Mava hated Nekkabrutes. Any creature that was as long as a bus should not be as fast as a striking cobra as far as she was concerned. The poison that the Nekkabrutes carried and their nearly impenetrable scales were annoying as well, but since they were far from the only creatures who possessed those, Mava found it easiest to focus her dislike of them on their difficult to deal with levels of speed.
“Is that what I think it is?” Ally asked.
“Depends,” Nyka said. “Do you think it’s a multi-ton engine of destruction that can flatten builds? Cause if so then, yes, it’s what you think it is.”
“How do we fight something like that?” Gwen asked.
Mava turned to look at her. The youngest Elite was more curious than scared. Mava hoped that would change, fear would keep Gwen alive a lot more effectively than curiosity. She also wished there was any choice she could make except for the impossible one that loomed before her.
“Together,” Ally said. “We fight it together.”
“That would be a lot easier after a trip to the training halls,” Nyka said. “You don’t want to be experimenting with new abilities while you’re fighting a Nekkabrute.”
“Do they have any weaknesses we never discovered?” Mava asked.
“No, I think you got their prime one,” Nyka said.
“What’s that?” Ally asked.
“Hit it until it’s pulp and then tear it into bits,” Mava said.
“That’s not much of a weakness,” Gwen said.
“It’s as much as you get with some enemies,” Mava said. “Are you sure you still want to go through with this? There’s no shame in acting as a reserve force.”
“I’m in,” Ally said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this my whole life.”
“I’m in too,” Gwen said. “Ally’s right. We need to be in this together.”
“Being ‘in this’ means being willing to take orders,” Mava said. “Are you two ok with that?”
“Of course, Commander,” Ally said while Gwen snapped off a quick salute of a kind learned in her current life.
“Ok then, step one, listen to the mission briefing, then we work out our tactics,” Mava said.
Mava looked at Gwen and Ally, reading if their were actually committing their full attention to her or whether they were too eager for the chase to listen. Both women sat still and had their eyes glued on their commander.
“A Nekkabrute is a difficult foe,” Mava began. “The enemy only possessed a few of them at their height though.”
“Between about one hundred and a hundred and fifty,” Nyka added. “That was back in the Last Battle, they were such an investment to raise though that I’d be staggered if there was more than the one we can hear out there.”
“That’s good. One we might be able to handle,” Mava said. “And by handle, I mean kill. Let me be perfectly clear on that. With a foe like a Nekkabrute, there is no room for hesitation or mercy.”
“What about civilian casualties?” Gwen asked. “How do we prevent those?”
“Ideally by taking the fight out of populated areas,” Mava said. “Leave that part of it to me through. Once the main battle is joined you’re going to have plenty to worry about and keep track of.”
“If these things are that tough, how do we take them out?” Ally asked.
“Hit and fade tactics. Surround the Nekkabrute, wait for the right moment, get in, strike and head out. We wear it down over time with that and then when it’s exposed go in for a combined kill,” Mava said.
“That sounds straightforward enough,” Ally said.
“Simple plan. But the execution will go awry, It always happens,” Mava said.
“That’s because what you’re describing works well against practice dummys, or the mindless things in the training halls but actual Earthly foes can change and adapt to defend themselves. It’s not going to help to say this, but if you survive it’ll be good for review; watch out for when your opponent tries to trick you. Smart one’s always will.”
“Ordinarily, we’d review where the attack was taking place and what we know about it but in this case we’ll have to find out when we track the Nekkabrute down,” Mava said.
“Maybe not,” Gwen said. “I’m seeing live reports of it being sighted down near the new art gallery.”
“The Freeman?” Nyka asked.
“Yeah, it looks like it’s searching for something,” Gwen said.
“Damn, that’s not good,” Nyka said. “I was in town to check out a collection that just rolled in there. It includes some very ancient pottery.”
“From our time?” Mava asked.
“No, not according to the dating that’s been done on it,” Nyka said. “The designs though are the same as ones our craftsmen, in the Caverns, used to favor.”
“So if the Nekkabrute is attacking there, you’re thinking they misidentified one of the age of the pottery?” Mava asked.
“They had to have,” Nyka said. “Nothing from five thousands years ago is going interest the Nekka’s at all.”
“Unless it’s trap,” Ally said.
People often mistook Aloka for slow based on her size and highly developed physique. She’d known that and used it like a weapon. Ally shared Aloka’s physique but apparently didn’t feel the need to continue the deception.
“It could be that as well,” Mava said. “So we go in with our guards up.”
“Transformed?” Gwen asked.
“Yes,” Mava said. “The last thing you want is to get clipped trying to get to the battle and be taken out before you even really show up.”
“How are we going to get there?” Gwen asked.
“I can help with that,” Nyka said. “Are you ready to go?”
Everyone looked at Mava.
“No,” Mava said. “But we’re not going to get any more ready either.”
Nyka spoke a series of sacred phrases and a bubble of inky purple expanded from her fingertips to cover the apartment. With a few more gestures she changed the spell so that each of the Elites and herself were covered by a thin veneer of the inky purple substance.
A moment later the apartment was gone and they were standing in front of the Freeman Gallery. Or what was left of it.
“Are we too late?” Gwen asked.
She was answered by the roaring scream of the Nekkabrute.
“Depends on what you mean by too late,” Ally said.
“Forget that and transform, now,” Mava said. “We’ve got less than a minute before it notices we’re here.”
“It already knows we’re here, but you’re right about it being a minute or so before it decides that’s a problem worth investigating,” Nyka said.
“Do you think you can talk to this one?” Mava asked.
“Talk to, certainly. Have it listen to me? Lower odds I’d say. I’ll see what I can do, but I expect you all to come drag me out of the fire if this is another creature that won’t listen to the old commands,” Nyka said.
Mava watched Nyka blink away and felt a strange concern in her heart. She liked the Nyka she’d just met. Or more precisely, she liked the Nyke she’d met and the promise this Nyka represented that there didn’t need to be more fighting between the two factions that had once ruled the Earth.
In a blink both Gwen and Ally were changed into their Sacramental Robes. Mava paused. Two Elites should be able to handle a Nekkabrute. If she transformed to help them, it sounded like she would need to make a new pledge to the Throne of Days and, after searching her heart, she found she wasn’t ready to do that.
“Gwen, go north, shroud the battlefield if it looks Nyka isn’t getting through to the Nekkabrute,” Mava said.
“I’ll go south then?” Ally asked.
“Yeah, when Gwena casts her sleet and mists, find your moment and light the brute up.”
“What will you be doing?” Gwen asked.
“Hopefully, staying out of your line of fire,” Mava said.
They were halfway into position when the three Elites saw that the plan wasn’t going to work.
Gwen had a clear line of sight on the Brute from an alleyway to to the north of the remains of the art gallery. Mava could see the whole thing from the top of a building she’d floated up to. Ally however was blocked. There was no entrance onto the square from the south. Even with leaping over one of the buildings she was still two seconds behind Gwen who was nearly too late to save Nyka.
The Nekkabrute showed less interest in listening to Nyka than the Chrysalstones had. It breathed out it’s paralyzing poison on her a second after Gwen was able to encase her in a thin dome of ice to shield Nyka from the worst of the toxins effects.
Unfortunately that distracted her from shielding herself from the poison.
She began casting ice barriers to block the gas out, but the little bit that got into her lungs left her weak and clumsy, which made it easier for more of the toxin to reach her.
“Gwen!” Ally yelled from the top of a building that was a couple of streets removed from Gwen’s position.
To her credit, Ally did try unleashing a thunder blast on the Nekkabrute before she moved in, but without much luck. The brute was primed and ready to fight. It caught the blast on it’s toughest scales, shunting it away entirely.
That’s when things slide out of control.
It wasn’t Ally’s fault that she stepped into the sleeping gas. With Gwen’s sleet and mist in place only enhanced, superhuman senses would have been able to distinguish it from the rest of the atmospheric phenomena. Ally had those senses, or rather Aloka did, a distinction which Mava observed to her horror as both of her fellow Elites stumbled, struggled to stay upright and unceremoniously pitched over, crashing to the ground unconscious.
Mava reached out for her own transformation magic only to feel the tingle of a long distance stunning spell shut down all of her limbs at once.
She fought the spell, but it had been a clean hit and the world disappeared in a haze of darkness before she hit the ground.