Note: I don't own anything.


Chapter 2.3: Dogfight

It was a nice evening. I woke up from the day's sleep and went out for a walk, getting ready to borrow some money from a few ATMs in just a few hours. The city streets were already progressively getting more quiet as people went back to their homes from work. In the Docs, this was usually the time when ABB and Merchant gangbangers emerged from their holes. Here in Downtown, however, the smooth-skulls usually crept out only about an hour later. Some people said that this was a big deal, that Downtown had it much better because of it, or so I overheard, and I couldn't really disagree.

"Hey!"

Even after I've spent several weeks in this city, it still felt a bit unreal. Despite all its problems, there was a certain beauty to this terrible mess. Not during the day, no. The daytime was boring, at least for someone like me, a person with no attachments, no job, nothing but power, really. No, it was the nighttime that painted this city with colors of violence that truly excited me. And while I was a coward at heart, I still found it beautiful. Perhaps this is how most Capes felt, why they crawled out at night.

"Hey! I'm talkin' to you!"

This city, every night it looked like it would be its last. A snapshot taken right before the apocalypse. A modern version of "The last day of Pompeii". Or maybe I was just over-exaggerating and going insane because of the boredom of my everyday life. Perhaps I should spend more time outside during the day and not commit any crimes for a while. It's not like getting more money would help me that much at this point, anyway. I just used this as an excuse to train.

"Hey, asshole! Get the fuck off me already!"

Sighing, I stood up and watched as the egghead I just sat on to not get my pants dirty by sitting on the ground started to get up. Two other baldies nearby, however, couldn't do that. I made sure they couldn't before calling the cops. I still couldn't believe that one of their heads was more durable than a goddamn brick. I guess human bodies were amazing like that. The woman standing a few meters away flinched, somehow looking even smaller than she already was.

"Shut! The! Fuck! Up!" - I said calmly to the human cue ball on the ground, accentuating every word with a gentle tap of my favourite kicking leg to his abdominal area - "I'm trying to think of anything good about this shithole of a city I'm stuck in! Can't you see that?! Let me have my goddamn moment!"

There was no answer, only some whimpering, which kind of made me feel bad, like I just kicked a shaved nazi puppy. I honestly couldn't understand what baldy locks here was thinking when he called out to me. The cops were probably just a few minutes away now, so even if I let him go, he probably wouldn't get very far before being captured. Or maybe I grossly overestimated the competence of the local police force.

"I'm sorry. I hope that Dr. Phil's ugly cousin over here didn't scare you." - I said while wiping the soles of my shoes on his jacket and jeans. I may have stepped into something nasty earlier today without noticing. This was a bit embarrassing, really.

"N-no, no, I-It's fine." - she stuttered.

"So-o-o, you come here often?" - I asked, my voice projecting utmost confidence.

"Uh, s-sorry, they can hear us, so..." - she shifted uncomfortably.

"O, yeah, my bad. Didn't think about that. You know, I could accompany you to your doorstep. If you want, of course. Seems like Empire has been more active lately. It may be dangerous."

"Ok, listen, I see where this is going." - she said after taking a deep breath and releasing it to calm herself down - "I'm grateful for your help, but I'm not really interested in a guy who thinks the city I was born in is a... shithole. No hard feelings?"

"No, I mean, yeah, I- Damn, ok, my bad, really shouldn't have said that. Sorry."

We stood in the not-so-dark-yet alley in awkward silence for about half a minute until it was interrupted by the sound of the police sirens. Baldy McFuckadoodle that I used as an improvised chair just a few minutes ago started crawling away while sobbing and muttering something about how when Hookwolf hears about this, we're all going it regret it. I really doubted that.

"Behave." - I said and stepped on the back of his knee joint. The thug released a muffled scream, his teeth clenched. The sirens were getting closer, louder, and I didn't feel like staying to give a statement and get in trouble. I pulled the phone from my pocket, pretending that I got a message, then turned back to face the woman.

"Sorry, but I have to go. Can you handle it on your own from here?"

"Y-yeah, sure. The police is almost here, anyway. Oh, and thanks again for the help."

"You're welcome!~" I said in a sing-song voice and started moving out of the alley in the opposite direction from where the sirens were coming. Once I was out of the alley, I crossed the street and moved into another, much darker one. I considered using the fire escape to get to the roof, but dismissed the idea and used an air platform to lift myself up instead.

'Smooth moves, playboy.'

"Shut up. I tried ok? It was a spontaneous decision. She needed a distraction from what just happened, anyway."

'Sure~'

.

.

.

'You kno-'

"I said shut up! Shut the fuck up! God fucking dammit!"

I sat down on the edge of the barren roof and started scrolling through PHO on my phone to distract myself from the embarrassment that has taken place just a few minutes ago. I had plenty of time to kill before the night finally came, so I just continued scrolling for the next five minutes of blessed silence. I even almost forgot about what just happened. Almost.

'You know,'

"Fuck off, ok?"

'it was a shit idea from the start.'

"Please, just shut the fuck up already."

'I mean,'

"Just, stop."

'did you really expect to get laid?'

"No."

'And right after she got mugged by those gangbangers, too.'

"Ok, fuck it. You wanna talk about it? Sure, let's go. I did NOT do this to get laid."

'Doubt it.'

"I just thought, you know, I'm really bored, so maybe I could make a friend, have some fun while I'm stuck in this hellhole."

'Yeah, great idea, Einstein. Befriending some random person you just met. We got better things to do.'

"Shut it. I said it was a spontaneous decision. Now that I thought this through, it was a terrible idea."

'Glad that we're on the same page here.'

I put the phone away, made a soft air platform and lied down on it, staring at the darkening skies above and waiting. The usual sounds of the bustling city started to slowly die down, replaced by the occasional sound of a passing car and what sounded like distant gunshots.

"I take back my apology for calling this city a shithole."

There was no response. Just when I decided to finally get up and start with the now usual nightly routine, I heard even more gunshots in the distance, but these much closer and more frequent. Automatic weapons. Majority of Merchants couldn't afford those, and this was Empire territory, so it wasn't hard to guess exactly who was shooting. The gunshots got louder and judging by how one burst was sometimes being interrupted by the other, there were at least two automatic weapons. I stood up from the platform back on the roof and summoned my costume. Just when I was about to go investigate what was happening, my phone started ringing. It was an unknown number.

"Hello-?"

"Borrow?!"

A familiar female voice interrupted me. Tattletale. Whatever this was about, it couldn't be good. Perhaps she was attacked by Coil, now on the run. Or maybe she was already captured and used as bait to lure me out into a trap. Losing her so soon after we finally made contact would be bad, especially in the long run. Saving her would be a priority.

"Yes, it's-"

"I need your help!"

"Wha-?"

"It's Bitch! She ran off to the dogfights! Help her escape! I'll owe you one!"

'Fu-u-u-u-uck!'

'That stupid mutt!'

This was bad. On one hand, Bitch isn't that important to me. Her powers are pretty much useless for my plans. All she's good for is dealing damage, protecting something and moving things or people around really fast. All of these functions were easily replaceable by dozens of other Capes. On the other hand, she's important to Tattletale, and I do like her character, or at least how it turned out in the end.

'This is an unnecessary risk. Let the Undersiders handle it.'

"Fine, but send Grue to get her ass out of there. Otherwise she may stay and fight to the death."

"Thanks! He's already on his way! I'll send you the location in a sec!"

"Don't bother, I think that half the damn city can hear the action. We'll talk later."

Before I ended the call, I was already flying towards the commotion. The gunshots were coming from the Docs. Empire probably used one of the abandoned warehouses close to their territory to set up the ring. I was never a pet owner, and I didn't like most animals, but I still found unnecessary animal cruelty to be repugnant, especially if said animals were someone's pets. What disgusted me even more, however, was that most people who went to these... events to bet on which dog would win probably were pet owners themselves.

'Why are we even going there? And don't even try this "better person" bullshit on me. The gun is back at the apartment, so we'll probably have to reveal ourselves and fight. This may make getting rid of Coil much harder.'

'Cause if we don't go, Tattletale probably won't help us get Coil's stuff and will stab us in the back later. Also, maybe we won't have to reveal ourselves at all. That depends on what Bitch does. I sure hope that she runs away."

'She won't. Wanna bet?'

'Piss off, it's a sucker's bet. I said I HOPE she runs away. Goddamn dogbrain.'

'Whatever. Don't die.'

It took me about two minutes to arrive above the half-destroyed warehouse. It was much bigger than the one where I met with Tattletale and was probably in a far better condition before Bitch redecorated its walls with giant holes. Dead bodies of dogs, E88 members, and supporters surrounded the building, scattered, all lying in large pools of their own blood. I landed on the roof and looked down, taking a closer look. All human bodies had bite marks on them, regular sized ones on most, but a few were really, really big. I couldn't see any wounds on the dogs from up here, but they were probably shot dead while running away. It wasn't hard to guess exactly what happened just a few minutes ago. The only sounds that could be heard were gunshots, screaming, and barking.

I was about to fly down to the ground when Hookwolf's giant metal body flew out of the warehouse, making a new hole in the outer wall and landing a few meters away from it. Before he could get up, two giant, bloodied monstrosities rushed outside through the same hole and landed on top of him. Hookwolf struggled to get up, but it seems that the monster dogs were just too heavy to lift from the awkward position he landed in. If he wasn't so proud and stubborn, then he probably would've immediately shifted his form to get out. The gunshots stopped, and a dozen Neo-Nazis ran out of the building, followed by at least two dozen dogs, all moving in different directions and disappearing behind the surrounding buildings.

'Guess I underestimated her.'

Just when I thought that Bitch had the upper hand, Hookwolf finally decided that he had enough. The blades forming his limbs and head retracted into the torso, then rearranged themselves with the rest of his body into a spiky metal ball. The blades started spinning and shredding the limbs of Bitch's dogs that still tried to hold the Nazi Cape in place. The dogs roared in pain, the sound much deeper and louder than normal, the vibrations shaking me to the core. It was terrifying.

"DON'T FUCKING TOUCH THEM!"

Right after the scream, another monstrous dog rushed out of the hole riddled building and slammed into the spinning metal ball of death, partially stained red from all the blood, sending it flying. Two other dog monsters retreated back and to the sides of the third one. Looking from up here at the damage done to their limbs, it didn't seem all that bad. Sure, their limbs were even more bloodied than the rest of their bodies, but at least I couldn't see any places where flesh was missing. A rather masculine young woman wearing a cheap dog mask on her face and a metal cage with a dog inside it strapped to her back ran out of the building and jumped onto the dog monster in the center.

While Hookwolf was slowly rearranging his body from its metal ball form into the one he was named after, I decided it was as good a time as any to get closer, so I used my suit's ability to turn into a shadow and moved down the side of the building towards one of the monster dogs, binding myself to it. Bitch was glaring at Hookwolf as he stopped shifting the blades around. It was a moment of almost complete silence, interrupted only by the deep, heavy breaths the monster dogs were taking and the barely audible whining of the caged dog on Rachel's back. She looked at her dogs, probably assessing the damage done to their bodies, then looked back at Hookwolf. The silence unnerved me a bit. I wasn't sure for how long it stretched, as I lost my sense of time quite a while ago, my brain probably considering it to be irrelevant information.

Finally, the silence broke as Bitch made a quick whistle command to her beasts and they rushed towards Hookwolf. In response, he released a completely unnecessary roar of grinding metal and moved as well, ready to continue their fight. However, subverting mine and Hookwolf's expectations, Bitch actually decided to run. When he leapt at the monster that Bitch was riding, it simply jumped over him as two other dogs ran past him on the sides, then all three jumped towards the roof of the nearest building. Sadly, two of the monster dogs, one of which I was bound to, couldn't make the jump, reaching only up to the third floor in height before plummeting right back to the ground. Their legs must have been too injured earlier to make the jump. Hookwolf didn't waste the opportunity. He ran up to one of the monster dogs and turned it half-blind by stabbing his claws deep into the eye socket. It roared in pain.

"NO!" - Bitch screamed.

The dog she was riding on jumped all the way down from the roof, landing on Hookwolf's back with so much force that it caused the asphalt beneath him to crack, bending some of the blades and making it harder for him to move properly. All three dog monsters started attacking the wolf shaped blender while he was down. They managed to snap off some of the metal blades that made up his shell, but he retaliated by shooting out a metal spike from his mouth right into the leg of the dog that Bitch was riding, making all three of them retreat. The dog was now standing only on three legs, the fourth one curled up closer to its body. Hookwolf made a sound that vaguely reminded me of laughter by grinding the metal blades inside his shell together. The bent blades retreated inside, shortly after replaced by new ones. Bitch whistled again, and her dogs rushed off to the streets, followed by Hookwolf, who was getting closer and closer. With how injured Bitch's dogs were, I knew she won't be able to escape without help, and Grue was nowhere to be seen. I had to intervene.

Unbinding myself from one of the monster dogs, I waited for Nazi Cape to pass over my shadow blob of a body, then emerged behind him. I pulled at the soul of the road, making one of Hookwolf's front legs stick to it for just a second, then immediately turned into a shadow again. What I did to Hookwolf was the same thing I did to walk on walls and ceilings, only forcefully applied to someone else. The result was much better than I expected. Instead of just stopping, the metal beast completely lost his balance and started uncontrollably rolling, crushing back first into a bus stop on the side of the road. Unfortunately, instead of using the opportunity I created to escape, Bitch stopped and turned around to look at what happened. I would have facepalmed myself into unconsciousness if I had any hands in this shadow form to begin with.

'God fucking dammit, Rachel. Why do you do this to me?'

'...'

Hookwolf tried to get back up by making himself roll sideways, but some of his blades were stuck in whatever remained of the bus stop, restricting his movements. Once more, he assumed the form of a spiky metal ball and started rolling in Bitch's direction by shifting the blades, extending them to push himself forward. Bitch used what little intelligence she had to turn her dogs around and star moving. I re-materialized and pulled at the road's soul a second time, doing the opposite of what I did before. The road under Hookwolf was turned frictionless for a second and he crashed into a light pole. Thankfully, Bitch did not stop again and picked up the pace instead, while I moved into the nearby alley. I assumed, no, hoped that this was over. I was wrong.

"You're not going anywhere!" - a mature and rather deep male voice boomed from above.

Before Bitch could react, almost a dozen projectiles hit the road in front of her and exploded, sending her and her dogs flying. Stormtiger has arrived. He jumped down from the roof, sending out a blast of condensed air under his feet right before landing in the middle of the road, blocking the way.

"Took you fuckin' long enough!" - Hookwolf grumbled after assuming his human form, then walked to the middle of the road as well, blocking the way from the other side.

'I guess the universe simply hates my guts. Not gonna lie, I really want to bash Bitch's skull in right now. She had EVERY opportunity to run away, and what did she do?'

'You could just let her die.'

'Yeah, and make Tattletale my enemy. Thanks, but no thanks.'

'Want me to handle it for you?'

'I... don't know. There are plenty of pros and cons to every choice here, and no matter what I do, the cons fucking suck.'

'No time to think through all the options, Einstein. Pick your poison.'

'Alright, fine. Just don't kill them, it's not their time yet.'


I felt Odis let go of his control over the body, letting me step into his place. This sense of freedom, false as it may be, it felt good, great even. I've experienced it only once before for mere moments when we just arrived into this wretched dying world, and I was too preoccupied with other matters to relish in this feeling. While I was content with my lot in life, living in the back of his mind, doing nothing, this liberating feeling still brought a smile to our face. The hollow mask started to form, so I dismissed the costume and let it get absorbed into our shadow.

Once the mask was complete, I took off our jacket, throwing it on the ground, and ran out of the alley towards Hookwolf, flooding our body with spiritual energy in the process. Stormtiger was about to launch his newly formed air claws at Bitch and her dogs that just got up from the ground when he noticed me and changed his target. The power-generated projectiles sailed past Hookwolf, surprising him. Instead of letting them get anywhere near me, I assumed Stormtiger could detonate them whenever he wants and simply jumped over them, landing only about a meter behind Hookwolf who only started to turn around.

In what little time he had to react, he probably realised that there was an enemy behind him. He moved to backhand me while he was turning, metal blades and hooks emerging from under the skin of his arm. But it was too late, and I've already seen the attack coming thanks to the precognition ability of the watch. I leaned our upper body back to avoid his attack while simultaneously delivering a devastating kick to the side of Hookwolf's torso, sending him flying. This left me open for an attack from Stormtiger, but he was yet to reform his air claws and had three monsters. Bitch used the distraction I created to get on one of her dogs and retreat. Stormtiger tried to blast her off the beast, but she held tight and the attack wasn't nearly strong enough.

Both Stormtiger and Hookwolf were extremely vulnerable right now. Attacking Stormtiger would be a waste of time. While he hadn't formed his claws yet, he was still far too mobile. So, attacking Hookwolf was obviously the better option. His transformation was incomplete, so I could damage his actual body, and whatever support that Stormtiger could provide at the moment would be of no concern. I ran towards the half-transformed Hookwolf that was still recovering from my kick. A normal punch or kick simply wouldn't be enough at this point, so I let my twisted energy flow towards our right hand, forming a red Bala over our clenched fist, making sure to hold back.

When I finally reached Hookwolf, a wind blast hit me from the side, but I knew it was coming thanks to precognition and pulled at the road's soul to make sure neither me, nor Hookwolf would be sent flying by it. This attack wasn't meant to harm me, only to buy time for Hookwolf to complete his transformation, and it failed completely. I punched Hookwolf in the head with the same hand that had a Bala around our fist, the metal shell cracking and breaking with an audible crunch, metal shards falling to the floor.

I immediately made another Bala around my other fist and performed an uppercut. The road under Hookwolf cracked from the force of the blow, as his body was still bound to it, and bloodied metal shards rained down for less than a second. The Nazi Cape fell on his back and didn't move, his lower jaw shattered and bleeding and his shell of blades was slowly being absorbed back into his body.

I jumped over the probably unconscious body and was hit by another wind blast while I was in the air. This time, the attack was effective, sending me flying uncontrollably. By sheer luck, I manged to land unsteadily on all fours about half a dozen meters away from Hookwolf, who was now being protected by Stormtiger that stood between us. He already had two completely formed claws and was making more. Odis was observing the soul of the air, probably in hopes of copying the technique. Our task was complete, but we couldn't just leave. It would be too suspicious.

"Who the fuck are you?" - Stormtiger asked politely.

"I have no name." - was my honest reply - "Now give me Hookwolf and fuck off, Kittycat."

"Oh, I don't think so."

Instead of replying, I simply rushed him, covering the distance between us in only a few steps. Stormtiger tried to engage me in hand-to-claw combat, but soon realised his mistake. The Nazi Cape was an experienced pit fighter, and his ability to sense air currents made it really hard to land a hit on him. However, I wasn't just a dumb Brute that was swinging his fists around. No, I knew that my opponent was no more durable than a regular human, so instead of doing proper punches, I used an improvised spear-hand "technique", performing weak, quick jabs in Stormtiger's general direction. Another advantage I had on my side was pregocgnition, which allowed me to dodge all of his attacks.

Whenever Stormtiger tried to dedicate himself to an attack, I used a quick low sweeping kick aimed at his knees to keep him away. Stormtiger's preferred combat style was very similar to the improvised one I used right now, only much more refined. He didn't need his claws to be in contact with the target for long to deal major damage to the target. Unlike me, however, he couldn't use his legs to attack, as kicks wouldn't do any damage to me and it would be too risky to expose them like that. I was getting tired of the stalemate, so I cheated by pulling at the road's soul and making my opponent stuck to the ground for less than a second, interrupting his dodge and delivering a quick jab to the lower part of his ribcage. My strike didn't penetrate his skin, but it clearly at least broke a rib.

Stormtiger jumped further away than usual and landed a bit unsteadily. I immediately punished that action by rushing up to the unconscious Hookwolf and stomping on his knee. There was no scream, but the crunch of metal and bone under his skin was a good enough indication of how much damage I just dealt. Stormtiger, most likely in panic, fired three claws at me, which I easily dodged by jumping over them. It seems that he wasn't that experienced at being on the defensive like that, having to protect someone helpless. Otherwise he wouldn't have launched his air claws when I was this close to an unconscious ally, considering how powerful of an explosion these things created on contact.

While I was in the air, he fired another claw. I couldn't dodge this one without revealing more of our capabilities, so I made a Bala around the fist of our hand and punched the claw instead. It detonated, sending me flying uncontrollably once more. While I could feel the force of the explosion travel through our body, It didn't seem to do any damage. I landed on our back, barely even registering the hit from the landing, then immediately got up with a hard push against the ground. Precognition warned me about another claw flying my way. It was too late to block it with a Bala or dodge it by jumping up, so I jumped sideways towards the nearby light pole instead. The claw hit the spot where I landed just a second ago, generating a powerful explosion, boosting my jump. I grabbed the light pole to stop myself from hitting the wall of a nearby building. By the time I landed on the ground, both Hookwolf and Stormtiger were nowhere to be seen.

"You're going to regret this! Empire doesn't forgive or forget!" - Stormtiger shouted.

He was standing on the roof on the opposite side of the street, Hookwolf's unconscious body slung over his shoulder and supported with both hands. I pretended to pursue them for a few blocks before giving up, making it look like even while carrying Hookwolf's body, Stormtiger was still much faster than me. It was time to return control over the body back to Odis and go home.

"When we get back home, order a pizza. I think I deserved at least that much for all my efforts tonight."

'Sure. You can control the body while you eat it if you want. Otherwise it would be the same as rewarding myself for what you did.'

"Nah, it tastes better when I don't have to put any effort into eating. Putting food in our mouth, chewing, swallowing, you go do all that while I just enjoy the taste."

'You can't be THAT lazy.'

"Whatever."


Author's note:

There, it's done.

Maybe I'll do some more cleaning later...