Termination 21.16

Part of me froze, not having expected that question from Grace, that casual admission from my cousin that she'd just tried to murder me shaking me in ways I hadn't expected, but experience had taught me well, and even as the several hundred foot long canon tried to re-orient on me with supernatural speed, I lashed out with my powers with barely a thought, Air Cannons forming and firing an artillery barrage downwards, long, sinuous frozen dragons formed by Ice Projectile Projection accelerated by Unidirectional Telekinesis slamming into the device and carving it to pieces, arcs of Anarchic Structure Inducement disassembling whatever they touched.

Aquatic Armor manifested around me, Fluid Strength heightening my abilities, as I called upon other powers to rip apart the weapon, turning my mental gaze to our surroundings, even as I asked, "Grace? What are you doing?"

It was a stupid question. She was trying to kill me, obviously, but it was so out of character, so unexpected, that a good portion of my mind was locked on that, like a skipping disk, trying to make it make sense.

If anything focusing on the combat helped, as, while my family had been obstinate, difficult, even neglectful, they'd never been malignant, and the deadly of interplay of powers was something that was wholly of this world, as opposed to my life before.

Casting my senses out, the air was full of invisible drones, but they couldn't hide their displacement, and explosions stretched across the sky around us as I tore into them with blades of compressed gas, the autonomous devices opening fire after it had become apparent they'd been detected, but bullets were deflected with Aerokinesis, beams were eaten by swirls of Grue's Shadow Propagation, kinetic blasts were negated down to nothing with Acoustokinesis, missiles were prematurely detonated, and wave-blasts were intercepted by bits of star that disrupted their propagation.

Toggling my comms, to call Quinn, it didn't even so much as click, and ejecting it from my ear as my cousin raised her hands towards me showed it was intact, but the lights were dead, and opening it up with air control showed the inside was slagged, likely some kind of bullshit power 'hacking'.

From above me, high above me, I cloud feel the air parting from shots coming down, screaming at several times the speed of sound, and, while I could push against them, they tried to push back, but chaining the Air, Unidirectional, & Cryo- versions of my Telekinesis, I was able to yank them off course, the attacks slamming down into the desert we were in, the blasts each like a small nuke, sans radia-

Stellar Negation kicked in and I realized they were small nukes, fired from orbit, directly at me.

The air shifted, and I could feel more attacks coming in, trying again to Stride away, but hitting the same hard-resistance, Mouse's version also blocked, though Lightning Blink let me shift to electricity and dodge to the side, as something large, passed through where I'd been, my arms up and ready to block in case that last power hadn't worked.

Reaching out, I snapped my fingers, taking and ramping that noise outwards, combining air and sound control to create a shockwave that rippled in every direction, clearing the sky, and showing Grace had taken to the air, though the sonic-attack flexed around the girl, without me having to do anything. I'd kept it low-powered, because, at least until I understood what the fuck was going on, I didn't want to hurt my cousin, but, it appeared, she'd prepared.

While I couldn't use my Marks, I could still feel them, guesstimating that I was somewhere either in Asia or the Middle East, the desert stretching for dozens of miles in every direction, and, while I'd momentarily let up on my assault, not only had Grace not, she'd prepared a new attack vector, as the space between us erupted in a chaotic riot of powers.

Fire, ice, lightning, gravity, water, light, dark, stone, steel, wood, and more blasted out, but, stretching my hands in the direction of the tide of danger, which surged through the sky like an airborne flood of destruction, I filled the space with my own attacks, the process barely taking a thought, twisting them together little more than that matching her variety with pure power, ignoring the attacks that streaked past me, the girl incredibly ham-handed with her uses of her copied Shards.

My blasts of air, streams of water, barrages of ice, and more carved through the deluge of powers, her attack not just a shotgun but a firehouse of abilites that blasted the sands around us, making me glad that she'd chosen this wasteland to fight in, instead of a populated area, and I couldn't help but marvel at the sheer amount of stuff Grace was creating in her clumsy attempts to kill me.

I could See the powers she'd copied in the Flames of her Power Hub ability, with enough clarity to pick out individual Shards in the tens of thousands of powers she was copying at once, each one at one-third of their original strength, but, given how it just seemed to be us here, I wondered how she was doing that, Power Hub's range limit of a single kilometer, and then kicked myself, because the unoriginal bitch was pulling a Khepri.

While I couldn't see them, I'd bet dollars to donuts that, under that armor of her, were layered dozens of tiny portals, possibly with Grace able to use the portal ability herself, which I could clearly See in her Flames, pulsing with activity, combined with others, to further increase her range.

Reaching a stalemate, I tried again, asking, "Grace, why are you doing this?" And, tracking the sound, I could tell it hit her suit and just. . . stopped. She's turned off her microphones, I realized, frowning, repeating myself, this time forcing the sound into her stupid fucking skull with Acoustokinesis.

Her armor was dampening it, and dampening it hard, but I was a walking MOAB with that power alone, and could easily overcome her restrictions, though anything past a speaking tone would take a ton of Essence.

And, unfortunately, while I'd regained a little, I'd tapped myself out earlier that day.

Did you plan this to that extent? I wondered, as I could see the girl flinch at my words, before her powers flared harder, and her second wave of attacks hit me.

These ones couldn't be dodged, and, even starting to dance across the desert on bolts of lightning, most tracked me perfectly, but my own powers flared in response, and how they worked told me a great deal.

Temporal Protection was the most straightforward, as she attempted to slow me, freeze me, speed me up until I withered with age, reverse my age to render me a child, and do all of those things to only parts of me, which would've outright killed me, and more.

Emotional Stability flared under a deluge of Master effects, and while I'd known the girl had used them, given what she'd done to Dragon.


Focus! I thought, keeping the flow of attacks and counters going, still trying to understand the situation, while fighting my own instinctual response to being Mastered, which would have me go 'fuck it' and nuke this entire desert with every power I had, which not only would kill Grace, but would tell me nothing.

And something had to be going on! It had to!

I knew Grace probably didn't have my problems with using Mind Control, which was regretful, but the number of countervailing effects she was layering on me were mind boggling, half of them negating themselves without me having to do a thing, but still trying to paralyze me with every possible emotion, four separate ones trying to get me to kill myself, and a flicker of Regent's Neurological Control telling me the boy was still alive, somewhere, but none of them found purchase, the power I'd copied from Gallant having gained in Essence along with all of my others in the time since I'd acquired it, and, it was telling each and every one of these abilities, 'Thanks, but no.'

And then there were the transformational attacks, which sought to warp and twist my body in ways that'd be lethal, or I'd wish were lethal, each, again, at only 1/3 power, but when there were several dozen of them working on me at once, more contained in the beams, projectiles, and such that the teen was firing at me, that would've been enough to end the fight then and there.

If I didn't have Peak Condition.

It was a little ironic, that the power that had stymied my own efforts to try out transformational abilities now provided me an adamantium-clad protection against the same thing being imposed upon me from without.

Muscles twitched, bones trying to lengthen, shatter, warp, twist, but not doing more than twinge as I subconsciously latched onto them, furthering my own development by using the attacks to mass-test different configurations, different ideas, keeping me Human, but pushing the limits on just what exactly counted.

Oddly, even as her attacks helped me, she didn't stop them, pouring on more and more of them, as they started to chain together in ways of their own, attacks accelerating, first one, then many; one ray starting to bounce, then they all did; and I decided to stop sitting there, taking the onslaught, pushing my flight powers to start to gain some distance, but the girl fell through a doorway, coming out in front of me, filling the sky with attacks once more, as I met her, pulling away once again, only for her to teleport right back in front of me.

"I can do this all day!" Grace snarled, then, with a subtle shift, her attacks started punching through mine, and I desperately dodged, feeling a sense of danger that hadn't been there before, recognizing it instantly.


It was weakened, or else she would've cut right through my efforts, but even at a third power, the dangerousness of this fight kicked itself up a notch, as I, opened my eyes as wide as I could comfortably, trying to See her, starting to get a sense of what she could do, dodging around her attempts, twisting through the lines of fire while trying to turn intangible, but my Shadow Form hit the same barrier that was blocking me from teleporting, a few bolts striking me, the metal one tearing into my armor, though mostly expending itself upon it, the flaming knives and beams of decay doing nothing.

If they're doing nothing, and she knows they're doing nothing, why is she still using them? I couldn't help but wonder, more attacks sailing past me, many that never would've hit me unless I'd flown into them.

The more I fought Grace, though, the easier it became, the landscape becoming an absolute mess of ice, glass, water, wood and metal debris, and a hundred other things, the girl trying to adapt to the slight changes in my approaches, in how I utilized my, comparatively, insignificant amount of powers, but I wielded them with expertise, and I could read her attempts to adapt as she made them, the control over her copied powers almost mechanical.

And a terrible thought occurred to me.

"Grace, is that even you in there?" I demanded, her statements all incredibly vague up to this point. I'd just been thinking of that Masquerade cape, who could copy the powers of others, and, while I didn't see the subtle cracks that'd given that attacker away last time, it was possible that, being an Abaddon Trigger, they'd look different when copying Grace's, or, in the months since, that Host had learned to hid his, or her, use of it better.

Then the entire world turned a solid, uniform yellow, my sight completely obscured, attacks sharply turning and homing in on me all at once, and, dodging, pulling at my face, there was nothing there.

As attacks started to slam into me, my armor breaking, my dimensional shroud unravelling, my flesh splitting, I turned to lightning, trying to dodge, which only granted me a momentary reprieve, the world still yellow, and, pushing Acoustokinesis to set off another detonation bought me a few more seconds, as Healing Flames kindled in my wounds, and I reached out to slot another power.

Swarm Summoning did exactly what I thought it would, a mass of wasps emerging from nothing, and while they were useless in this kind of fight, I used Arthropod Control to co-opt their senses for me, only to see that everything they could perceive was yellow as well, stretching my senses out further, until I stumbled across one that could see, bringing more insects into existence around it, finding myself in the center of a mustard sphere, the wasps inside dying in droves as their bodies were eaten away, as if by acid, but I got eyes on Grace, who'd circled around, leaving a floating drone to displace the air for her as her armor, now in a different configuration, sighted a large looking cannon on me.

I threw out my attacks, dodging as the sky rippled from her railgun shot, the sphere moving with me.

And then my swarm died.

All of them, all at once, my connection snapped in an instant, and while I could feel the air they displaced when they arrived as I summoned them, any more I tried to create went the same way, something killing them all instantaneously, just like they had when I'd dealt with Accord.

She had prepared.

It was so stupidly specific, that, even though I didn't want to believe it, this had been a trap.

And one that was not going how she'd hoped.

Though part of me still held out a, admittedly foolish, desire that this wasn't really Grace.

I had to hand it to her, she had me blinded, with attacks that'd make an Endbringer sit up and take notice, with massed fire that could destroy any city in seconds.

Which meant I had to. . . push myself.

And not in the fun way.

Smothering the yellow with Shadow Propagation, to eat any beams that came my way, I threw up as many shields as I could, and set my mental feet.

The last time I'd done this, I'd gone nearly insensate, trying to do it in half measures and drowning myself in data.

But the first time I'd done this, I'd killed an Endbringer-class threat.

So, I recalled what had happened, in memories that were no longer buried, and hadn't been for weeks, in that underground complex, as I'd struggled, fighting for my life under an endless tide of monsters.

And Ơ̷̢̌ṕ̴̨̲ē̵̩̮̽n̵̥̎̓ę̸̝̌̚d̵͍̿ ̵̨̭̆M̴̛̙̏y̴̭͆ ̴̯̻̌E̵̥̜̊͘ỹ̷̭e̸̝̯̒s̷̫͓̒́.

The power was there, blocking my sight, a thick mess of acidic fog which was just separate enough for me to be blinded by, but bound by a half-dozen other powers that kept it on me, unable to be blown away, rooted to my conceptual position.

And beyond that, Grace Burned.

And it was Grace, as I Saw her, her powers, her ongoing fields of abilities, her attacks, their flight patterns, everything inscribed in trails of Fire.

And I moved.

My Shards sang as I danced through the designs of what would be, matching the girl's blows, not directly, but enough to open up holes in the representations of powers to be used, the streams of possible death, as I closed on her, noting how she used her Perfect Mind to think at an accelerated rate, trying to keep up with me, as she did have Break's problem, whereupon, while she got the original Host's skill with her copied powers, their original users had no idea how to combine their powers with others, each Host, by The Warrior's design, or more likely The Thinker's, an individualistic force unto themselves.

She was trying to get around that by using her Protocols power to automate her own uses, coding new combos and implementations as fast as she could, and I could See her batch-processing them, the scripts growing, but also bloating, leading to her lack of naturalistic control.

Because to her the powers she had were static tools, instead of adaptational bits of oneself, a hammer instead of an arm, and it showed in her approach to them.

The girl panicked as I closed, finding gaps in her attempts, or making them, and, blowing right through a wall of ice that flash-formed between us, hands glowing the bright pink of Anarchic Structure Inducement, straining the power a little, I got right up into her face, as she started to fall back through another Door, and slammed her in the chest with a corona of chaos, turning to follow her where she emerged.

As the girl turned, her entire chest-piece was gone, revealing her form to be a mass of compressed mist, her Elementalism power at work, which manipulated dozens of controls in her suit, the armor slowly regrowing, organically, more of her powers at work.

"That could have been lethal, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶," I warned, whatever field that made me unable to affect her directly still up. "Talk, or the next one will be."

Surprisingly, that worked, the girl spitting out, "Like you weren't trying to kill me already!"

Well, it sounds like her. "Yes, that's why I hit you with the non-lethal attack," I drawled, searching through her powers. "Not that you have much room to talk, slaver. Got to Amelia when she was on vacation, did you? Did you even ask her? Tell her what being your Follower entailed?"

The problem was, I didn't know that fully, which was another reason I'd stayed my hand. Dragon was connected to this girl, deeply, and I had no idea if killing her would also kill the Tinker. I didn't want to do this, I really didn't want to do this but. . . what would a little familial homicide be on top of everything else I'd had to do here.

But, to kill Amelia, who'd turned her back on me because she hadn't understood that I didn't lie, and only now realized that fact would be. . . it was too much.

"It's your fault!" Grace practically screamed, and, while I knew she was re-coding her powers, I could read her doing so, the injuries I'd already taken needed time to heal, and, while my eyes burned, Seeing the world the way an- the way I truly could, it was getting easier, and the longer I kept her talking, the more I could get used to it.

Scoffing at the accusation, I shot back, "What? I held a gun to your head, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, and said, 'Go remove this girl's free will!'? What, did you think because she accidentally made Vicky love her in a timeline that won't happen that doing it to her was somewhat justified?"

"You've changed too much!" the girl yelled, voice so full of anger and disgust she sounded unhinged. "Did you even read Worm, Lee? This place had one chance, and you ruined it! It all would've worked out, if you hadn't fucked it up! Just like you do to everything!"

I blinked, as that sounded. . . well, unhinged.

Or Mastered.

"No, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶,I don't," I remarked, searching through the girl's Flames, trying to find something that didn't belong. "Even before I came to Earth bet, I didn't mess everything up, and I certainly have not done so here." And, saying it, I had to admit it, if only to myself, that I wasn't lying. Back home, I probably would've agreed with her, as I had not been in a good place, and, yes, I hadn't exactly been the picture of psychological health here either, but things had been getting better and, if only because of Taylor, I had been successful.

. . . Taylor.

Who G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶ had wanted to see.

She'd been planning this from the beginning, hadn't she?

Though, some small, stubborn, part of me wondered, given that G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶ had been here for months before I met her, if the girl wasn't Mastered herself, because. . . because this was just too different from what I remembered her being, and, yes, she could've always been like this, or that could just be my rejection of my old life, painting her in a far worse light than she deserved.

She'd walked through the Master detector and come up clean, when she dropped her Protocols, but, given all her equipment, her Controller could very easily have dropped her, or his, control of the girl for a few moments, listening in, and turned it back on her when she had an excuse. Hell, Regent, once he got a feel for a person's nervous system, could pick up and drop off control at a moment's notice, and if the controls she were suffering under were subtler. . .

The worst Masters are the ones that nudge instead of puppet, I thought, as we'd run into a few of those trying to come to our cities and set up shop, pretending to just be 'charismatic'.

Until I'd read their powers hanging about their bodies, and incinerated them.

I couldn't read a power I couldn't see source of, normally, but, for Hosts, I could get a glimpse of the shadow it left behind, a negative space in one's Flame or Aura, which is what I was looking for now.

Though I needed to keep her talking, as she still kept coding in patterns, including a nasty little teleport-stick-bomb combo I could dodge, now that I Saw it coming.

And I hadn't exactly been still on the power-front either.

"So, what, I've changed the timeline too far from its original path?" I questioned, opening my arms.

"Yes!" G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶ yelled. "Are you really so stupid you couldn't see it? No wonder you weren't getting a STEM degree, Lee!" she sneered, and that was just. . . on one hand, it kind of fit her, on the other, it was a level of elitism that I wouldn't've previously expected.

But it was one she could be nudged into having.

Instead of taking offense, though, I laughed. "G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, our very presence does that. Unless we ran and hid for the entirety of the plot, something none of us could do with how we were dropped in, we were always going to change things. And what kind of Hero would you be if you sat back and let Golden Mourning happen?"

That was too much for her, the girl starting up her attack once more, but I moved while she was still thinking of moving, the sticky bomb hitting nothing but empty air, her fractal patterning attacks filing the sky, but, with a laugh, I took and warped the sound, not into a pure attack, but into a vector.

After all, for how smart G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶ thought she was, who fights a Silicakinetic in the fucking desert?

The ground erupted, uncovering the weapon emplacements I'd created with Infrastructure underneath the wreckage of missed or blocked attacks, as, while I couldn't pull on Tinkertech without a Host to crib notes from, cannons, launchers, and such were incredibly simple, and the girl had been nice enough to leave enough detritus lying around for me to repurpose.

Machine guns shrieked, rockets howled, and more as I took control of my surroundings, the power worn out, but I wasn't going to go as far as to make a city-golem like Tohu would, only using enough to create the weapon emplacements and fire them, the girl's focus drawn away as she had to try and stop the attacks.

Her own automated offensive continued, but she had to remove elements of it to implement those powers in her own defenses, creating a stuttering as she tried to overdraw on her own abilities, having to write more code to try and balance them out.

"So, what?" I questioned, interested, getting more of a handle on this style of combat, chaining together Air Cannons, Air Bullet Projection, and Diamond Dust Wind together, with Aerokinesis holding it all in place to make a seriously nasty attack. She had tech, and techniques, that could stop me, my standard air-blades automatically detected and blocked by several of her powers as soon as they came withing a hundred feet of her, but every new use I came up with was taking her time to piece together a defense against, and I had a few slots still open and ready to really fuck up her day. "I've changed so much, you have to kill me? Unless you've managed to find a power that lets you retcon reality, it won't 'fix things', G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, you'll just lose an ally. Because, trust me, with this pitiful level of resistance, The Warrior's gonna kill you, then everyone in every nearby dimension."

"We can stop them!" Grace snapped. "You think you're sooo smart, Lee, but you don't want to do anything unless you're in charge!"

I paused my attacks, dodging another sticky bomb as I stared. ". . . what?" I questioned, thoroughly confused, as that wasn't me at all.

"Whenever you came over, it was always what you wanted to do!" she yelled, and I just had to continue staring, as, every time we'd hung out, every time I'd asked her what she'd wanted to do, she refused to say, so I'd tried to come up something that would entertain both of us, but primarily her. "You're such a man that you can't cooperate with anyone! That's why, despite them saving the world, you've done nothing but hurt Cauldron, when they're the only ones that can do it!"


There it was.

I was aware of the kind of Control Freaks that Cauldron were, but I'd thought that I'd finally, finally managed to get it through their skulls that being hands off, just like they were for every other S-Class threat, was the proper thing to do.

But they hadn't.

Because they'd been turning my cousin into a weapon.

And, if anyone could find someone with the right power, well, it'd be me, as I could've just Path one, but past that it would be them.

Running down their own 'Path to Victory'

Until they ran off a cliff.

Because Contessa couldn't see The Warrior.

"You did read the end of Worm, right?" I questioned, re-commencing my counter-offensive, starting to pull in Angels, only for the power to short out, as G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶'s Flames flared, the girl having prepared a counter to them as well. While I was building a new society, you were coming up with ways to tear me down, I thought, adding, "Cauldron lost. Because they're morons."

The girl snarled, setting off an interesting power-combo, one that created explosive payloads, intensified them with a dozen different powers, then inverted them, which would've filled the air with tiny particles of pseudo-antimatter, if I hadn't just covered the bombs with sand, and, when they detonated, redirected the blast harmlessly around me, while she had to throw up more powers to keep from being blown away.

It blasted the landscape apart, shredding the discarded projectiles, destroying my emplacements, but I set my power back to rebuilding them, and read her next move in her Flames.

"That's why they need me!" she shot back, which, on one level, kind of proved my point, but, on the other. . . once more fit with what little I knew of the old Grace, the girl wanting to be special. "This place needs a real hero! Not you!"

"And to prove you're a Hero you're going to kill the person that invited you to help them save the world, the person who offered you assistance as soon as he knew you were there, and whom you've been nothing but nasty to?" I demanded scornfully. "Really, I'm sure all the Heroes kill their cousins these days. Especially the cousins who also want to save the world, because I'm fucking living in it, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶!"

And her well-formed rejoined? With the power of her enhanced intelligence?

"Shut up! You're not even the real Lee!"

I snorted, "What, do you think that you're the real Grace?"

The girl froze, her automated attacks dumbly continuing, but not adapting as I started diverting them completely, and she muttered, ". . . what?"

Taking the opportunity, I laced a beam of ABSOlute TERRitory with Emotional Stability, turning the laser black, and slammed it into the girl, to clear her of any ongoing Master effects, but I could see it skim off her Flame, her armor tanking it somehow without it affecting the girl inside, and I bit back a swear. I'd need to break it before I could cleanse her of them, without killing her, if I wanted to find out, completely, if this was actually Grace, or she was just a Master victim.

If it wasn't her, I could help her, get rid of whatever 'greater good' mind control Cauldron had her under, which I knew they'd use in a fucking second if they thought it'd help.

And If I couldn't? If this really was her, through and through?

I'd knock her out with Biokinesis, and dive deep into her power until I figured out how to set her Followers free.

And then. . .

And then I'd kill her.

Because, as she'd proven, family meant nothing.

I really hoped it was the first option.

Spinning through the air, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶ righted herself, demanding, "What do you mean 'I'm not the real Grace'!?"

"You know last Christmas, where I gave you that lamp? I don't," I revealed. "As far as I'm aware I left home in August, and it was sitting in my closet. Tell me, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, with all you've learned about powers, what's more likely? That you've been pulled across dimensions here to Earth Bet, what is a fictional setting to us back home, or that something, probably Abaddon, just grabbed a copy of our minds, like we both grab copies of other Host's powers, made us bodies, then dropped us off here?"

The girl was frozen for another moment, but dodged a barrage of Anarchic Structure Inducement crescents, shouting, "I'm real!"

"So am I!" I shot back, feeling oddly relieved. The signs had all been there, I'd just not wanted to admit it, even to myself, it was just the girl's rank hypocrisy had finally pissed me off enough to give me that push. "We think therefore we are! But we're clones, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶. There's no going home for us! That's why this isn't a fucking game! There aren't 'Good Guys' and 'Bad Guys' here, not the way you seem to think, and, if you could pull your head out of your ass, you'd realize how little of this world you've seen, protected and guided by Dragon, who you repaid with Mastering, and taken in by Cauldron."

Shaking my head, I told her, "I've gone through their records, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, and you're working with people that'd make the Nazis look like the Girl Scouts. And, if you used a fraction of the powers you now have, you could easily see if I'm lying or not. But, no, It's just so much simpler to tell yourself the ends justify the means, but they don't, not really, or there'd be no problem with America using their scientists to win the space race. And you know that, G̶r̶a̸c̸e̶, but you don't care, or maybe you've been made to not care, because doing the right thing is hard, and it's so much easier to be expedient, isn't it? But I'm sure that Cauldron wouldn't do anything to you to ensure compliance for the exact same reason I'm sure you have Mastered Dragon and Amelia, just as I'm sure telling yourself it was the only way will make all the people that Cauldron tortured to death feel so much more better."

If she was being Mastered, this might not work, but if the Mastering was subtle it'd let her slip its shackles, even for a few moments, which is all I'd need to free her from it.

And as to the other thing?

I wasn't dumb. Stubborn, yes, ornery, absolutely, but, while I'd missed it at first, then wanted to miss it later, there were certain realities out there, for anyone with ears to Hear and eyes to See.

The question was, would she?

With a wordless scream of rage the girl threw everything she had at me.

Guess not.

Though, honestly, her response made my job easier.

Her scripted patterns fucked each other up, multiple programs trying to pull on the same copied Shard at the same time, and I got right up to her, one pink blast stripping off a gauntlet, disassembled pieces falling away, but the black anti-Master beam passed over her hand, whatever in her armor that was generating it needing more damage before it'd fail.

She exploded with STING-laced attacks, and I was forced back, but with each exchange I was learning more about how to stop her.



Cauldron knew.

That. . . changed things.

Not moving, I SHIFTED, feeling a body beyond my own, yet also my own, resettle slightly, as I Stared Down At The Maddened, Controlled Host.