Marble cracked beneath Paladin's conjured armor. In one hand, he held a glowing shield; in the other, he held a matching spiked club.
"Woot, traffic control. Mulligan, you got Crocodile Dundee. Brick, take on the guy made out of floor. Skull, with me on Scourge."
I wasn't sure what ticked me off more--the fact that he was taking control of my party, or the fact that I was the one who invited him.
Everything happened fast. Woot charged into the fray, grabbing people by the shoulder and trying to guide them to the exit. Mulligan ran straight for Boomerang Kid. Brick jumped in front of the golem; Paladin stood besides me, mace and shield at the ready.
"He's got a weird black-lightning hand," I told him. "It does a thing."
"By the way. I'm not big on taking orders. Just so y'know." It was petty, but what could I say? I'm a petty kind of girl.
"'Thanks Paladin, I really appreciate you and your team-mates showing up when you did to save my life. It was really sweet of you guys.'"
"That doesn't sound anything like me," I told him. "My voice is way cooler than that."
"Stop with the fucking chatter!" Scourge roared. The red fist opened; bolts of black lashed out like whip-strokes, slashing hard against Paladin's shield. Paladin was sent skidding back, his glowing greaves creaking against the floor, long wisps of smoke rose up from his armor.
I dove straight for Scourge. He met me, metal fist clenched, pounding it straight into my stomach.
It was like getting whacked by a sledge. I flew 20 yards back. When I hit ground, I was rolling, fighting for control--when I finally managed to slow myself down, I felt a sharp agony spearing through my ribs.
"Ouch," I said. Then I slumped to the floor.
"It's the Crimson Claw," Anna said. "Reputedly discovered sometime in the early 20s--Third Reich used it a lot. Thing's some sort of alien technology with an occult background. It--"
"Skip the history. What's it do and how do I break it," I said, wheezing.
"Increased strength, weird lightning, energy control. And you have to cut it off him," she said.
While I did my best to recover, I surveyed how the others were doing.
Mulligan was facing off with Boomerang--the latter drew his boomerangs while Mulligan drew an aluminum bat. They circled, measuring each other up.
Brick had just taken a fistful of stone to the face; the blow glanced off him like a tennis ball smacking into a wall. The golem's fist cracked and crumpled, its middle finger breaking off. Brick soon followed it up with a charge, hitting the stone-man head-first in the belly--and sent it reeling.
Woot's backpack steam-engine had sprouted a set of intricate spiderlegs that were now carrying him along the floor. Behind him, several shell-shocked civilians had been netted, and were being dragged toward the exit.
And Paladin... Paladin was a blazing beacon of white-and-black, engaging Scourge in outright medieval warfare.
His spiked club descended with flash after flash of sparks, meeting the Crimson Claw. Each time, Scourge pushed him back--the black lightning crept around the edges of his armor, threatening to slip past.
Scourge hammered his fist against Paladin's chestplate, sending him off-kilter. For a moment, he was off-balance--and open.
I shoved my way through the pain and got to my feet, intent on rushing Scourge before he could take Paladin down.
Mulligan beat me by a mile.
He came from no where, a steel boomerang in one hand and his baseball bat in the other. Scourge barely had enough time to meet the bat with his claw--and the boomerang sank straight into his shoulder.
There was something feral and violent in Mulligan's eyes; no sooner had he stabbed Scourge then did he follow it up with a headbutt. Scourge stumbled back, snatching the boomerang with his clockwork hand and wrenching it free. Mulligan moved back, grabbing Paladin.
I slammed into Scourge's flank, tackling him and flinging us both down the station's stairs.
We were tangled, fighting and kicking. Bolts of black energy ripped across the escalator, ripping smoldering holes through the metal. I felt something hot and painful bite into my shoulder, then my hip; when we reached the bottom, he brought the hand down on top of my helm and squeezed.
The material buckled and cracked.
"Defenders are on route," I heard Anna say. "You just got to last a little longer. They'll be there any min--"
She was cut off by the sound of static. With a flex of his claws, Scourge shattered my helm.