Bonesaw watched with horror as Sue disappeared over the edge.
Slowly, she turned to face Scourge. But the man with the red hand had already moved away. He sprang down into the crater that Sovereign had left when Tech-Head had thrown him into Metro Tower's core.
A moment later, and Hex slammed into her from behind.
"Ugly little bitch," Hex snarled, ramming Bonesaw straight into a concrete barrier. Stone cracked beneath the hit; Bonesaw felt some of her exterior armor snap and splinter. She grimaced in pain and braced herself against the wall.
Bonesaw felt something hot and heavy seize hold of her chest; she let out an animal's roar and extended the armor as far as it could go. With a strength that surprised her, she drove her bladed arms back into Hex and threw her toward the crater.
As her armor began to heal, Bonesaw turned and leapt after her.
"Red! Are you alright?"
Red opened her eyes. There was rubble all around her, along with the smell of burning wood; somewhere in front of her she could see a gigantic hole. Through it, Metro Tower flashed in the distance.
She was on top of a desk that had been split in two. An office-building. Wytch was over her, bloody and frantic.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Rockstar," Wytch replied. "Machinehead--"
"Machin-ist," Anna's voice corrected over the ear-piece.
"--yes, yes, whatever," Wytch said. "Machinist is bringing in Arsenal. Sovereign's here too. We've got to give them and Skull as much cover as we can. Can you stand up?"
Red tried to, but instantly felt a burst of nausea. She shook her head. "I--I think I need a moment."
"Alright. Take whatever time you need. I'm heading back to Metro Tower to assist," Wytch said, and then she threw herself out of the hole. A moment later, and a tremendous wind picked her up--the old woman swept through the air, soaring back toward Metro Tower.
Red slowly righted herself. She could hear talk over the ear-piece, but it seemed distant and foggy--like in a dream.
And then there was a tremendous flash followed by a burning light.
The light faded. The Skull stood before her.
Except it wasn't the Skull. Not exactly. The suit looked different; similar, but modified. And there was a sword jutting from her back. That, and a strange belt wrapped around her waist.
"Hello, Red," the Skull said.
"Not a lot of time for chit-chat," the Skull said. "In about three minutes, all Hell is going to break loose. And I need your help to stop it."
A woman stepped out from behind the Skull--apparently she had been brought here by the same flash of light. She was old, wiry, and looked mean as hell; her hair was a tangle of barbed wire and her face was twisted into a snarl. She had piercings through her eyebrows, her ears, her nose, and her bottom lip; she wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the image of two fists giving the middle finger.
"This her?" the old woman asked. Her voice sounded hoarse and cracked, like she'd been chewing on a pack of lit cigarettes and then washed it down with a tall glass of sulphuric acid.
"Yes," the Skull said. "This is her."
The old woman gave Red a good look. "Fuck," she said. "What does she know about music?"
"I--what?" Red said. "What is this about?"
"Red, this is Sarah O'Conner, otherwise known as the current Muse of Music," the Skull said. "Sarah, this is Red. "
The Muse lifted her head. "You know how to rock, girl?"
"I, uh. Maybe?" Red said, trying not to squeak.
"What's your favorite band?"
"I--um. I don't know? I like... Bjork?" Red replied.
"Oh, fuck this," the Muse said, turning around.
The Skull reached out and touched her shoulder. "Sarah--we both agreed. This is the only way."
The Muse sighed, and shook her head. "Goddammit," she said, and then she turned back to Red. "Alright. What else?"
"I. Um." Red shifted, looked from Sarah back to the Skull, then back to Sarah. "I like... Queen?"
The Muse lifted her head. "Freddie Mercury?"
Her scowl become just a little less fierce. "Alright," she said. "Maybe we can work with that."
The last of the gargoyles slammed into asphalt, its body making a satisfying crunch.
Sumerset turned the rail gun off and scanned for the quickest route to Metro Tower.
"Coming to assist," he said, right before three tons of force struck him from behind.
The car crumpled as it made its impact; the front-end snapped and rippled inward like an accordion. The armor stumbled forward, leaving Sumerset struggling to stay standing. A few warning messages flashed past the screen.
Sumerset turned and swung his fist around, batting the car aside.
His armor had been improved--its size had increased twofold. It towered over Sumerset like some sort of metal juggernaut, resembling a steam-powered suit of medieval armor. He could see where the original ceramic suit sat in a 'cradle' at the top, with Man-of-War's helmet popping up beneath a metal cage. One of the suit's fists ended in a giant spiked ball; the other had been replaced with an immense iron shield.
A cloud of smoke pumped out from the back-end.
"The fuck is this shit?" Sumerset said, right before the spiked ball hammered into his face.
The Arsenal armor screamed out a series of warnings as Sumerset crouched low and skidded across concrete. He felt a signpost creak and snap against his back--his fingertips gouged deep into the ground. Man-of-War laughed and swung the iron ball around before firing.
It flew forward, attached to his arm via an extending length of chain. When it hit, Sumerset was thrown sixty feet back.
The Arsenal suit scraped further down the street. Sumerset shifted and struggled to get back to his feet; more yellow warnings flashed on the screen. He re-armed the plasma launcher and unleashed a series of shots--Man-of-War brought his shield up, leaving the plasma to splash harmlessly against iron.
"Plasma melts iron," Sumerset said, his voice amplified through the armor's loudspeaker. "Ain't no way in hell that piece of yours ain't magic."
"It's amazing what that Woot kid can do with the right amount of inspiration," Man-of-War replied. "Fact is, I don't give one flying hell what it is, so long as it lets me kick your geriatric ass."
"You're fucking with science, son," Sumerset said, re-arming the plasma launcher. "Don't blame me for the consequences."
"Bring it, old man."
The last of the demons made a pathetic mewling sound beneath Paladin's newly formed hammer. Just as he was finishing with it, he heard a distant commotion over his earpiece.
He turned from the gaping hole for just a moment--which was just in time to catch sight of the immense block of concrete hurtling for his head.
He ducked and raised his hammer, reforming it into a shield; the cinderblock exploded into rubble, its force rippling harmlessly down through his arm.
Paladin gritted his teeth and peeked up over the shield. A woman descended from one of the buildings above, landing at the edge of the parking lot. Her arms looked as if they had been dipped in metal; either was surrounded in a disturbing silver-blue glow.
Paladin shifted his position. The shield shifted from one hand to the other, shrinking in size; he produced a sword in his other hand. "You one of Scourge's crew?" he asked.
"Yep," the woman replied. She continued forward, her pace steady and easy.
"Only got one question," Paladin said. "My teammates. Brick and Woot. Are they alright?"
"One's alive. The other's dead," she said.
Paladin's eyes narrowed. "That's a shame," he said.
"Yeah." The sword shifted from a single, straight-edged blade to one with over a dozen wickedly curved barbs. "For all of you."
It wasn't long before a bladed boomerang interrupted Mulligan's zombie killing spree.
It initially managed to spear him straight through the back, scissoring his spine in two; after three rewinds, he managed to block it with his bat instead. Shortly after, he caught sight of the Boomerang Kid running toward one of the back alleys.
Mulligan gave chase.
The Boomerang Kid was spry for an old man; he darted down the alleyway and into the city streets. After several minutes of chasing him, the mask finally threw himself into a doorway that looked like it lead into a nightclub. As Mulligan raced in, he noticed the place appeared to be abandoned.
He threw the door open, stepped in, and brandished his bat.
It was an immense dance floor; flotsam and rubble was strewn across it, with several chairs turned upside down. It looked like all the other doors and hallways were boarded up. There was no immediate sign of the Boomerang Kid--but he had gotten a good twenty second lead on Mulligan. Enough time to hide, or maybe duck into a good sniping position.
Mulligan walked forward. "Yeah, whatever, shit-for-brains. We know how this is going to turn out. So why don't you just show your face and--"
His foot stubbed against something. He looked down at a device that was on the ground--an iron bomb as large as his foot had been imbedded in the floor and hidden beneath a chair. It had a red digital timer; it currently read: 00:03.
Mulligan snorted, then turned to look back at the exit. No problem. He'd just rewind to when he first stepped inside, and--
He hadn't noticed, but when he closed the door behind him, it had triggered some sort of latch-lock. The door was now securely shut. Carved on the inside were only two words:
"Oh shit," Mulligan whispered.
The bomb went off.