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Sszinid

The Legend Lives (Solo)

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Doing his best to keep cool, though the ominous chanting and gleaming knife weren't helping, Gideon shook his head. "You've shot the messenger. Who in his right mind would help you once word of this gets around?" The tall woman just smiled condescendingly, as though explaining something to a particularly dense child. "No one will miss him. He drove away those who loved him, alienated those who worked with him. No one will give his absence a second's thought."

 

She lifted the knife from the whetstone, testing its edge against her finger. Gideon started forward; he wasn't going to let her stick it in Stevie again. "He's a lost soul," she said. "Somewhat like you, I suspect. How long would it be before someone noticed you were gone? You've thought about it before." Still chanting, the cultists closed ranks around her. "I am blessed, you see. The demon lord of the Forest of Suicides favors me, and so I know your secret."

 

"You don't know anything about me," Gideon spat. "No?" She asked, still smiling that same maddening smile. "You spent a year wishing you were dead. Sometimes you still do. You didn't jump, but it wasn't because you wanted to live; it was because you knew it would only hurt your parents more." But Gideon was done with listening. "I've had enough of people assuming they know who I am," he said, pointing his blade at the group.

 

"Now get out of the way. Let me leave with Stevie and the Boost and you won't have to find out what this thing does."

Edited by Sszinid

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Of course, they both knew that wasn't going to happen.

 

At a slight, dismissive gesture from the woman, the green-robed horde rushed forward. Gideon met them, moving faster than any ordinary human as he swung his psiblade out in a darkly-gleaming arc. His pulse raced, and he had to fight to keep from shutting his eyes at the moment of the crash; these cultists looked a lot less tough than the sacrificial sentry had been, but facing down twenty people at once, that was something he'd never imagined doing.

 

He was pretty sure he was going to end up on that altar soon, but he couldn't leave, both morally and physically.

 

The first three robed figures caught his first swing, the two flanking them leaping out of the way. One of them buckled under the swing, and one swayed, but Gideon's heart sank as he watched four out of five keep coming at him. He ducked and wove under punches, wondering how on earth he could possibly keep this up. There were just too many, and the only people who had even a remote idea of where he was were in this room.

 

His opponents' fists and brazen daggers met only empty air, but he knew he might yet die that night...

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But desperation is a potent cocktail for the body, and as more of the cultists moved to surround him, Gideon fought faster and harder. He could picture his parents' faces when they dragged his exsanguinated body from the bay, and that scared him a lot more than the blades thrust in his direction. Everything that'd been good in his life had come from his family, and he wasn't about to let them get hurt by getting himself killed at the hands of these goons.

 

His second sweep, a long circle out of a swashbuckling movie that would've been suicide if not for his incredible speed, caught almost all of the cultists who'd moved to encircle him. His blade passed silently through them, and they crumpled and buckled in its dark wake. Two of them he'd struck before hit the ground, out cold and drooling onto the concrete floor. Several others stumbled back, their eyes wide and vacant, trying to regain control of themselves.

 

That was when the first knife found Gideon's back. He was lucky, turning with the strike so that his armored costume caught more than it otherwise might have, but the sharp, cold pain of the blow jolted him from any sense of triumph. He cried out despite his best efforts, biting down on his tongue to stay focused as cultists advanced over their fallen fellows. They'd seen that he could be made to bleed, and that he wouldn't kill them; that was going to be trouble.

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Gideon tried to be the rock on which the wave broke, but he knew he was going to be swept away.

 

His next swing took down another cultist, the young woman's facial piercings catching the edge of her emerald hood as she tumbled beneath the onrushing feet of her fellows, and sent four more stumbling back. He couldn't shake how much these guys looked like high school classmates with a few years on them, but the fanaticism and hate in their eyes was totally alien. Another knife found his kevlar vest, but he twisted with it and it failed to penetrate.

 

Wheeling around again, he swiped through the closely-packed ranks of the cultists trying to get behind him. Hope surged through him as three of them fell in a mass of braids, fat rolls, and black-painted fingernails and four more reeled back. Seven at one blow, he thought with a smile, remembering the fairy tale of the little tailor his mother had used to read him at bedtime. But once again his triumph failed to last as pain shot through him.

 

The cultists weren't as brainless as he'd thought, he dimly realized, slumping to the ground as something hot and sticky cascaded down his back. They'd seen that little spin move before, and this time they'd been ready. He could feel an index finger's length of steel in his back, a cold, rigid thing that transfixed him even as his vision wavered. Nothing in his life had ever hurt so bad, not his kidney stones or his rolled ankle or his wisdom teeth.

 

He sank to the ground, his blade flickering before going out. This was surely the end.

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"Bring him to the altar," the woman's voice said, though she sounded as though she were underwater. Gideon had no strength to resist as powerful arms dragged him toward where Stevie lay. The flickering of the torches combined with the spots appearing in front of his eyes until he could barely see, but he was able to take some final satisfaction in the nearly half of the cultists sprawled around the perimeter of the chamber, periodically twitching.

 

Stevie was a total wreck; he'd pissed himself during the fight, and now the last light of hope was going out in his eyes. Poor idiot; Gideon wished he could've saved him. He tried to do something, to fight; he couldn't die here, not on his second damn day of this. But his own body seemed faraway; only the pain was near. He watched through half-glazed eyes as the woman (who really was very pretty, he thought dazedly) raised the knife above him.

 

The sound of the door shattering failed to make him respond, but everyone else jumped a foot. Forcing himself through the daze of pain, Gideon managed to raise his head enough to watch as a man and a woman in leather jackets and sunglasses stormed down the stairs, assault rifles in hand. The Justiciars. The woman and the other cultists ran as the shooting started, disappearing into an emerald gateway that tore itself out of thin air and then vanished.

 

Almost too fast, it was all over. Baffled, his ears still ringing, Gideon choked back an overjoyed sob.

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The Justiciars swept the room methodically, rifles at their shoulders and every step carefully measured. Even so, it didn't take them long to reach the altar. They were surprisingly gentle as they flipped Gideon over, examining the damage the blade had done. "Seven or eight stitches," the woman said, "but not life-threatening." The man nodded, his sunglasses bobbing beneath his crew cut. He reached up and fingered an earpiece. "Target secure. Condition stable."

 

Gideon stared blearily up at his rescuers, trying not to feel utter defeat. He'd had to be rescued. Pathetic.

 

"Confirmed," the man said, responding to something Gideon couldn't hear. "We'll mop up here and meet you at the designated location. Over and out." He offered the woman a nod, and the two of them moved away from Gideon. Taking a deep breath, the young man managed to lever himself into a sitting position, though every part of him begged to stay still. His back was frigid fire, screaming with every shift of his arms. His eyes watered.

 

The duo moved over to the cultists who'd been left behind - what had that been that the others had escaped through, a portal? Who were these people? - and stood over the still-unconscious thugs, kicking them over onto their backs with heavy black boots. And then they raised their rifles, fingers on the triggers. Gideon's combination of dazed relief and hot self-loathing turned to ice. "Stop!" He launched himself forward, his blade extending once more...

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The blade swept through the two Justiciars an instant before fingers squeezed triggers, driving them to their knees. Their guns fell from their hands as they clutched their foreheads, trying to regain their concentration as their brains throbbed. Gideon, his lunge expending what little energy icy fear had given him, crashed to the floor in a heap beside one of the cultists, unable to hold up his own weight. He skinned his palms and forehead as he fell.

 

Everything hurt. "They're beaten," he gasped. "You don't have to kill them."

 

The Justiciars recovered a moment later. Recovering their guns, they took wary steps back. "The Neutralizer knew you wouldn't be ready," the woman said. "You are trying to save murderous fanatics, people who nearly killed you. Some day you'll understand that all you've done is let them live to kill again. But our orders are to let that happen if you force our hand. You have to see for yourself." Turning, the two of them strode up the stairs and were gone.

 

Gideon wasn't entirely sure how long he lay there, panting hard as he tried to muster the energy to push past the pain and regain his feet. It was approaching sirens that finally forced him to his feet; he had no intention of leaving the site of his first case on a stretcher. Making his way over to Stevie, who had been remarkably quiet through all of this, he fumbled with the dealer's chains. Then he saw the reason for the silence: the man had been gagged.

 

He pulled the gag away, and Stevie's outburst drove him a step back. "The Justiciars, man," he said in a panic, eyes wide. "They took the Boost! While you weren't looking, they got away with the Boost!"

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It was an awkward trek up the steps; Stevie had been beaten up pretty badly on his way down to the altar, Gideon's knife wound was still oozing, and neither of them trusted the other much, leading to a strange dance of half supporting one another and half keeping one another at a distance. Even so, they beat the police cars and disappeared into the alleys of the Boardwalk before Freedom's finest arrived. Gideon wasn't sure how to explain how he'd gotten involved.

 

Still, he could feel his limbs getting weaker, and Stevie needed medical attention too. But going to a hospital might well blow his secret identity, and Stevie wouldn't probably assume a set-up. Gideon wracked his brain for an alternative. The hour was late, and a light, frigid rain trickled down from pitch-black clouds, making him numb. He looked up, brushing wet hair out of the way of his goggles, and spotted it: a billboard with a picture of a smiling woman.

 

"Stay awake," Mindsteel commanded, gritting his teeth. "I know a safe place for us."

Edited by Sszinid

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Monday, March 3, 2014

1:00 AM

 

It was an awkward motorcycle ride, too. Stevie's bulk slid around behind Gideon and threatened to unseat him on every turn, and the drug dealer's scabby hands gripped him uncomfortably, digging into his sides. By the time he arrived, Gideon felt exhausted and lightheaded; the Donorcycle skidded on a puddle and deposited them both on their backsides just in front of the clinic. It was a herculean effort to get up again; all he wanted to do was sleep.

 

But he managed to regain his feet, pull Stevie back up, and stagger toward the automatic doors. The building was two stories, whitewashed concrete and glass, the sort of place that inspired serenity while saving on building costs. Gideon's vision swam, his steps becoming less and less certain. His feet tingled, then went numb. But as he felt his weight moving forward, the glass doors slid open and a pair of orange-vested volunteers ran out.

 

He collapsed against them, spilling Stevie onto the pavement. Everything hurt, but it was a distant pain. He'd been an idiot to go in alone, he realized. It was a mistake he might not even live to repeat. He was dimly aware of the stretcher that another pair of volunteers brought for him, of calm but forceful voices telling him to stay awake, to fight through the pain. But in the end, he no longer had the strength to obey. The sleep that took him was deep and full of nightmares.

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He awoke without his mask and goggles. It was all over.

 

His back felt tight; he tried to reach for it, but the IV hose stopped him. A gentle touch stilled his other arm. "Don't touch your stitches." It was a woman's voice, calm and patient. He opened his eyes and felt his breath catch. She sat beside his cot, a concerned little smile on that famous face of hers. She was in her mid to late fifties but aging gracefully, accepting the grey in her curly, shoulder-length hair and the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes.

 

"So everyone knows, then," Gideon said, his voice bitter. He'd blown it on his second day, taking too many risks and ending up empty-handed in spite of it all. But her voice stopped him. "No. You can trust the people here to keep your secret, Gideon. You can trust me." He was surprised she knew his name, but with her resources it couldn't have been difficult to find out. "Thank you for saving my life," he said, squeezing his eyes shut.

 

"I hope to help everyone who comes through those doors," she replied, looking wistfully out the windows toward the Boardwalk. "Your friend will be fine, by the by." There was a hint of a southern drawl to her words, though she was Freedom born and bred. "I take it your night didn't go quite as planned." She turned back to him, eyes twinkling. "But I hope it won't be the last night you try. We could do so much together, you and I."

 

Starstruck, Gideon managed to shake her soft, wrinkled hand. Perhaps this could still be just the beginning...

 

-FIN-

Edited by Sszinid

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