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The others got to their feet, the people calmed down and started helping each other rather than just trampling over each other. Eira, Nat and Ryder seemed to have a bit of a secon wind, and... then everything was going badly again. The guy that looked like Ryder was causing trouble, the girl with the guitar was getting free and attacking everyone.

 

Pan frowned.

 

Then he was gone, a flash of green, red and gold flying by Eira. "Guitar girl first." Then he was up, further and flying towards Apocalypsette, a slightly too wide grin on his lips as flew right at her.

 

"Hello, I am the boyfriend," he happily exclaimed, while he moved erratically around her. "I am the Forever Boy. I suppose you have some suitably dramatic name? The kind that the lost little girl that absolutely no one understands would choose, yes?"

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Angelic took in the situation with the rapid clarity of the enhanced mind. A time traveler! They must have come back to prevent some creation of Ryder's; no doubt some beneficial device Chitin will design in the future that this fool does not want to see made. Idiot, time travel does not work that way! She braced herself for the fantastic blow coming from the super-science of the distant future and hissed as she felt the energy crackle along her wings where they wrapped around herself and Apocalypsette, the makeshift Faraday cage they made absorbing the hit even as the energy discharge crackled along her internal sensors like the memories of pain. "That is your future murder weapon?" she demanded of Canister even so once the blast was done. "Pathetic," she added. 

 

Then everything was going wrong; Chitin had taken the hit worse than she had and was hurt, then the guitar came down and struck her hand with a sickening crunch that broke small rods and manipulators inside the limb, her hand jerking open spasmodically and freeing the still-struggling Apocalypsette, who promptly rewarded her for taking the hit for her by blasting her in the face with a sonic discharge that rattled Eira's already-damaged auditory circuits so much that she realized in a half-second that she was now deaf completely on one side. A lens of one eye was cracked now too, blue fluid leaking down like tears as she rocketed up after her former prisoner. 

 

"Help Chitin!" she told Pan firmly an instant before she came up behind Apocalypsette in the air and grabbed the girl. This time she didn't try and divide girl from guitar, having painfully learned the folly of that approach. Instead she wrapped her arms around her and grabbed her by the hands, pinning them to the substance of the guitar itself as she began to squeeze. "Three," she said out loud, and squeezed harder, wrapping her wings around the girl again. 

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"Professor who?" Nocturne asked, coldly, and as pointedly as possible. Also pointed: several jagged bits of rubble, which she dragged up into the air with a gesture and flung at the crab creature with one outstretched arm; she put as much force into it as possible, but she didn't like her odds against something this large. She caught it off-guard before, but now....

 

"Tch," she said, wishing too late that she'd held a little in reserve after shredding the other demon. She wanted to spit; it wouldn't have been proper. "If the rockette slips free again we're going to have to prioritize - it's all well and good if these fools to fight each other, but if not we need to thin the ranks. As for you, knockoff, apparently if you want to get to the original you're going to have to go through this thing first. Maybe make yourself useful before you go back to assassination."

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 “Great. Different decade, same bougie pigs getting bent about anybody else playing with their toys,"  Canister grumbled as they rolled out of the way of the giant Meold-Oni's trashing, the red X of their faceplate glowing ominously though Forever Boy's billowing golden mists.

 

"I mean, obviously I've got a lot of technical questions but like, you're kinda nailing the aerosol can vibe," Chitin called from across the ruined bandshell. He tried not to make it too obvious he was leaning heavily against a toppled pile of amps while warning notifications blinked all across his HUD. "I'm getting spray paint but also bug spray, 'cause I've got an insect theme, yeah? I don't, y'know, love that part but--"

 

 “Not looking for constructive feedback from the father of modern war crimes,"  the purported time traveller interrupted, side-stepping to try to get a clear shot at Ryder. No matter where they moved either the towering monster was providing cover or they'd be leaving themselves open to an attack from one of the other heroes. It was subtle but from up above Pan had a clear enough to view to notice Canister clock the positions of the remaining unconscious audience members, increasingly in danger as the structural damage worsened.  “Tch. Fine. First the fish monster." 

 

Before the Forever Boy could comment on what he'd seen the crab-thing pointed its hammerhead shark head in his direction and let loose a high pitched shriek that lanced toward him with physical force. He easily dodged the attack even as he split his attention between the complex situation on the ground and Apocalypsette futility trying to bash her own head into Angelic's face while spewing a string of frustrated expletives.

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Go help Chitin? Pan paused. His mind sped up, racing, taking in everything around him. The crab monster was down there. So was that other guy that looked kind of like Ryder, but also not like him. A Dark Ryder? He had attacked Ryder, wanted to harm Pan's friends, but right now, he was fighting the crab monster together with Nat?

 

Curious. 

 

He was reasonable, then. Slightly so, at least. The monster screamed at him, so maybe it's mistress had paid him some attention after all, but it didn't really matter, he moved out of the way.

 

And he seemed to notice the few people in the audience that was still not out of there, noticing them. So... an enemy, but not that bad an enemy?

 

So, Apocalypsette and her monster was the first issue to deal with. And getting everyone out. Then this Dark Ryder guy.


"In a moment," he answered calmly to Eira. He moved in closer, letting go of his sword, grabbing a golden guitar out of the air instead, swinging it with both hands towards Apocalypsette's face.

 

Once the hit had landed, he shouted out to everyone else. "The whole place is coming down! We need to get everyone out of here, now!"

 

He looked to Eira, still smiling while he twirled the guitar. "Sorry, caught in the moment."

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"Tw-" Angelic fell dead silent as Apocalypsette went limp in her arms. She stared at the unconscious girl, who she let fall from her grasp with an unceremonious thump, then looked at Pan and saw - 

 

a sick child in a hospital bed 

her smiling ghost 

he thinks

you are weak

and stupid

 

She stared at Pan, blank white eyes flashing, and suddenly dived at the crab monster below. Without hesitation she landed in front of its mouth and shoved her left arm into its its segmented mouth up to her elbow. She groped deep inside, hissing in pain as things inside closed sharp tight around simulated flesh, then grated against metal support struts underneath. "puny thing of flesh and bone," she hissed. "here is steel...

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"Not much flesh and bone in there," said Nocturne. She was gathering that odd dust again, arms low and wide as it coalesced into something like a claw. "Sea shanties and weak resolve, maybe."

 

The claw wasn't fast but it was certain, leisurely flowing through the air to dig its points into the thing's back - each point an anchor, each anchor drawing gravity in and down to hurt the thing and hold it in place. Not for more than an instant, but sometimes an instant is all anyone needed. "Let's put it out of our misery."

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The further from the outer edge of the monster Angelic reached the less defined it became, finding less of a throat behind its maw than a tingling field of energy that violently vibrated the components of her submerged hand until they threatened to tear apart. Instead she found something solid to grip onto: the base of one of the distinctive, curving demonic tusks protruding from the weirdly human mouth set into its hammerhead shark face. Sinking her ferrofluid stained fingers in she pushed backward with a mighty flap of her wings and pulled it lower jaw down pulling its mouth apart at the seams.

 

The massive Melod-oni might have been able to move along with the yank on its jaw if the bulk of its form hadn't been rooted in place by Nocturne's gravimetric stakes, spiralling motes of black and gold showing where physics had warped push down on the domed crab-like body. "CYMKudgels!" Expending the last of his suit's reserves Chitin threw himself into on of its segmented legs, knocking it off balance with a football tackle. Without its stable footing the gravity anchors pulled it backward and down into the ruined bandshell stage, away from Angelic. It's head was thrown back as its translucent jaw and teeth ripped free in her hands!

 

And on the park grass Canister gave their blue-capped can another vigorous shake before slamming it back into their belt. “Rattle them bones! P-P-PRESSURE!” The same compressed ball of light left their gauntlet, sailing higher and faster than their previous attack and directly into the hole of the monster's ruined mouth. There was a beat of anticipation, then an explosion of blinding multicoloured light and deafening sound as the gargantuan beast turned into a wild fireworks display!

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As the HUD in Chitin's helmet came back online with a stuttering flicker the glow coming from the multifaceted eyes of his faceplate followed suit. Groaning, he pushed himself out of the ruined remains of a bass drum and nearly toppled to his knees as on leg of his armour reported a critical failure.

 

Looking around in alarm he spotted Nocturne, far enough back to have suffered no more than ringing ears and Angelic, with the last remaining motes of the Melod-Oni's light drifting fingertips. Across the park the last remaining unconscious audience members were waking up, while others had rushed back now that the scene appeared relatively safe to help their compatriots move away from the immediate danger of the collapsing bandshell.

 

The only sign of Canister was a message sprayed across the patchy grass in still-wet crimson paint, letters each about two feet tall. 

 

NEXT TIME

 

Placing his hands on his hips and looking the message over, Chitin stood in nonplussed silence before saying aloud, "Well $*#%."

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Dripping magnetic fluid from what looked like cracks in her metallic exterior, including one that had run up and cracked one lens of her eye, Angelic looked to be in ragged shape. But even so she limped towards Chitin, who looked to her eyes the worse for wear. "You need to call Dragonfly," she told him, audio glitches echoing in her voice where fragile things in her throat had broken. "Your armor has melted." She didn't demand answers, since Canister had presented itself as a time traveler there was no reason to expect Ryder to know anything about it. Looking up she caught Pan's eye and said "We need to talk. After we help.

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Pan looked after Eira as she dropped the villain and then flew towards the last monster. He dropped to pick up Apocalypsette, slinging her over his shoulder and turning just in time for the massive blinding explosion, and then it was all over. 

 

"Oh, not everything is bad," he exclaimed as he flew to the others, placing a hand on Ryder's shoulder, before dropping Apocalypsette by his feet. "Look, I brought gifts."

 

He paused as he looked at Eira. Even in her damaged state he recognized that tone and that look. "Yes. I suppose we do." His tone was flat as he stared back at her, before turning to address the Eira, Nat and Ryder at once. "Do you need help getting somewhere?"

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"Language, Cricket," chided Nocturne; with the threat passed she'd settled back down on the ground, dust and debris shifting slightly as she dropped her gravity bubble. She looked like she had a headache - though, she often did. She pointed at Eira without looking, adding, "And you are not in a position to recommend anyone else for repairs."

 

She was not looking at Eira because she was looking up at the bandshell, flexing her hands as if they ached. They did ache. "I should be able to hold that up," she said, little wisps of black and gold dust tentatively circling her feet, "if anyone wants to secure our captive and make sure nobody's been left behind. With all this noise and panic I can't imagine emergency services aren't already on their way, police included."

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“I’m fi—“ Chitin began before being interrupted by a portion of damaged thigh armour falling to the ground with a sad thump, followed by a violent crackle of electricity as that leg nearly gave out from under him. “Ah! Black!” He hurriedly toggled the chambers of his belt, dismissing the Kabuto Beetle Instar armour back to its pocket dimension berth and disengaging the Robug from his base suit’s helmet.

 

Black folded in on himself back into his usual form and landed at Ryder’s feet. His usually glossy shell was marred by little pockmarks and little wisps of acrid smoke were rising intermittently from his left side. Scuttling a little closer he knocked his long horn into his inventor’s ankle reassuringly.

 

Chitin dropped down to his knees to scoop the robotic beetle up into his arms. ”Buddy I’m so sorry! We’ll get you patched up, I promise.” From closer to the ground he looked over at Apocalypsette’s unconscious form where Forever Boy had dropped her. “Ugh, man. I should have tried harder to talk her down. And that other armour, I just— I don’t know what to think about that. I really messed this one up.” 

 

Nocturne’s observations seemed to bring his attention back to the present and he gave his helmeted head a shake. “Right, yeah! I can let Dragonfly know what’s going on and look for anyone stuck in there at the same time!” He clamoured back to his feet unsteadily, eager to be helpful.

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Visibly limping, Eira walked over to Apocalypsette. Staring down at the unconscious girl, she picked up a fallen piece of rebar and wrapped it around Apocalypsette's wrists, then pulled it tight and shoved it into the ground for emphasis. She looked down at her would-be rival, wincing as a drop of azure fluid leaked from her own eye onto the fallen teen. "Slyna," she spat, annoyed. "She was not worth your time, Ryder," she said, frowning down before turning back to her wounded friend. "This was not your fault. You tried very hard, but we were ambushed twice over. At least you know your future assassin's loadout is pathetic, yes? If I have traveled back in time I could have done much more than that." She gave Pan that look that meant they were most definitely going to talk sometime soon but now they were working. 

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