Hidden Pages – Chapter 45 – Thunderstruck


When one of the Black Valkyrie’s “brings the thunder” it’s more than a metaphorical description of the damage they chose to inflict on their foes.

Beth shrank back and covered her ears as a bolt of electricity leapt from Silicon Trace’s fist and slammed through the combat cyborg she was fighting. Being only a few dozen meters away from a strike as powerful as any natural lightning bolt was a new and disconcerting experience for Beth. She felt the hairs on her neck and arms sing with the leftover charge in the air, while the rest of her body resounded with the sonic blast that followed the blinding stroke of light.

For all of the force of the blow however, it wasn’t enough to kill or even disable Sil’s foe, who answered the lightning bolt with a barrage of rockets from his shoulders.

“We joining this fight?” Starshine asked, yelling over the tumult of the battle. She and Beth had ducked down below the ruins of a concrete wall which felt all too fragile in the face of the titans that were warring on the other side of it.

“I don’t know,” Beth said, testing out the edges of the Unread to see how the narrative of Gamma City would feel about a super science space blaster laying waste to a setting-native cyborg. With all of the explosions going off around them, there was a good chance that no one would notice or care about a few more, but there was definitely a resistance in the weave of the story to the idea of a normal human with a single firearm besting a combat cyborg of any stripe.

“Might be hard to get a shot in if you do want to join the tussle,” Starshine said, following the frenzy of the battle like a hawk looking for a mouse to pounce on.

Above them, Sil and the cyborg flew in erratic darting bursts, dodging or blocking each other’s fire as the area below them was shredded, set on fire, or both.

“Where’s Lagressa?” Beth asked, glancing around for the third member of their team.

“Don’t know,” Starshine said. “She vanished the moment the fight started.”

“I was waiting to see if the need to strike would arise and positioning to be in the best spot to do so,” Lagressa said, appearing just behind Beth’s left shoulder.

Beth didn’t need to check with the Unread to know how poorly that could have gone.

On the plus side, high tech cyborg’s don’t generally possess a wide array of anti-magic counter-measures. Hardened steel and carbon nanofibers made for remarkably durable armor and the cyborgs of Gamma City backed those up with a variety of other damage control systems. All of those measures were bounded by the tolerances and strength limits which materials in Beth’s world were capable of achieving (even if only in a lab and under highly specialized circumstances). Lagressa’s magic wasn’t limited by anything as conventional as that.

If Lagressa tried to cut the cyborg’s heart out, his only hope would be to have enough backups available that he could get away before she got through destroying them all.

The downside there was how the Unread of Gamma City would have reacted to someone breaking its physical laws so blatantly. The entire fold they were in would have shattered at the very least and where any of them would have landed would have been pure chance at best.

Worst of all though, Beth would have lost the opportunity to deal with the man behind her father’s woes in an environment where she was strong enough to fight for herself.

Beth’s concerns were both interrupted and magnified a moment later when Sil crashed down in front of them. Sparks of electricity played over her armored frame and one of the rocket pods on her wings had been shattered. From how sluggishly Sil was moving, Beth had to guess that the cyborg had gotten in a solid hit on the Valkyrie, one that would have been instantly fatal to nearly anyone else in the world.

‘Nearly fatal’ wasn’t enough however. From directly above them, the cyborg flew down, seeking to end his foe before she could reboot her systems and get back into the fight.

“Hold him off!” Beth said, pointing upwards.

Starshine unleashed a barrage of fire from her pistols that slammed into the descending cyborg so hard he was cast back into the clouds above them. Being unable to see her foe didn’t slow Starshine down. She kept firing with the kind of pinpoint accuracy only a sharp shooting adventurer could possess.

Gamma City’s Unread creaked and complained at the implausible onslaught being unleashed, but Beth whispered to it about how cybernetic modifications could be made to look perfectly natural within the setting (explaining Starshine’s preternatural accuracy), and that concussion micro-grenades could have the same sort of knockback that Starshine’s guns were displaying. It was a tenuous thread to hand the events on, but it held for the moment and that was all Beth was concerned about.

“Ugh, what the hell is that guy?” Sil asked as she got back to her feet.

“Next generation NME,” Beth said. “Stronger than any you’ve faced so far, and with no berserker override in place.”

“I should probably stop holding back then I guess,” Sil said.

“Probably,” Starshine said. “He’s coming in on an attack vector again.”

Sil rolled her shoulders and stretched her neck, tipping her head from one side to the other.

“Yeah, let’s see how that goes for him.”

Beth could hear the feral joy in Sil’s voice as the Valkyrie spread her wings and throttled up her systems. With bold, confident steps, Sil paced out in front of the group, gaining speed with each stride until she took the air in a fiery blaze of speed to meet the onrushing cyborg.

Beth was ready for a titanic crash when the two collided, which meant she wasn’t at all prepared for the cyborg to gracefully swirl around Sil’s attack, boosting away from a confrontation with the Valkyrie.

One moment the two were passing each other harmlessly by and the next the cyborg slammed into his true target.