Ralf drove Sylph, Tetsuko, Sonya, Wade and Khalida up to the same warehouse that FOY had purchased to use as a heavy duty gymnasium for the girls. He brought the van in close to the front doors and hopped out.
Be extra cautious, Sonya warned them, Slades certain to know were coming for him by now, and hell have had time to get ready.
Sylph nodded soberly. After seeing what he did to the show, I dont wanna know what hed do when he wasnt trying to be subtle.
Its like a comic book, Ralf joked nervously, To Hell with subtle. Lets get im!
Tetsuko stepped in front, clearly marking her place in front of the group, raising a small protest from Sylph. Uh-uh, Sylph, she answered quietly. I know Slade already and, no offence, but Im pretty sure Im tougher than you. I can take a bullet- can you?
Sylph subsided uneasily, but made certain to position her body so that the rest of her friends were well sheltered behind her broad shoulders.
Tetsuko flashed an edged grin at Sylph. Its kind of late
Think we should come back? Sylph teased.
Nah- lets just knock
Tetsuko braced herself and slammed her hands into the top of the door with a thunderous boom. The door tore free of its hinges and collapsed in a shower of loose splinters as the shockwave broke the panels, the steel core, and the reinforced frame.
Well, whaddaya know? Tetsuko blinked in mock surprise, I guess they want us to come in.
As they entered the huge building, they interrupted a slim young woman as she snapped shut a leather briefcase. She turned and smiled thinly at Tetsuko. Ah, good evening. I am Mr. Slades personal assistant, Miss Lim. I should warn you, Miss Breckenridge, that you are trespassing on private property. Mr. Slade has given orders that you and your friends should be detained- and my employees stand ready to do just that.
Thats funny, Tetsuko grated, looking around the vast space and noting the Vindicators filing in through the back doors, but Sylph and I kicked your employees collective asses earlier when we werent fighting together- what makes you think youve got a chance now?
Miss Lim held up a small plastic box in her left hand and pressed a button, the smile never leaving her face. Our Vindicators have been somewhat
since you last faced them.
As fast as Sonya had seen these girls move, it was still breathtaking to observe when they- and the Vindicators- truly shifted into high gear. She barely had time to register the presence of the Vindicators on her right before the tall, red-haired woman- Flair?- exploded into motion. The others were barely an instant behind them, crossing the space to surround them before Sonya, the boys, or Kalida had time to react. Flair reached out and grabbed Sonyas arm as Glaciers hands flashed out in quick jabs at Tetsukos abdomen.
The grip was tight and painful and Sonya couldnt help but gasp at the sudden pain. Wade stepped up behind her and smashed his fist into the side of the girls head. She seemed not even to notice as she started dragging Dr. Gannon across the floor away from the rest of the group. Tetsuko had staggered slightly when Glacier pounded her, but recovered her balance easily and swiped the mountainous ex-linebacker with a wicked backhand that lifted and spun him fully ten feet through the air before he crashed to earth. To Sonyas shock and horror, he seemed to practically spring back to his feet, barely slowed by the tremendous impact.
She heard a roar and a pair of impacts and realized that Sylph had actually snatched Ursula and Rapture fully out of the air in one hand each. As Sonya watched, Sylph drew her arms back and hurled both Vindicators away with bone-crushing force, smashing them through a pec-deck and the huge naval engine that powered it on their ballistic trajectory to the far wall. They both impacted that wall fully eight feet in the air and dropped to their feet in a dazed crouch, shaking their heads but not yet ready to give up. Sylph roared again and Sonya thought it sounded more the primal bellow of an angry animal than a sound that ought to be produced in any human throat.
Sylph? she called in confusion, but the girl seemed not to hear her. Ralf darted around Toro and barely avoided a swipe by Harpys long-nailed hands. He sprinted to the armwrestling station and grabbed the chunk of table that Tetsuko and Sylph had broken off previously- apparently no one had bothered to clean the room since that night- struggling, he hefted the thick piece of ceramic.
Tetsuko- catch! he hollered, heaving the chunk underhand, followed immediately by, Ow! Sharp! as the razor-like edge sliced his fingers as the object left his hands. Tetsuko fielded the chunk with her left hand and, without pausing, spun and slashed Flair across the face. The impact coupled with the sharp edge snapped the womans head back and broke her grip and Sonya staggered back against the wall. Flair looked up, a river of blood pouring out over her right eye, and growled.
There was a momentary pause as the combatants seemed to take stock of each other.
The formula that we used to enhance the Vindicators, Miss Lims voice cut across the sudden stillness, Miss Young is also operating under its effects. Its very good, dont you think? Its a derivative of the formula you used on Mr. Slade, in fact- Dr. Sato was never quite able to exactly replicate it, but he did well, considering.
Sylph roared again and started stalking towards Miss Lim. Id put a leash on her, if I were you, she caroled. While the formula greatly increases all of your physical abilities, we also noticed some rather unfortunate side effects in laboratory animals.
Flair started howling- a sound that was both high-pitched and oddly throaty, almost a keening that hurt the ears.
It tends to greatly increase aggression, Miss Lim continued easily, but, worse, she nodded at the still moaning Flair as the woman clutched at her chest and began gasping, it also places an inordinate amount of strain on the vascular system and the more stress placed on the metabolism, the faster we see signs of failure. Tragically, without the antidote, Miss Young will probably die within hours- possibly minutes- as she will succumb to a heart attack or an aneurism.
Sylph paused in her advance, her chest rising and falling violently. What
want? she growled.
Miss Lim raised her eyebrows. Im impressed- I had thought you too overwhelmed by your adrenaline to remain coherent. Sylph growled low in her throat. Its really quite simple, Miss Young. Mr. Slade has a certain score to settle with Dr. Gannon and Miss Breckenridge. Help us to bring them under control and I will administer the antidote to you personally. Further, you and your friends will be let go with our thanks.
Miss Lim cocked her head to the side to await Sylphs answer. Looking around, Sonya saw that all of the Vindicators had regained their feet and were slowly closing the circle around them again. Even Flair, pale and still bleeding profusely, was on her feet and moving.
Sylph spat on the floor and her saliva seemed to smoke as it impacted wetly with the floor. Get stuffed, she snarled angrily.
Tet-chan, Sylph, Sonya called, you have to knock them out- otherwise this fight will kill them!
Tetsuko, watching the advancing Vindicators, nodded her understanding. Sylph seemed not to hear as she advanced on Miss Lim, the set of her shoulders violent and bloodthirsty. Lim grabbed her briefcase and, with barely a flicker of a smile, grabbed her briefcase and darted through the metal door behind her.
Furious, Sylph pounded on the steel door, digging her fingers into it and tearing at it and the wall.
The bag! Sonya shouted, making the connection, We need to get Lims briefcase, Tetsuko!
Valkyrie and Harpy had closed with her and were circling her, smashing into her with powerful kicks and punches which appeared to be taking a toll even on her. Toro set himself and lowered his shoulder as he prepared to charge the muscular blonde. Thats nice, sensei, but Im a little busy at the moment, she gritted between impacts.
Keep em busy, Khalida called as she squared off with Rockslide.
Kali- no! Wade shouted as Rockslide lunged for the smaller girl. Kali leapt high in the air and planted her hands on the athletes head, shoving off with all her weight and launching herself into an aerial somersault just past their line. Rockslide couldnt reverse and his momentum carried him fully into Wade, lifting the star basketball player into the air and throwing him like a rag doll across the room to lie still.
Wade! Sylph shrieked, grabbing Glacier from behind. The muscles in her forearm tensed as she lifted the man by his head, but before she could do more damage, Flair grabbed a loaded weight bar (twenty tons, Sonya realized numbly) and swung it at Sylph like a baseball bat. The momentum of the swing and the impact at the end blasted all three combatants apart and twisted the bar slightly, but Sylph landed on both her feet and one arm and her head snapped around to seek another opponent, her eyes a burning red and spittle flecking from her lips.
Khalida reached the door at the same time as Ralf and the pale young man gave her a boost through the hole Sylph had torn. Go get her! he called as she brushed a hand against his cheek in thanks.
Out in the corridor, Miss Lim paused a moment to compose herself. She thanked her foresight in having the entire building constructed of titanium-reinforced concrete- it was strong enough to withstand anything short of a direct hit by a bomb. Not that it was so strong that she felt entirely secure in any case- Sylph had literally torn apart the wall and the door behind her like tissue paper- but the Vindicators, fully in the grips of Satos performance enhancer, had distracted her.
As she caught her breath, one Sylphs friends- the Mediterranean, Khalida- tumbled through the opening in the wall. Miss Lim snarled a curse and grabbed her bag, preparing to flee down the hall when the girl spotted her and charged after her.
If she could just make it to Mr. Slade, shed be in the clear. Khalida was a bit bigger than her, taller and undoubtedly stronger, but Miss Lim still figured she had the advantage if she was forced to fight.
She felt a hand snag her jacket and her feet went out from under her. Khalida lost no time in trying to straddle the prone woman. Give me that, she yelled, grabbing for Miss Lims briefcase.
Miss Lim smiled.
The blood seemed to sing in Sylphs ears, all of her senses incredibly acute. She saw Rockslide moving as if through tar as he turned from where Wade had dropped and focused on Sonya. Her vision went red and she let the beast in her roar as she dove at the Vindicator.
Powerful hands grabbed her feet and she dropped in a tangle of limbs as Rapture and Ursula seemed to materialize from out of nowhere. She lashed out without any technique, clipping Rapture on the side of the head. She felt something give under her fist and he dropped like his strings had been cut. She howled her triumph as she turned on the smaller woman.
Her hand whooshed out and grabbed her opponent by the throat, crushing the cartilaginous rings of her throat in her grip so the woman gagged. Ursula panicked and tried prying off Sylphs arm with both hands, but couldnt gain purchase in the harder-than-steel muscle that supported her.
Sylph was starting to lose focus; everything was distracting her, now. She glanced around the room and saw Tetsuko still holding her own against three Vindicators. Sonya, nearby, was being menaced by Rockslide and Sylph had an instant flash of hatred for the man who had hurt her man. She prepared to stalk over to him, ready to crush him to paste.
Sylph! Ralf cried from the far wall. She turned and saw Flair bearing down on him, her red hair darkened and streaked by the blood coursing from her open wound. Sylph had a moment of confusion- Ralf worked for a Bad Man, a part of her mind seemed to protest, but another part felt-
Sylph! he cried again as Flairs knuckles brushed against his chest, slamming him into the wall. He slumped down, barely supporting himself and Flair padded closer, hands flexing like a specter of grim death. Sylph growled her frustration and threw Ursula overhand at the woman so that they both crashed into the wall hard enough to leave a dent.
Her lips peeled back in a grimace of fury, Sylph turned towards the fallen women and began to charge in their direction when black spots seemed to pop in front of her eyes.
Tetsuko finally managed to get her arms under Toros mass and she jacked the large man hard under his ribs, feeling them collapse and separate from his sternum as the force from her blow lifted him fifteen feet in the air. Before he had time to collapse, she spun and drove a fist into Harpys face, pancaking the womans nose almost flat against her skull.
Sensei, she yelled, they wont go down! Its like they dont feel pain!
Sonya was busily trying to avoid Rockslide. Too much adrenaline, Sonya gasped. Tet-chan, youve got to restrain them before they do themselves permanent harm.
Over in the middle of the room, Sylph stumbled as she ran towards Ralf and the prone Vindicators surrounding him. Tetsuko saw Glacier getting slowly to his feet, his head purpling from the crushing grip Sylph had exerted on him.
Tetsuko grabbed Harpys blindly flailing arms and swung her in a short arc into both Valkyrie and Rockslide, knocking the former off balance and folding her makeshift weapon around Rockslide as she continued her swing by lifting and hurling the two combatants through the air and into the bench she and Sylph had used earlier. The impact rocked the heavy structure and the bar actually rolled out of its holders with an earthshaking crash.
If you want it so bad, Miss Lim smiled, take it! She shoved the bag hard into Khalidas face and Kali fell backwards to avoid having her nose broken. Miss Lim bucked her hips and flipped Kali onto her side, then sprawled on top of her.
She drew back her perfectly manicured fingers and slashed across Kalis face leaving three ragged cuts where her fingers bit deeply enough to cut the skin. Youve never had any formal training, have you? Lim went on, conversationally, whereas I was trained by the finest senseis my fathers fortune could procure. Kali gasped and twisted, lifting both her weight and Miss Lims not inconsiderable mass on one arm as she flailed with her other hand.
Lim was impressed- Kali was much stronger than she looked- but she blocked the wild attack easily and was about to punch Kali in the face when she realized that Kali hadnt actually been trying to hit her at all. Kali had snagged her ponytail and used it to wrench around Miss Lims head as she yanked her arm back.
Miss Lim cried in alarm as she released her grip on her bag, bringing her arms up to protect her vulnerable face, but Khalida was ready for her. Khalida slammed her knee into the smaller womans groin.
Twelve years of field hockey, bitch, Kali spat, grabbing the woman by the ears and headbutting her.
Miss Lim collapsed in a heap and Khalida reached down and grabbed the briefcase. If any of my friends are really hurt because of you, she growled, I will find you and I will mess you up.
She turned and raced back down the hallway, leaving Miss Lim to get painfully to her feet and stagger away to Slades waiting helicopter.
Khalida tumbled through the ruined door clutching the bag in front of her. Ralf helped pull her through and got her on her feet. She hugged him quickly and glanced around the room.
Sylph bellowed and clutched at her chest as Glacier struggled to his feet and staggered after her. Valkyrie spun and delivered a powerful side kick to the small of Tetsukos back, launching her through the air and over Sonyas head. Dr. Gannon ducked and dashed out of the way, trying to figure out how to get past the much taller, stronger woman.
Ouch, Tetsuko muttered, peeling herself off the wall and turning around. Valkyrie was already focused on Sonya, which was exactly where Tetsuko didnt want her attention.
Sonya, Khalida yelled, Ive got the bag! Meet me by Sylph! Valkyrie turned wildly towards the shout and Tetsuko shoved Sonya to the side.
Hey there, Blondie, Tetsuko sang out cheerfully as Valkyrie glanced wildly at the sudden movement. The Amazonian woman seemed to lock on as Tetsuko cocked back her fist. Remember me?
Valkyries eyes widened momentarily until Tetsukos fist collided with the side of her jaw, switching her off as effectively as snuffing out a candle. Sonya scrambled to her feet and looked at Tetsuko who winced and grabbed at her lower back.
Get going, Sensei, Tetsuko called, Ill be right behind you. Sonya nodded and ran over to Sylph and Khalida.
Glacier stood over Sylph, howling triumphantly. As Sylph tried to get to her feet, Glacier stomped hard on her back, smashing her into the floor. Sylph tried to get her hands under her, but her arms wouldnt support her weight and she subsided with a groan.
Its heavy, Doc, Khalida said handing the bag to Sonya.
Sonya snapped open the bag and quickly rifled through it. Papers, pens, lipstick
its like the purse for the Wicked Witch of the West, she muttered, still searching. Ah- here we are- ampoules, labeled for our convenience.
Glacier roared again, then seemed to notice the girls near his feet. Lips peeled back, he bent over and hoisted Sylphs twitching body up over his head, preparing to slam her down on top of the smaller women. Tetsuko sprang through the air and took Glacier over in a flying tackle that knocked them both down with Sylph on top of them. The blonde shrugged the huge woman off and turned to Glacier only to receive an elbow to her temple. She rolled off, blinking away tears as Sylph seized on the floor, her fingers tearing furrows in the padded floor beneath her.
He keeps getting stronger, Tetsuko gasped.
Not for much longer, Sonya muttered in reply. She quickly scanned through the syringes until she found the right one. She tossed the syringe to Khalida. Youve got to get this into a muscle, she shouted.
Khalida boggled at her. Really not a problem, she said, jogging up to her friend. Another massive tremor rocked Sylphs body and the resultant shockwave bounced Khalida into the air. She lost her grip on the syringe and it sailed in an almost perfect arc for Glaciers massive chest, but he batted it aside with one hand. He was flailing blindly, now, and Sonya saw that his eyes had turned an even darker red as tiny blood vessels in his eyes began to fail.
Weve got to hurry, Tet-chan, or they wont make it, Sonya cried as she scrambled across the floor looking for the fallen needle. Glacier snagged Tetsuko by her shirt and flung her around in a circle, releasing her like an oddly shaped giant Frisbee. Tetsuko slammed into the wall and crashed to the ground.
No problem, she groaned, getting back to her feet. Wheres that antidote?
Ive got it! Khalida shouted. Tetsuko- catch!
Tetsuko grabbed the needle out of the air as she stomped back over to Glacier and the fallen Sylph. Glacier was clutching his head and staggering around, so Tetsuko simply ducked him and slammed the needle home. Sylph shuddered again and Tetsuko jerked the needle free.
Glacier stumbled into Tetsuko, and reached out clumsily with both hands and Tetsuko pounded him in the gut with two quick, hard jabs. As he staggered back, she came up with a blindingly fast uppercut that lifted him off his feet and deposited him on his back. Sensei- how long until that stuff works?
Sylph gasped, then coughed. Ow, she moaned quietly.
Sonya shrugged. About that long?
Sylph slowly pulled herself to her feet. Thanks, she said weakly. What now?
Khalida spat. I think we can safely assume Slade and Miss Lim have gotten away clean, she said disgustedly. Hows Wade?
Good, steady pulse, Ralf reported. I think hell be fine. What about them? he asked, indicating the various fallen Vindicators.
There was only enough antidote for one dose, Sonya explained, but I was able to synthesize more once we got them to the hospital. The D.A. says that they cant be held accountable for their actions under the influence of the serum- which is a good thing, because if also means Sylphs in the clear- but we have nothing on Slade or Miss Lim.
The friends were all standing in the lounge just outside the terminals to McCarron International. A television was playing highlights of the weekend news on the scrolling bar at the bottom while an announcer called out flights over the loudspeakers.
Ralf- you did us a good turn back there, Wade said, shaking the young mans hand, Im sorry it turned out so badly for you.
Ah, it was only a job, Ralf laughed it off. Maybe my application to one of your American universities will be accepted, right? Then I dont have to move back in with my folks
Good luck, Tetsuko said, shaking him by the hand.
Sylph hugged him. Really. And give me a call if you ever find yourself in New York, okay?
Ralf nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat just as Khalida walked up and kissed him on the cheek.
Well, you guys be good, too, okay? And no wild monkey sex parties unless you send me an invite and a paid ticket three weeks in advance!
Tetsuko laughed. Go on, Ralf- have a good flight. Well be sure to write.
She turned to Sylph. I wanted to apologize for the way I treated you when we met. I know how hard it can be to look like we do, and I should never have let my suspicions get the better of me the way I did.
Sylph smiled shyly. Dont worry about it- I gave as good as I got. Im just glad we got it straightened out when we did.
Yeah, Tetsuko agreed, then added, Hey- we should do this again, sometime!
Wade raised an eyebrow and Sylph chuckled. Sounds great, she said wryly, but maybe next time we can do it without the blood, broken bones, and near-death experiences, right?
Sonya laughed. Maybe next time you can visit us in Florida and we can have a more relaxing vacation, hm?
The announcer called Ralfs flight. He turned to the terminal gates, than turned back. See you around, guys, he called. He turned, waved, and walked off.