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Erik stood silent for a split second, looking between the two women before blurting, "Now?!"

"....really?" The silence had been eating at Mara's brain - not the quiet of the dark, but the silence, the sudden lack of 'talking' machines in her general area. Not that she could communicate anywhere near as well as she could remember from when she was young, but they were always there: her collar, computers, cell phones all humming in the back of her mind. The sudden lack of that white noise was digging at her already-frazzled nerves, and sticking her head into the bedroom to grouse at least gave her something to do. "Of course. Would be this kind of timing...."

And then she saw Yolanda, wide-eyed and curled into a ball. She knew that face. She'd had that face. Her voice was a lot less terse as she made her way over. "Hey, look at me - nuh uh. Look at me," she gently insisted, putting a hand under Yolanda's chin to direct her attention as she crouched down. "You know me: worst liar in the world. Right? So listen. Going to be fine. You will, we will. All of us will. We've got a swordsman, a cop, a medic, a lizard-man, a really strong lady, a genius, and a scary pregnant woman. They've got darkness, and mean tricks. And we can take one of those away. I bet there are candles around - you and I can help look for them. Okay?"

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"Oh. Dear. God." Geckoman slapped his forehead with one palm. "Now, seriously, you seem to know about me. That's not that surprising. I fly around in a giant green pillbox. Neon signs are more subtle than me. So you'll know this whole..." He waved his hands vaguely at all the swords and longcoats. "Overblown shebang won't intimidate me. Now, Mr Blades is somewhat busy right now, but I'll be filling in for him."

The young man rolled his neck until it clicked. "People who want to talk don't knock out the power and then come armed. Walk away. This isn't worth the fight you'll get."

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Lacking much in the way of action, Fulcrum frowned and scanned over the fence tops. Definitely one of the perks of her height, she thought to herself. The area looked secure, and that really bothered her. Erik's sensitivity to energy wouldn't overreact to something as simple as a black out. She hoped at least.

"Hmm...I don't like this at all," she muttered before taking off and slowly rotating for a full 360 degree view of the neighborhood.

At which point she abruptly stopped at the sights. First, that red glow obviously wasn't natural. Secondly, and more pressingly, were the sword-wielding Card family rejects. The darkness shrouded them nicely, but the tingle of subatomic particles gave her an outline of the threats. While she knew Geckoman was dangerously competent (his snark aside), 12:1 odds didn't do him any favors. Well, time to back him up!

Fulcrum landed slowly behind Geckoman, arms behind her back. Whether she consciously attempted or not, her arrival reinforced her teammate's ultimatum.

"You heard the man. Clear out."

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It was obvious to Willow that something was wrong. Ellie's reaction when the lights going out was proof enough, but when Erik and Mara poked their heads in to check on things she grew concerned. The ancient guardian rarely spared a thought for her own safety but now she had a heightened sense of her on vulnerability, as well as the danger her circumstances put the others in.

It was reflex that had her reaching out to the nearby plant life, as if she could wrap herself and everyone around her in the protective armor she was known for. But there was no response, and a corner of her mind was confused as to why that would be, until another painful contraction restored her focus.

Hiding her worry behind a smile, Willow laughed and said to Erik, "Nothing is ever simple, is it?"

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Geckoman felt spurred on by Fulcrum descending behind him. He didn't glance round to her, knowing that'd a) show weakness, and b) expose his back to sword wounds. Which hurt. He just fixed his gaze on the lead swordsman, not taking his eyes off him. All the while he gently sniffed, knowing that if anyone moved to attack him or Fulcrum, he'd scent them coming well before they got into striking range. Freeing him up for a little light mocking. 

Leaning on his back foot, to allow himself to surge forwards to punch with a little more urgency, he grinned at the leader. "So, you heard the lady. Clear off, goatee. And for future reference, nobody trustworthy has a goatee. If you didn't think of that when trying to talk your way past us, well..." He waved one hand non-committally, leaving the 'you idiot' unspoken.

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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"Simple?" Erik repeated, a bubble of brief laughter escaping his lips and he knelt down on the opposite side of the bed from his sister and took Willow's hand in his own, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Asks my immortal, plant-controlling babymama. Yeah, we don't see simple around here so much." Turning his head hesitatingly as though reluctant to break eye contact with the white haired guardian, he looked to Ellie. "So...?"

"So luckily I'm not one of those super-healers who don't know what they're doing without powers," the younger Espadas retorted shortly, business like as she went about her work, sparing a softer glance in the direction of Mara and Yolanda. The inventor was one of the most genuinely caring people she had ever known but she realized there was a very specific reason Mara had so quickly known what the small refugee had needed to hear. Fighting off a stabbing urge to go over to them, she carried on quickly.

For her part, Yolanda slowly unfolded from her huddled pose at Mara's gentle prompting, looking at the heroine with big, serious eyes. She let Mara finish talking then took a beat to marshal her courage, nodding in hesitant agreement. She wrapped her hand tightly around two of the engineer's fingers as she stood and led them toward to kitchen.

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There was a beat of silence outside as the gathered swordsmen regarded Geckoman and Fulcrum back to back. Then, laughter ranging from politely restrain chuckles from the goateed man Chris had been addressing directly to resounding guffaws from the blonde woman in the white jacket. "Do you always consider a woman commenting on your body an attempt at intimidation, luv?" she asked, still grinning in a lopsided manner that was oddly familiar, bringing her scimitar off of her shoulder and flexing her arm absently. "Or does that work for you?"

"Enough, Patricia," the older man cut in with a faint smile and the lightly chiding tone of a dotting uncle. "I feel we owe you an apology, fils. You misunderstand our purpose. We were not attempting to, ah, 'talk our way by you', yes?" He lifted his longsword slightly to draw the green-clad hero's attention to it. "As you say, we have come armed and seeking a fight quite specifically. And so!"

Without further preamble, the Frenchman was surging forward with the speed and grace that belied the salt-and-pepper in his hair. The padded sound of his footfalls was overshadowed by the flapping of his longcoat and the slice of metal through air. He clearly saw the blow Geckoman had prepared and rather than attempting to avoid it took it solidly on his lightly armored shoulder, twisting with the punch to carry the younger man off balance just enough to open him up to an attack from the flashing scimitar of his ally.

The white-clad woman had been a mere step behind the other swordsman, ducking down as she sprinted forward then surging upward with a backhanded slash of her weapon in the opening present to her. Her hood fell back as she moved, loosing a platinum blonde pixie cut and her face came close enough to Chris' for him to see the white flash of teeth exposed by a grin. It was less the empty, mad look the hero saw all too often on his opponents than the expression of someone genuinely enjoying herself.

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Behind Geckoman, two more of the swordsmen circled Fulcrum, a little more wary of this target. For her own part, the heroine had more than one thing to worry about; besides watching Chris' back and preventing their opponents from reaching the Espadas' house, she was also the only one still equipped to reach the ominous red light in a timely manner and the set of bracelets and anklets that kept her energies in check had stopped functioning along with all of the other electronics in the area. Full use of her powers would be a dangerous risk.

"Ah, the giantess," one remarked, pulling back his hood over a shaven head, showing the chiseled features and assured bearing of a Dakanan. "Kristof will be vexed; he was so sure he would face you first, guarding the magician. More luck to me, then!" The man drew forth a blade reminiscent of a cavalry saber and charged forward in a curving, circuitous route before spinning about in a whirlwind of kicks and slashes. The unarmed blows barely registered to the Terminus powered woman but surprisingly the diamond-like sword bit into her. Daka crystal. It's wielder said nothing to suggest he was aware of her vulnerability to the substance beyond its inherent impressive qualities but already she could feel her strength being slowly sapped by the exposure.

The next attacker snorted, her hood already back to accommodate a thick brick red braid as wide as an average forearm and long enough to reach past her broad shoulders and down to her waist. "Hah, we better save him a souvenir then, Nassor! Y'know how tetchy Kristof gets," she called. Reaching behind her back, the muscular woman pulled forth a massive broadsword and leapt toward Fulcrum with athletic precision, bringing her weapon down in a punishing, two-handed blow.

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Fulcrum accepted that her enemies moved faster than she. Which was quite on the mark, and they talked a great deal was well. Must be something about the extended Card family. Although Erik was far more endearing than these brutes.

Unfortunately, their little ruse worked well enough. The Dakanan's attacks were skilled but ineffective, culminating with his proper strike. Predictable but effective as the blade opened a gash in her costume. Not her mind you, but that didn't matter after the tingly, numbing pain that the proximity of the blade brought. The grimace was natural if the source was not.

Daka. Damn.

That's when the broadsword gouged into her shoulder. This one really hurt, and left a smooth, black slash in her shoulder. Grunting through the pain, her counterattack was in the air before the broadsword landed: aimed at the Dakanan. The blow was lightning fast. Supersonic in fact, a SNAP jab that normally scared the pants off most combatants. A solid hit to the chin, but the fellow looked as impressed as Erik.

This was going to be a good fight. Raising a fist, she looked ready to really wade into the fray, when a familiar glow coalesced around her. A red glow. She risked a glance to her bracelet. The light was off.

What a thing to forget!

"Ah, crap," she mumbled as the first wisps of malignant energy spiraled into and began staining the Daka saber a brilliant crimson.

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The Dakanan with the daka crystal sword slid smoothly back a step, rubbing his jaw with a small smile, his interest evidently piqued. The redhairded woman growled noticeaby under her breath at the blow, but her partner chided her calmly. "Really, Audrey, you must not be so protective. She worries," he told Fulcrum conversationally, the casual banter in the middle of the fight underscoring the familiar attitude of the assembled swordsmen. "The crimson glow, though... that does interest me."

As he mused aloud, the rest of the hooded group joined the fray, taking their cue from the more formidable among them. Both Chris and Mona found themselves beset by another pair of flashing blades. These attacks weren't trying to actually strike home but they were keeping the heroes busy while more devastating blows were lined up. Meanwhile a half dozen or so of the group made a beeline for the Espadas' front door, focused on whatever goal had brought them there.

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Mara kept outwardly calm as she and her young companion raided the kitchen for anything they could use to make light, but inside her mind was buzzing, taking rapid stock of what she had to work with, creating and discarding idea after idea. There was just no power, and not really enough time to make anything properly steam- or mechanically-powered.

She'd just have to go a bit more primitive, then. While Yolanda gathered candles Mara quietly gathered some supplies of her own, and by the time they were ready to head back she had a small selection of items in a small trash bag held in one hand, a can of cooking spray in the other, and a small kitchen lighter in her belt. "Okay," she announced, trying to look as nonchalant as possible with her bag of unfortunate toys, "let's go help Ellie. And if anything bad happens, stay with her and her mom. They'll keep you safe. Promise."

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Geckoman reeled backwards as the blade bit into his shoulder, slashing through his costume and leaving a line in his shoulder. Shocked at the speed of these people, he reeled back slightly with his hand on his shoulder.

The woman who'd struck him scared him slightly. Someone that good at cutting things up at a sword probably shouldn't be someone who enjoyed doing it, if only for the safety of his internal organs. He was remarkably attached to those.

Which he demonstrated by having to hurriedly dodge the swords raining in on him from the flunkies, pivoting and ducking and flipping over and under weapons without much thinking about having to do it. And when he finally turned around back to the female, he drew himself up into a loose and ready stance which showed that under the torn fabric, the sword wound had already healed.

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The blonde woman with scimitar took note of the healed gash and grinned even more widely, making an exaggerated show of biting her lower lip. "Mm, that healing factor is ni~i~ice..." she commented in a playful singsong tone. The older man with the goatee snorted, evidently used to her antics and not particularly concerned about facing a foe who could shrug off damage at such an accelerated rate. The pair were back into the fray a split second later, blades flashing almost too quickly to see. Geckoman knew what he was dealing with now and stayed a mere step ahead but they'd taken his measure as well, flipping and tumbling through the air in intricate patterns, feinting and striking one after another, never giving Chris a chance to catch his balance.

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On the other side of the fight, Fulcrum's Dakanan opponent had quickly deduced that the remarkable materials of his weapon were having a dramatic effect on the statuesque paragon. He might not have known specifically what was happening but he clearly didn't feel the need to question the phenomenon thoroughly as he launched himself into the air with an athletic leap and brought the saber down in a spinning pirouette, trailing stolen crimson energy in a spiral that would have been beautiful if not for its deadly precision. The daka crystal crashed into Mona like a bladed sledgehammer, sapping her strength as it cut.

Meanwhile the red haired woman with the claymore barked orders to the swordsmen harrying the heroes and heading for the house, pausing her own attack just long enough to direct the battle to capitalize on the swing of momentum in their favour. No armchair general, however, she was soon back in Fulcrum's face, swinging her heavy weapon with reckless abandon into the heroine's side.

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Mara only made it halfway back to the bedroom, watching Yolanda just long enough to make sure she went the rest of the way on her own with the candles before taking a breath, turning in place, and quietly setting her bag of kitchen-raided goods down.

Her spray was still in one hand, tool marks and a couple clearly added-on items betraying that it was no longer quite factory standard; she pulled the kitchen lighter out of her belt with the other hand and turned to face the front door. Unless they broke down a wall or shattered a window - which she wouldn't put past them - they'd have to come through the porch, the backyard, or the upper floor to get to the bedroom: she'd hear the latter two, and she'd be a nasty surprise for the first.

Hopefully.

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Fulcrum wasn't the most tactically minded of the Interceptors. For better or worse, her specialty was trading blows with heavy hitters. Being swarmed was one of her greatest weaknesses in combat. Fighting a god would be easier than these lightning fast soldiers. Normally, she'd take to the air now and strafe the local criminals, well away from Daka and other pointedly painful objects. But her stubborn loyalty wouldn't allow that: Geckoman needed someone to watch his back, and judging from the Wire-Fu-like sounds coming from him, he needed all the support he could get. Not to mention the additional problem of the swordsmen headed for the house. She needed to warn the others...

All of which overlaid the gods-awful tinging of her lifeforce being drained away by that damnable sword! Unfortunately for the giantess, these instinctual thoughts occurred much too slowly. Perhaps because of the crystal, the speed of the opponents, or both. Not that it mattered. Harried as she was, the crystalline blade impacted the side of her face with an echoing POW! Even her cosmic senses tumbled end-over-end, spiraling even as she herself stumbled wildly. Compared to that blade, the woman's sword felt like a splinter. She had enough sense to keep her guard up and throw a few defense blows, but she knew she was hurt.

Badly.

Whatever words came to mind never exited her mouth. The world started dulling around her except for the Daka's numbness.

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For what amounted to a small strike force, Mara couldn't say she was overly impressed with the tactics of the group that were making their way to the front door - she watched them through the windows as they reached the porch, trying to decide if they thought nobody in the house could fight, or if they were just part of a larger team that was trying to breach the building through multiple entrances at once.

That's how she'd do it, anyway. But she was probably smarter than they were.

She waited until they were at the door before taking a step forward and opening it for them. She looked the group in the eye for a moment, all messy-blond-haired, grumpy-expressioned, five-foot-five of her, before raising her can and flicking the kitchen lighter on right in front of the nozzle.

"No solicitors."

Whatever she'd done to the can, it certainly wasn't kitchen-friendly anymore: while a bored teenager might discover that a flame and a can of cooking spray could make an entertaining torch, Mara's spewed forth a sixty-foot blast that was almost as much blistering shockwave as it was devouring flame.

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The sudden blaze caught the assorted swordsmen off guard entirely, obscuring the doorway with its searing fury. One man, in a wide brimmed hat and high collar, started to surge forward as the door opened only to take the brunt of the cone and drop to the ground in a groaning pile that smelled of burnt hair. Others had the wherewithal to roll about across the lawn to put out the flames licking at their clothes but had clearly had the fight taken out of them nevertheless. Cries of surprise and pain sprang up and turned to moans and shaky curses.

Within the span of heartbeats a half dozen expertly trained fighters had been reduced to a single man, his face partially concealed by larger sunglasses under a cowboy hat and between tufts of now lopsided facial hair. Calmly smothering a small flame on his jacket's lapel with one hand he brandished a blade with the other. "Ah ain't out quite yet, missy," he assured Mara before continuing his attack.

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Geckoman was weary. As fast as he moved and as swiftly he healed, he didn't have limitless energy. But even as he and Fulcrum were beaten around and harried, he realised something... most of the fighters here were harrying them. A couple of the combatants were clearly skilled and experienced, but the vast majority, while good, simply weren't fighting on a superhuman level. They were just boxing him and Fulcrum in.

He was shocked out of his reverie by a roaring noise behind him, and a stink of smoke. Dragonfly had toasted the contingent who'd headed for the door. In a flash, Geckoman's hand dropped to his belt and swung up with an odd metallic click. While the electronics were out, and thus the electrical current in his staff was non-functional, it was still a big metal stick.

So, deliberately focusing on the weaker swordsmen, he spun and swung and parried and bludgeoned around himself in a circle. One sword was swatted from its owner's hand and clattered to the ground, the backswing being used to swipe a warrior's legs from beneath him in order for Geckoman to sweep a heel into another warrior. With a pirouette, he extended the staff to its fullest length to hit one of the swordsmen nearest Fulcrum in the temple, knocking him unconscious. In a final, singular movement, he swung to club his original target to the floor while throwing a Geckorang into the neck of the last of the subordinates.

"How about we even out the numbers here, chuckles!" he crowed at the grinning madwoman.

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Geckoman's change in tactics did indeed catch the less experienced among their assailants off-guard, halving the number of blades dancing about himself and Fulcrum in a matter of moments. The more formidable swordsmen, however, barely looked phased by the development. Clearly Chris had been correct in his assessment of some f their number being merely cannon fodder. In fact, the woman in white leather responded to his challenging rebuke by biting the lower lip of a suggestive smirk. "You're saying you want to get me alone, one-on-one, with your expanding staff?" she asked him coyly as she spun into a pirouette that ended with her wickedly curved scimitar biting deep into the hero's shoulder and brought her face inches from his own. "Unf. How big does it get, treacle?"

"Really, Patricia," the the goatee wearing Frenchman sighed reproachfully, exploiting Geckoman's momentary wince of pain to flick the tip of his rapier in a line across his target's opposite side, slicing though bright green costume to draw a line of blood. "There are some things an older gentleman does not need to hear coming from his niece."

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On the other side of the fight, the remaining fighters obviously smelled the proverbial blood in the water as Fulcrum struggled just to stay upright. "I think it's fair to say she doesn't react well to the presence of daka crystal," the dark-skinned man noted conversationally, waving his saber about in the air a bit as energy was visibly sapped out of the statuesque heroine and into its blade before stepping forward and plunging it in for a debilitating strike. "It seems our junior members need a bit more of your training, however, my love."

The claymore wielding woman snorted in annoyance as she swung the flat of her heavy blade against Fulcrum's cheek with the force of a sledgehammer. "Tch, I told you the rooks were nae ready," she countered. "Which one's the frail little blonde thing by the door supposed to be, anyhow?"

"No one we were expecting, I think," her partner answered. Worryingly, it didn't seem as if the fight at hand even required their full attention to maintain. "And perhaps not so frail it seems, haha! All in good time."

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Mara took one blow to the ribs before deciding that was quite enough; she was no expert hand-to-hand fighter but she'd learned a couple things over the last two years, and she was fairly sure that getting run through on some jerk's sword would make Ellie pretty upset.

She was getting tired of worrying about that sword, too. In a surprising fit of hand-to-hand competence, the young inventor dropped the lighter, stepped up past the sword as it lunged toward her, and drove her now-free fist right into the swordsman's face, followed by a quick, shoving kick to the stomach to get him off the porch before he fell down and let his nose stain something.

She knelt down to grab the lighter again, reviewing the state of the lawn as she stood back up to take her place blocking the doorway. "Don't know what they pay you, or if you're paid, or if you're some cult or whatever. Don't really care," she said, casting an exceedingly grumpy, serious eye on anyone still conscious...and anyone who wasn't, just in case they were faking it. "House has my friends. House has children. And it's too quiet in my head. Get up for any reason but leaving and I will set you on fire."

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The sounds of fighting had reached the bedroom, ratcheting up the tension on an already stressful situation. Preoccupied though she was with her own matters, Willow could see the concern in Erik's posture and she could sense that he hadn't already launched himself into the conflict out of worry for her and their child. But as much as she wanted him here, as much as she needed him here; their friends, their teammates, needed him more.

"Beloved," Willow hissed through clenched teeth. "You need to deal with our visitors before I do. I am not in a very diplomatic mood." One might have been inclined to laugh at the absurdity of the statement, especially coming from a woman in mid-childbirth, but one look at Willow's face would show barely contained fury behind her golden eyes.

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A distressed Erik looked like he was about to protest before he caught the look in Willow's eyes. Leaning forward he kissed her lightly on her forehead, then stood and retrieved his fencing blade. "Sí, querida." As he walked out of the room, Ellie gave him a wry thumbs up, a gesture Yolanda was quick to imitate in her free hand as she scurried closer to the bed with her candle's faint illumination.

Just outside the bedroom, his mother sat grimly in her chair, loaded service pistol in her lap as she stood guard. "Watch your ass," she commanded bluntly, pointing a finger at her son as if she were reminding him to clean his room or eat the rest of his vegetables.

"Heh, that'd be a change," Erik responded, balancing his sword over one shoulder as he headed for the open front door.

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The cowboy hat of the man Mara had cold clocked rolled about the lawn for a moment as her ultimatum hung in the air. "Perhaps we really should have announced ourselves more thoroughly," the group's leader admitted stroking his goatee with one hand even as he continued to occupy Geckoman with the sword in the other. "Ma chère fille, we are La Maison-- excuse me, the House of Swords and we are here for the child."

"Well, that's going to be an issue," a voiced called clearly across the battlefield as Erik sauntered calmly outside. He briefly put a hand on Mara's shoulder as her walked past toward the melee, telling her in a low tone, "Thanks for getting the door."

"Finally!" the British woman shouted. "The man of the bleeding hour! Look mate, we're taking the tyke!"

"Congratulation, by the way," her Dakanan ally called with an off-puttingly genuine smile.

The older man nodded. "Thank you, Nassar. At least someone remembers their manners. This can hardly be a surprise," he continued, addressing Erik. "We certainly can't entrust the next generation to someone so dismissive of tradition and obligation."

"Well, at least you didn't come empty handed," the Jack replied, keeping his voice even as he crossed the distance. The muscular red haired woman moved to block him but in a sudden burst of movement he slipped past her, his blade turning to a streak of silver as it connected with the bald man's daka saber. With the spark and screech of metal on metal, the more exotic weapon went flying from the intruder's grasp, landing tip first in the grass well out of reach. "Put that with the rest of the baby shower gifts," he idly suggested to the inventor nearby, checking to see if the crystals were still affecting Fulcrum.

Each of the swordsmen took a half step back, their attention fully on Erik as he moved to form a triangle with his harried teammates. He locked eyes with the Frenchman. "So it was your idea to bring a small army to my doorstep while a woman was giving birth, huh?"

"Naturall--" The master fencer wasn't even able to finish the first word of his reply before Erik flew into motion again, his blade piecing high on his foe's swordarm before a haymaker punch crashed into a smirking face. The group's leader collapsed to the ground, unconscious as the younger man claimed his expertly crafted rapier for himself and regarded the remaining three fighters.

"Now, did anybody really not see that coming?"

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