Violet-red lightning rips through me and out my fingertips. It is more power than I have ever held--and as I try to seize control, it burns.
What is left of Voodoo Jones growls and whimpers from the hole I have made for him. He gurgles--his charred, misshapen claw grips the edge.
"Boy," he croaks.
"No," I say, and I summon the lightning once more.
He shrieks as the energy carves through his meat and bone. He has filled the resulting gaps with his shadows. There is very little of him left.
Before my very eyes, he is becoming a Lurkling.
"Begone," I tell him, and I release the lightning again. This time, I feel it spear through my chest, and I grimace.
He is thrown back. His form flattens to the far wall before growing deeper and darker. When he charges again, there is nothing left--nothing but blackness, claws, and eyes burning with hate.
"Boy," he screams.
I meet him head-on. Magic flares up my limbs as he hits; the force of his charge carries us both back. I dig deep and summon all the power I can, pouring it through him--
--just as I feel my back hit the wall, feel it crumple, feel the cool night air around us as we tumble down toward the street, several stories below.
"Status report," I say.
I wrap the suit's fingers around a nearby traffic light pole. Iron twists and snaps; I swing it around like a baseball bat and smack the charging demon straight in the face.
God, it feels good to be Arsenal again.
"I asked for a status report," I repeat.
"Evacuating citizens into a nearby church," Esmerelda responds. "Any idea where Wytch or Jin are?"
"Negative on both. Neither carry communicators."
"Dealing with the mother of all Lurklings," Widget says. "You okay over there, old man?"
"Fine. Just beating the shit out of a Class 2 demon."
"Oh, Christ," Esmerelda says. "You didn't give it that terrible 'Eat Math and Die' speech of yours, did you?"
"What? No! I mean, fuck no, I wouldn't do that--"
The demon gets back up. He tries another charge--I ram the pole like a lance. The upper end crumples against his chest as he gets closer, but I hold my ground and push.
"Wytch and Jin will do their own thing. Always have," I tell them. "Meanwhile, sent Skull to back up Red. If either of you got the time, I'm sure they could both use your help."
"ETA on Society?" Widget asks.
"Ten minutes," I tell him. "But I'm not counting on them, and neither should you. Sumerset out."
As soon as I cut the radio off, the demon seizes hold of the pole--and pushes back. The end I've got jams into the suit's torso; the exoskeleton underneath the kevlar clamps together and displaces the impact throughout the frame. I start to pull back ,intent on closing the distance between us again--
--and that's when I feel the sharp lance of pain shoot through my chest.
"Fuck," I say, and then I'm starting to gasp for breath. "Fucking--not now. Not right now."
It's another dyspnea attack. Can barely breathe. Like a goddamn cinder block squeezing down on my lungs.
If I was smart, I'd open the channel and call Esmerelda in. She could be here in a tenth of a second, flat--Class 2 would be a rough tumble for her, but she could take it. But I know that would mean pulling her off evac duty--and that would mean putting lives in jeopardy.
I do the math. One wrinkly ass for a dozen or more.
The radio stays off.
Demon slams into me hard. At once, all the breath is gone--my sight gets foggy as I hit asphalt. He's on top of me, now, his claws gouging into the kevlar, looking for purchase. I try to get a shot with the sonic inducers, but the angle is all wrong.
I hear the sound of something creaking as his claws find purchase. With a grunt and snarl, he begins peeling the armor off my torso.