, blood and mangled flesh was not a pretty sight. I couldn't help but remember that he really did have great legs. I couldn't believe I was still attracted to the Jerk. "Fuck," he grumbled, "this is going to take months of rehab."

"No, it's going to take minutes. But I can't do something like this without help." I knelt down, focusing on his leg as I put my palms at his hip and on his shin. "Think about something you like, love, enjoyed, anything. I need it to be strong and something you can focus on."

He snorted. "Like what, a hot night of sex?"

I snapped at him, meeting his eyes with my gaze. "I don't care if you think about fucking sheep, just something you can invest emotional energy into." I could hear that the combat was still going strong on the floor above us. The team needed all the firepower we had.

"Okay, kid." His voice didn't seem so harsh, or degrading. I hadn't realized how close I'd pushed in, until he closed his eyes and sniffed me. The wave of lust that came from him almost pushed me away. I looked at him again, and he groaned. "I'm feelin'."

Yeah, he was feeling. I latched onto the emotion and rebounded it. The build up of love was something I was used to. It made me cry, but left me smiling. Lust was something entirely different. By the time the power had built up, I was panting, Marauder was moaning, and we were drenched in sweat. When the power unleashed, Marauder screamed. No one had ever screamed during a healing, but his body bucked against me as I tried to keep his leg stabilized. The bone slid back in and I watched the flesh repair in the flaring of green light. Marauder gripped into the rubble we were on and groaned through clenched teeth. Finally, he relaxed, sank against the concrete, and sighed.

"Fuck kid," he gasped, "that was almost better than sex."

I frowned, pushing away. I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but I definitely wasn't comfortable with it. "Glad it was good for you. Can you walk?"

Marauder rolled up, putting weight on his leg tentatively. "Yeah. A little sore, but I'm good kid."

"Then let's get up there and break some clocks. I'm tired of this shit." I launched though the hole in the ceiling as Marauder tossed up a grapple line and repelled his way behind me.

"I've got your ass kid."

He may have had it covered, but he wasn't getting a shot at it. That session confirmed what I'd known all along. I could get into the sex, but love was worth waiting for. The upper floor was awash with energy bolts, radiation rays, electricity, and magic. It was like a maelstrom in a bottle. At the far end of the room, Urioch was trading blasts and blows with what had to be the Assembler Prince of this group of Clockwork. I didn't even get a chance to help. I was hit by a half dozen blasts and caught in a tesla cage before I could react. I dropped like a stone, right back through the floor, and blacked out when I hit the rubble below.

The feeling of my nervous system trying to fry itself jolted me awake. At first I thought I was still under attack, but I was on the lower level and I could hear the battle raging above. A small mechanical hand gripped my shoulder. "Breathe."

"What's going on?" BioTech was beside me and I could feel her retract some kind of injectors or needles from my neck. I sat up. I was glowing.

"I call the effect, Mutation." BioTech looked like she'd been blasted, fried and bashed to pieces. "The radiation enhances the nervous system and promotes heightened activity in the hormonal glands. For a short time, you will be augmented. Your healing and recovery abilities will be near instantaneous. You are stronger, faster, and can put more energy into your paranormal abilities, assuming they are yours and not from a device."

I nodded, standing up while I looked at her. Shit, she was missing part of a leg. "You okay?"

"My primary systems are functioning. I require repairs that cannot be done in the field."

"How long will I feel like this?" I didn't even really think about it and I'd floated off the rubble.

"Full effect lasts approximately five minutes."

I felt like I could take on the world. It was kind of like a high, but your thoughts were crystal clear instead of fuzzy. I was about to take off, but BioTech grabbed my ankle.

"I will keep count over the communicators. If you are still in combat at four minutes, thirty seconds, you must fall back."


"The side effect of mutation is that your body is depleted of neurological and chemical reserves. Immediately after the radiation dissipates, you will become weak and will possibly pass out. For the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, you may experience brief periods of dizziness and incapacitation." She gestured above. "Tesla Witch, Urioch and Night Marauder are fighting the last of the Clockwork. They will be overrun. There wasn't a single prince, but two involved in the theft. I had not anticipated that."

"So I've got to get up there, turn the tide, and get out in...?"

"Four and a half minutes. You are at twenty-seven seconds and counting."

I launched through the hole in the ceiling, feeling the debris scatter as I flew. My power aura must have been ten feet wide. Dal and Wolf were down, Tesla Witch looked like she was ready to drop, and Urioch didn't look any better. Marauder was dodging, attacking and evading, so I couldn't get a sense of his condition, but I doubted he was in top shape either. One of the princes was down, but the second was still at full power. The main problem was the Prince's support. Too many Cogs, Gears, Oscillators and Knights. Flying into the fray, I waved. It was like a hurricane blew through the room. Clockworks were blown back, tumbling across the floor, smashing into walls, and soaring into the ceiling. Even the Prince staggered back. I landed beside Urioch as he tried to catch his breath. Fuck. His face was blistered and bleeding from all the pounding and electrical attacks.

The problem with Mutation, in addition the side effects BioTech listed, was that it seemed to take fears away. I leaned in, pressing my cheek against Urioch's and whispered, "Come on, big guy, let's finish this." Just the touch of his skin was enough to cause my enhanced powers to erupt. The green-white light filled the area as I turned to help face the Prince and his minions.

"One Minute," BioTech warned over the communicator.

"Think you can handle the prince if we finish off his posse," I asked as I focused on the little monsters.

"Definitely," Urioch replied, looking at me with a confident, almost enthusiastic smile. There was something about getting a second wind that made the last parts of a battle the most exciting.

"Let's do it." I flew out of the fire zone as Urioch began blasting the Prince with renewed intensity. I held the thing's knights, cogs, and gears incapacitated while Tesla Witch began returning the favor of electrical disruption to them. Marauder smashed and kicked his way through the rest like target practice. I normally couldn't hold so many of them totally at our mercy. In addition to that, I was slowing the movements of the Prince, keeping him from being able to track as Urioch flew around him, blasting apart key components until the prince collapsed. I didn't even worry about the Gears as the components of the prince tried to animate and flee. I simply grabbed all of the little shits, smashed them against the ceiling and then the floor, repeatedly, until there was nothing left but scrap metal.

"Three minutes." I'd stopped listening to the count as we fought. Now that the combat was over, I paid attention.

Marauder looked at me as I landed. Well, I almost landed. My power was extending so far that my feet didn't actually touch the ground. "BioTech mutated you didn't she?"

I nodded. I liked the sense of invincibility the Mutation gave me. It would have been cool to feel that way all the time. "I'd better help Wolf and Dal before I pass out."

"Pass out?" Urioch looked at me. "Why would you pass out?"

"Side effect of mutation," Marauder explained as I knelt down beside Grey Wolf. "BioTech can really juice you up and give you the edge when the chips are down. The price is a couple days of sudden weak moments, dizziness and black outs as your body recovers."

"Four Minutes," BioTech chirped as I healed Dal's wounds.

Tesla Witch came back into the room with a containment case slung over her shoulder. "How much longer, Bio?"

"We must return the canister in another thirty seven minutes."

Witch looked at us. "I can get it back to Crey, but it's going to be tight. That Lab is over in Steel Canyon."

Marauder nodded. "Get going, Witch. We'll meet you back at Freedom Corps for debriefing."

BioTech floated up through the hole in the floor as Witch began her descent to the street. "Four Minutes, Thirty Seconds."

I watched as BioTech pulled components from the fallen Clockworks. I had to admit, it almost looked like a person collecting body parts on a battle field. I supposed it made sense that she would simply reconstruct herself from the components of other robots. "So what happens now?"

BioTech oriented her scanners on me. "Someone should be ready to catch you. Your bio signs are destabilizing."

Was it just because she said it? Suddenly I felt like I had just gotten off one of those spinning tea cup rides at the amusement park. Two strong hands caught me as I dropped from the air. I grinned, feeling drunk, and looked up at Urioch's worried face. "I thought you promised not to worry unnecessarily."

"I am not worried," he replied, helping me up as the vertigo passed, "I am cautiously concerned."

"Should we call for a med-evac," Marauder asked as he picked up some larger components from the fallen princes that BioTech wanted.

"Nah," I mumbled, lifting into the air, "I'll just fly out."

Urioch slid his arm around my back and hefted me up until I was being held in the classic rescued by a lifeguard position. "I will fly you out."

I should have objected, but to be honest, it felt too damn good to be held.