Limited There's Copper in Your Walls(Not For Long)

This RP is open, but with limitations.


Staff member
Now this was Mary's comfort zone.

Sitting in the back of her van, Mary watched her four brothers organize a bunch of buckets of copper bits by type and cleanliness. Different types and cleanliness of copper fetched different prices, it was always good to keep the good shit out of the buckets with the crap. Crossing a one leg over another, she took a drag of her cigarette before singing softly to herself,

"She said you's just like Mike, love, but you's wanna be Brian Wilson, Brian Wilson,
"She said you's just like Mike, love, but you's nevah gonna be Dennis Wilson-

"Mary can you's shut the fuck up?"

It was Harry who, with a laugh, had told her off as she got a little too loud. Grinning, Mary responded, "Yeah yeah, hurry up you's. We gots more houses to hit before the night's out, at least three on this block abandoned and ain't been hit by no crack heads yet. Let's get going." At that, Mary stood up and helped her brothers load the buckets up. The night was young, but the cops would be circling this neighborhood in the morning and Mary wanted to be long gone by then.
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Todd was on a deadline now.

He didn’t know when the deadline was. When it’d end. But there was no way it wouldn’t be soon, not at this point. And in a way, he was torn about it. He didn’t know what he wanted to be doing with his last days, maybe months, depending on how long he and Sammy could keep up the charade, but he knew deep down he had to do whatever he could before the deadline became literal. He had to make sure his mark on the world was a good one.

However, he also wanted to spend every second he could with her. If she’d been anyone else, or if they hadn’t recognized each other that first night on the rooftop, this would be harder. But because she was Phoenix, and he was Cryptid, they could spend their last few nights together, drinking in the city side by side.

Balanced. As all things should be.

He’d taken to adding unfinished housing developments and abandoned neighborhoods to his route after the incident with Lament. It was a long shot, but he’d wanted to try to at least finish that before Sam decided enough was enough. He didn’t tell her that was what was happening; but he felt it fro her, the frustration, the sadness, whenever she saw it in him. So he’d done his best to cover it up. It wasn’t good, but he was trying. That was all he could do for her.

He hadn’t exactly picked up Mary’s scent. He’d heard her voice, though the words weren’t clear. He’d stopped the parkour race with Sam that was taking his mind off of his impending doom to tilt his head and listen, to check. He’d spent a good part of a night talking to the kid, though. He was pretty sure he’d know the voice anywhere. He had an image in his mind of the girl who’d tried to steal a pair of catalytic converters on her own, who’d mentioned she once stole three tons of copper in a day.

He’d got Sam’s attention and, after a brief reconnaissance to figure out what exactly was going on, they’d made a game plan. A catch and release – sitting these nice folks down to have a lovely chat about morals, once the initial panic of fight or flight went away. It meant there’d probably be a scuffle, but nothing he and Sam couldn’t handle.

So Cryptid crouched on the roof of one of the old square houses, black eyes watching the group finish their current project. He wasn’t Mary’s biggest fan by any means, but her singing had a kind of natural rawness he appreciated. He prepped his quip in advance, but waited a few seconds for the exact moment – when Mary’s hands, which she’d used before to channel her weird glowy demon magic (apparently not to be confused with devil magic), were occupied with a bucket. Then, and only then, did he kick off, moving in a single, graceful arc to cross the short yard to the van parked out front of the house. It was a jump that would’ve fucked up a normal person’s legs on the landing. He felt his formerly bad knee buckle just a little, and also felt it start to mend, helped with the new energy of his latest hunt.

His black eyes sparkled under the demon mask, his head tilted. “C’mon, can’t you guys stick around just a bit longer? She was just getting to the good part!”

He gave them time to process his distraction, before crossing the van in two steps and looking to drop on the biggest of the guys Todd assumed were Mary’s human brothers. That was his role here – distract and keep the humans busy. If Mary decided to get trigger happy with her magic, she was about to have much bigger problems than a close-quarters predator.
This was Mary's comfort zone, or, at least it should have been. Loading a bucket into the van, she heard the voice in the night. Dropping it instantly, she snapped around and looked for where it came from. It sounded vaguely familiar, but her brain wasn't focused on that right now. Pittsburgh was a fucking hotspot for meta activity, which meant fucking vigilantes.

The thing, a skinny man in a white mask, landed on Harry with a heavy thud. To Harry's credit, he started swinging as he went to the ground. The others seemed a little too stunned to react initially, cause they weren't really good at the whole 'not dying' thing yet. Mary was still trying to teach that to them. Mary, however, had her fingers moving and her mouth shouting as the skinny mask boy landed on Harry.


It didn't matter that it came with a 'warning' per se, Mary's power was as fast as a bullet. Dodging it wasn't really on the table when the range was this damn close. However, although Mary's eyes had adjusted to the darkness, the skinnyboy was still pretty fast. She just hoped she didn't miss as she aimed for center mass.

The shouting helped the others pull themselves out of their stupor. Brian, Jimjam, and Markus started reaching for their guns. Two 9mm glocks and a mac-10, though Brian, holding the mac, really didn't want to fire that. It sprayed bullets faster than could be controlled, he didn't want to hurt anyone unintentionally.
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Sam didn’t know what to do.

It seemed like no matter what she did, Todd was still convinced she was going to kill him. It had almost been a week since he had realized she knew what he was, and her wendigo seemed to be doing all he could to be with her. Even now, as they ran across the tops of the houses, he was trying to be with her. Even as she turned it into a race, he stayed close to her.

Until he stopped, and she turned back. She saw him wave her over, and in hushed whispers, they quickly figured out their plan. She let Cryptid move ahead of her and she waited. She was waiting for them all to be distracted, for them to get out of the car, when something happened.


She froze for a moment and watched as the beam shot toward Cryptid. Phoenix’s eyes went wide as she realized who they were fighting, and she quickly flipped off the rooftop, hoping the beam missed her wendigo. She used her heat to create an updraft just strong enough to carry her to the ground. She was not letting him get hurt, and especially not now. Maybe, if she protected him, maybe then he’d get it.

Phoenix landed on the ground right behind the girl from the bank robbery. She swung her hammer, aiming for the girl’s thigh, but softening the blow so she wouldn’t damage anything. She’d have a nasty bruise if it hit, but it wouldn’t fracture her bones. As she swung, she called out, “I don’t think they appreciate good music, babe.”
Cryptid moved off the big guy the second the man’s back hit the ground. He wasn’t sure if he’d think to move his head to avoid a concussion, but the part that mattered was he wasn’t standing right now. That took him off the priority list real quick. He turned his head back toward Mary –


He moved at his best bullet-dodging pace, half a step to the side. It was enough, just barely. He felt the breeze from the air displaced by the energy tug at the front of his coat, and he inhaled sharply. So that was what the magic sparkles did. Better learn this way than head-on.

A shadow descended from the sky, and Cryptid knew he could take his attention off of Mary for the time being. His head turned to the three standing men – two drawing 9mms, and the last one holding something a bit bigger. They were all about equidistant from him, and he was almost sure they wouldn’t shoot each other.

“I mean, I wouldn’t call Panic! good music, but I was enjoying the show.”

He moved in a quick, sharp flow, trying to get a hand on the barrel of the Mac-10 and the other on the mag. Ripping it free might cause a scene if the man holding it had bad enough trigger discipline, so instead, Cryptid would use his grip to leverage his body and hit Mary’s brother in the ribs hard enough to send him stumbling – or take him down, if he wasn’t used to broken bones. A fracture wouldn’t kill him, but it’d hurt like a bitch.

The masked bastard had hit him hard on the tackle, but Harry had started swinging before ever hitting the ground. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to keep him from hitting the ground. Tensing his core and keeping his head up, Harry did the only thing that made sense to him. When the masked kid tried to get off him and grab the first gun, Harry reached up and aimed to grab his legs.

--Jimjam and Markus--

It was hard to tell, but Jimjam and Markus were roughly five feet from each other and on each side of the masked kid when he tackled Harry. Guns drawn, they reacted exactly as they practiced. Markus was older and far more experienced, he took careful aim and fired four shots in quick succession at the masked kid's center mass. Markus was careful to make sure the bullets wouldn't end up straying and going toward his brothers.

Jimjam wasn't nearly that smart, but he wasn't a complete moron. While he turned the glock sideways and emptied the clip, he fired just in the masked kid's general direction. If the shots looked like they would stray toward his brothers, then he'd miss on purpose.


The mac-10 was a gangster's weapon, and Brian carried it specifically because it scared people. He really had no intention of ever firing it, he didn't wanna hurt nobody. So he didn't fire, even when he ended up being hit. He just let go of the gun and stumbled back, chest bruised and ego damaged. Without hesitation, he backed off and turned to try and go help Mary. In his head, the two Martinez's were the smartest and best suited of the group to handle this. Markus had backup, Mary needed him.


Mary watched as her bolt missed the skinny masked kid and prepared herself to fire another, but the chance would not come as she thought it would. Instead of shouting and firing again, she felt a strange heat from behind her followed by the hammer hitting Mary in the thigh-

-and Mary screamed.

It wasn't a nice sound, the sound of a femur breaking had the same volume as an exploding tire or a shotgun blast. So Mary's reaction was, understandably, justified. Sam couldn't have known, but merely a day before Mary and her brothers had rebroken nearly every bone in her legs so that Mary could re-weld them together in the right positions. They still hurt like hell and the welds weren't very strong. So when Sam hit Mary with the intention of bruising, she re-snapped Mary's femur for the third time in three days.

In an instant, Mary transferred that pain and twisted her body to fire a bolt of eldritch blast in Sam's direction. The instantaneous firing of power was done without verbal or somatic components, an instant reaction of power Mary was only capable of when in pain like this. Mary was so close she could almost touch Sam, but she didn't. The bolt would do what it needed to.

The pain addled Mary's mind and, for the moment, the familiarity of this woman could not penetrate through the pain to Mary's logical mind. The only thought in her head now was to get the pain to stop.
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Phoenix went to call back to Todd, something smart about how Panic! Was decent music, all things considered, when she felt the bones crack under her hammer. A sharp and loud crack reverberated through the air. She breathed in sharply. But she had pulled the hit. She had pulled it so that it wouldn’t break bones. She looked at the tattooed young woman as she twisted, scream still lingering in the air, and brought her hands close to Phoenix’s chest. She moved her hand to slap the hands away before she could speak.

Instead of slapping her hands away, Phoenix was caught off guard when the woman didn’t speak a single word, and that bolt of light emitted from her hands. It hit her hard in her side, and she felt the two ribs that had just finished healing from her fight with Spork crack in half– and then the ribs on either side of those splinter. It carried through and vibrated through her sternum and spine as her suit dispersed the force as best it could. All the breath left her body as she was flung back through the air. She slammed hard into a car halfway down the street. Her entire back seized as the car behind her was dented. Thank fucking Christ it was an older model, so it didn’t have an alarm.

She collapsed, wheezing. It took a solid three seconds to breathe back in, although it felt more like thirty. She started to push herself to her feet but stopped when she started to sway. Standing was going to do her no good in this current state. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was she needed to get back up and help Todd. She pushed herself up, ignoring the pain radiating through her shoulders, spine, and chest. She took a few deep breaths, gauging how deep she could breathe, then groaned. Not very deep at all.

This was going to suck. Why was it always her fucking ribs?​
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Cryptid never stopped moving.

He felt the pressure on the leg that remained on the ground, threatening his balance. He brought his foot down from the initial kick into the side of the first target’s head – using the side of his foot, not the toe, kicking it like a soccerball to control the force. A little concussion never killed anyone.

Unfortunately, this left him open when the other two started shooting. He growled as he took two shots to the torso and felt a rib fracture. The pain snaked up to his brain, and without thinking, he swung the mac around to hit the younger one in the face. Not hard enough to even concuss, just to make him stop shooting for a second. Maybe enough to break his nose, draw a little blood, hold him off for a second while he took care of the other one. The one that ran toward Mary and Sam – where there’d been a crack and a scream that wasn’t Sam – would have to wait.

Two more precision shots hit him, and he growled and turned to level a kick at the remaining brother’s chest to throw him off balance. As long as he didn’t take any hits to the skull – or the neck again and get bled half to death, like in the Lament incident – he’d be able to push through it. The fracture in his rib was already mending.

No more witty banter. He tried to watch Sam’s fight in his periphery, but he had just turned his back to the one with the worst aim. His attention was very divided. To the point where, for just a second, he let his self-control slip in favor of getting this fight over with.
Mary paused for a moment as the fight continued and her blast left her hand. Tears streamed down her face as her shaking hands reached for her thigh, not daring to touch it. Even through her loose jeans, she could see it misshapen, just like before- just like-

She could fix it. She knew she could, but that would hurt even more and Mary didn't want to experience that pain again. She should fix it, she knew it was the wisest choice for the fight, but Mary wasn't some vigilante warrior. Mary didn't have the fortitude to do what needed to be done to win a fight. Mary was just a girl, and she wasn't built for this. As the masked bitch caught her breath and the skinny guy kept fighting her brothers, Mary started shouting.

"What the FUCK is wrong with you's?! What did I ever do to you's?! Nobody lives in these!! I ain't hurtin' NOBODY! They's abandoned cause the old residents is scared of you's psycho metas!! Why is you's hurtin' us?! Why?!"

While she shouted, her brothers keep moving in action. They weren't like Mary, they were built to fight, to do what needed to be done. In this moment, as Harry laid out on the ground and Markus reeled from the kick to his chest, little Jimjam knew what he needed to do. The skinny guy was a massive issue, but the team having their attention divided was worse.

He had to protect his sister. With one hand holding his bleeding and busted nose, Jimjam pointed his gun not at the skinny guy, but at the masked woman that Mary had just blasted away from her. The skinny kid had just taken shots and was still going, Jimjam knew that Markus didn't miss. So he needed to make sure Mary could help them, he needed to eliminate the distraction. As carefully as he could with his free hand, he shot three rounds at the masked woman by the van.

But as Jimjam shot, Mary started hearing- something. A sound that elicited true fear in the Warlock.

The gentle strum of a six-string guitar.
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Phoenix was fast, but she wasn’t faster than a bullet. She was mid-run back to the fight when the shots rang out. Three loud cracks of bullets leave the muzzle of a gun– followed by three impacts across her chest and shoulder. She didn’t have time to react as the bullets shattered the ballistics layer inside her suit. But they didn’t pierce the outer layer. The ballistics did their job and stopped the bullets from going any further.

The suit dispersed as much of the force of the impacts as possible, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a fucking bitch. The impacts radiated from the center of her chest, the good side of her rib cage, and her left collarbone. The collarbone was broken– but thankfully the ribs and sternum were not. The pain rattled through the broken half of her ribs, and her vision went white. She dropped to her knee, holding her ribs as the real pain finally caught up to her. She let out a gasping, strangled cry. Her whole body shook.

When her vision came back, she pushed herself back to her feet– then immediately went back down to her knee. Fuck!She caught her ribs in both hands as she felt them shift under her fingers. She was dizzy, and nauseous, and everything was spinning so fast. God, her ribs were fucked. She was fucked. If they got one good shot off, one good head shot, Phoenix was dead. She swallowed hard, and in a soft voice, one meant for ears that weren’t human, she softly said, “Cryptid, I can’t get up. Buy me a minute.”
Mary’s voice was full of pain, and the human part of Todd that had gotten attached to her cringed away from the sound. It was weakness, he knew. If he wanted to put his attention to it, he could cover for Sam by finishing this fight himself and letting her watch.

But that wasn’t how they did things. That wasn’t how he operated. Even as the gunfire exploded behind his head, he could hear the honesty in Mary’s voice. She wanted to talk. She wanted this to stop. His chest tightened, and he exhaled his frustration in a soft puff of air. He was a fucking softie, and one of these days, it was going to get someone hurt.

“Yeah, last I checked, ‘wes’ wasn’t the ones using deadly force.” He turned sharply, striking Jimjam’s hand hard with the side of his foot in a move he’d been practicing with Sam for weeks.

Sam was hit. Sam was hurt, he knew, and he wanted to be angry. But his stupid human empathy was getting in the way. He turned his head back to the dark-haired girl on the ground, but for a moment, the predator left his false eyes. The tension stayed in his shoulders, in case someone did something stupid, but they’d just watched him eat lead. Most of the time, smart goons stopped shooting at that point.

He was counting on them at least being smart, and letting Mary make their decisions.

“But you’re right. We got ahead of ourselves. If you really want to talk, we can do that.” His tone had shifted, and his body language was slowly following, losing some of the preparatory aggression. “I’ll start. I apologize for jumping the gun. I could prove it if you let me reset that leg. It’d hurt, but I can keep it from healing wrong if we set it fast enough. I think explanations are in order from everybody.”

Take advantage of her weakness, something inside of him screamed. He shoved it back in its box. She was a kid. A misguided kid with a lot of moxie. He had no idea what had even gotten – well, no, he knew what had gotten into him. Seeing a group like that, he’d expected the worst. A chat wasn’t normally in the cards. What he wouldn’t give for Arlo’s ability to just flip the van over as an intimidation tactic.

He slipped his clawed hands into his pockets. One good head shot, and he or Sam were screwed. But he looked at Mary with softened eyes, sincere, if intense. The best case scenario started with a simple ‘yes’. He’d extended the olive branch with his apology – now she needed to trust him. Unlikely, but possible. Possible because, maybe, she’d see the animal behind even his disguised eyes.
The music was getting louder and Mary was losing vision from tears as she gripped her leg. The masked woman with the fiery hair had fallen from the gunshots but, thankfully, it seemed like she might be ok. Her suit must've been anti-bullet magic elastic or something, Mary didn't care. Nothing mattered except getting this whole situation to STOP and the music was getting louder!

Trying to talk over the sounds inside her head, Mary shouted,
"Yes! Yes fine whatever please-! Just! Enough! Enough of this hell you fuckin' metas keep makin'! I'll- I'll set the leg! Leave it! Just help your girl!" She could set her own leg, she'd do it. It would be fine, if she could just snap the leg back in place and mend the bones together. Then she would be fine. It would hurt but she could do it- she could do it if that fucking music would stop!

Mary started looking around, she had to find out what that sound was. The strings melded with a weird, high pitched buzzing noise. It almost sounded like bugs, but it wasn't any bug Mary had ever heard. Looking at the faces of her brothers, it seemed none of them could hear it. Then, with her hands on her leg in preparation to put it back, Mary saw something that made her heart drop.

Markus had picked his gun back up after recovering from the chest kick. He had quietly taken careful aim directly at skinny boy's head. One good headshot. Mary opened her mouth to say something, to scream at him to stop, but she couldn't get the sound out as the music got louder. And the music Just kePT. GETTING. LOUDER!

And Markus fired.

While Cryptid talked them down, Phoenix took the chance to recenter herself. She breathed in slow breaths around the broken ribs, willing herself to move. She pressed her hand gently to her side before releasing it, placing both hands on the ground. She could do this. She could move. This wasn’t the end of the world. The breaks fucking hurt, but they would heal.

Her head whipped up as the gun fired. A quick spray of red. Cryptid dropping, his eyes closed loosely as he fell. Her ears were ringing. She couldn’t hear anything. Her eyes followed as he fell. Her wendigo crumpled on the ground, and it was as if everything suddenly played back in her head. The blood spray had been from his head. The kid had shot him in the head.

Todd had been shot in the head.


No, no, no.


She felt her mouth move, felt it say the proper name, but she didn’t hear the words that were torn from her throat over the sound of blood rushing in her ears. Pushing herself to her feet, Phoenix started running. She pushed through the thrumming black and white that alternated at the edges of her vision. She was so far away from them, so fucking far, and the distance seemed to grow larger instead of closing.

She wasn’t paying attention, and so just as she got close to them, she tripped over the edge of the sidewalk. She slammed hard into the pavement, covering her side and face just in time. She gasped in sharp, uneven breaths as she pushed herself to her knees. She was right next to the girl again, kneeling, staring. Her whole body was shaking, and she wasn’t sure if it was from pain or from the sudden choking sensation that was climbing her throat.

She couldn’t stop staring at the red that was trickling from his head, spreading slowly across the pavement. Slowly, the choking became a strangling. No, no, no. He couldn’t be dead. There was no way. She felt like she should be moving, she should be rushing over and trying to stem the bleeding. But she couldn’t bring herself to move.

All she could do was stare.​
Mary was starting to panic. Instinctively, Todd started the swing to reassurance – started shifting his posture, relaxing, not fully folding in but trying to contain the parts of him that had started to spread out. He breathed in, and managed to say –

“– okay, I just –”

– before the rest was cut off.

He knew what a gunshot sounded like. Instantly, the predator was back, a panic in his black eyes as he turned toward the gunman, tried to step aside, trying to figure out which moron had just pulled the trigger.

That was the only reason why the bullet didn’t pierce. Only skimmed with a sharp, radiating pain and a spray of life blood, with a crack that rang in his ears before his head even hit the ground. Before the world went black.

The world rang. Buzzed, hummed, throbbed, over any real noises. Like there was a bug in his ear that wouldn’t stop fluttering its wings. It was the first thing he became aware of, after the blackness. He thought he’d heard something else – his name, maybe? Was it the bug? No, that was silly. Of course it wasn’t the bug. Not the one in his ear, and not the little bug that –

He became sharply aware of the blood surrounding him. Thick and heavy on the air, for once it didn’t make his mouth water. It only took him a second longer to recognize, through the buzz of the bug and the buzz of the sudden stroke of bliss, that it was… his. Obviously he knew the scent of his own blood. It was like hearing his own voice – it just took a second to recognize. Once he did, the memories started trickling through.

He was face-down on the concrete. Asphalt? His nose was too full of blood to know the difference. The side of his head was a dull throb. It should hurt more. He’d been fucking shot, after all. But the buzz of the wings in his ear – strange as the music was – pushed the throbbing away. He felt it starting to leak into his blood from the same place the blood was leaking out of his body, vibrating into the fractured bone and into his brain, spreading warmth and energy into his blood, lighting up his nerves one by one. Slowly, carefully, he opened his eyes, getting the feel for their shape, their weight.

With a slow breath, he shifted them. Black, that was what the bugs expected. Stupid little things, hurting nobody. He would’ve overlooked them if he hadn’t gotten stung. The rest of his face shifted, too, his hair changing texture subtly back to the tangled deep-black of his first prey. The memory flooded through him with another wave of heat, finally teasing out the smile, filling his mouth. Bugs they might be, but a mouthful was still food.

He felt the skin mending on his scalp already, stopping the bleeding; the fracture couldn’t be that bad. He shifted, getting one arm underneath him. Sure, he didn’t need the food, but – god, they’d just asked for it, hadn’t they? This all could’ve been settled nice and easy and civil, but one of them just had to get trigger happy. He could smell them, Axe and jasmine and —

Cinnamon, and vanilla, and apples.

He paused, suddenly realizing. Of course. There was a bigger problem to contend with. If she figured out what was happening, she’d attack him. Instantly, he switched his plans. He needed to get her away from the bugs. Couldn’t deal with ant bites and a forest fire. One was too much of a distraction from the real problem. But the winter cold started to hum in his bones to the rhythm of the insect wings, and he resumed his journey to his feet. Calm, in control, but with a tightness under his skin. His nose was clearing, the insects were quieting. He was listening to where the drones were, and the queen bee, too. He came to a kneeling position, and swiveled his head around, as if dazed, as if confused, as if he didn’t know exactly where the real threat was, splayed on the ground a second’s pounce away – just out of reach.

“That wasn’t very smart of you,” he mused.

Maybe they wouldn’t hear the shift in his tone, the purr, the rumble behind each word. The sharp eyes turned to the girl – Mary, the Queen. Bloody Mary. He smiled at that, at her, full of teeth under the mask, before he started to take account of her brothers, one at a time. Looking for the guilty party as he slowly started to push himself to his feet.
The music stopped.

Mary heard the crack of the bullet, the snap of it hitting something, and the thud as the skinny boy's body hit the ground. The masked woman screamed a name Mary hadn't heard before and half-ran half-fell toward the skinny kid. Mary didn't move a muscle. Something in her body kept her frozen in place.

Turning her eyes, the most amount of movement she could muster, Mary watched Markus help her other brothers up and start reloading his weapon. Mary wanted to scream, tell him to stop fighting, tell him to stop everything- but no sound came from her. Terror spread through her limbs as a gentle humming noise began to ring in the Warlock's ears. It sounded like a woman, it sounded like an insect, and it sounded like nothing Mary had ever heard before at all.

Suddenly, the skinny kid started to stand back up. Mary opened her mouth and tried to breathe but choked on the air. Looking down, she could see a strange, three-fingered, insectoid hand holding her neck. Crouched behind her, propping Mary up and holding tight her neck, was the form of Mary's patron. Cicatrix. The insectoid hummed and grinned and watched as the skinny boy looked at Mary- mouth full of teeth.

Nobody could see Cicatrix, Cicatrix wasn't real. Cicatrix WASN'T REAL. Mary was a Meta, she knew she had to be deep down, she knew Cicatrix was just bad dreams and delusions. So why could Mary still feel the hand around her neck? Why could she see the demon, humming and smiling? WHY COULDN'T SHE SCREAM?

"There's a reckonin' a comin'
And it burns beyond the grave
Lead inside ya belly cause ya soul has lost its way~
Oh Martinez, how did ya debts get paid?

Oh Martinez, are you so afraid?"


Markus racked the 9mm and aimed at the skinny boy. His brothers, while recovering physically, were frozen in shock that the skinny kid had stood back up after getting shot. But Markus was different. Markus knew these metas weren't normal, none of them were, and this one was looking at Mary. He wasn't going to miss, when he shot again, he'd make sure the skinny kid stayed down.
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Cryptid stood up.

Todd stood up and Sam started to cry. She was crying in relief. He wasn’t dead. Todd wasn’t dead. She raised a hand to her mask and quickly wiped the tears away. And as she watched him, he looked at her, and two things happened at the same time.

The first thing that happened was a warning alarm started to sound in her head. It was like a siren blaring away in her head, telling her to stand and fight. Telling her to stand and fight and whatever she did, don’t run. There was something in his eyes, something that looked at her wrong. There was a calmness in his eyes, an almost serenity that sent shivers through her and left every hair on her body standing on end. It was enough that the Vibe Checker was yelling at her. Whatever was going on, the Vibe Checker did not like it.

But that was completely overshadowed by the next thing that happened.

There had always been part of Sam that loved watching Todd when they went on patrol. The part of her that loved when he seemed to get just a bit more wild, a bit more dangerous, a bit more lively now reared its head. Her eyes went wide, her pupils dilating, as she took in whatever had changed in him. It was like some final piece to a puzzle. The last Todd-shaped piece that fit into the center of the puzzle that she had started months ago.

As she locked eyes with him, everything around her shifted. It was like she had existed slightly off balance her whole life. It was like she had never really known fresh air her whole life. It was like she had been living in a haze her whole life. Everything suddenly cleared, shifted, and she breathed in a deep breath of air.

A million strands suddenly snapped into place between them. They twisted and became a rope that extended between them. She could almost see it, stretched between their hearts. It was a tether, a binding between them

Sam had known Todd was her soulmate for months. Ever since that first day that they had met, she had known what he was to her. But it hadn’t fully clicked into place. Not the way that Alice had, where she had been swept off her feet and been full of excitement and happiness the moment they had laid eyes on each other. And now, as she looked at Todd, as his eyes moved from her to Mary, everything in her whole world rearranged itself so he was the center, so he was the heart of everything.

Why now? What did this mean? Had it been her? Had seeing him almost die made some wall she had finally break down? Had it been a problem with her the whole time that had prevented them from falling into place?

Or was it him? Was whatever this was in his eyes now the last piece to the puzzle? Her blood ran a little cold as she took in a sharp breath.

She had seen that look in his eyes before. She felt something in her throat seize at the memory of his teeth on her skin in her dream earlier that week. She remembered that look of bliss in his eyes then, and while this wasn’t exactly that, it was so close. It was so close that it hurt. She raised a hand to her ribs again, cradling them as she tried to recover from the realization. As she tried not to worry about what this could possibly mean.

She heard a clicking, the racking of a gun, and she broke her long gaze at Todd. She was on her feet and moving before she could even think. There was a threat to Todd.

That threat needed to be neutralized.

She ran right up to the kid with the gun. She jumped up, wrapped her legs around his waist for stability, and then took his head between her hands.

And in a quick motion, a practiced motion, one she hadn’t used in a long time, Sam snapped his neck.

As he tipped and started to fall, she released her grip on his waist and pushed off him. She landed on one knee and the body fell beside her. She froze, every fiber of her being pulling taunt as she realized what she had just done. Her lips parted in silent horror as she turned back to look at the kid behind her. Her breath started to come in harsh and staggered gasps, and she turned her eyes up to Todd as she started to shake.

He heard the gun click, crisp and clear in the dead night. Dead except for the soft hum of the hunt, of the wings against his ears, against his bones, sending ripples of energy throughout his tense form. His eyes turned, pitch black, but with the bliss of the hunt glowing behind them. He had prey in sight, and by everything unholy he was going to make it regret—

Something practically flew past him. He watched in surprise as Sam, Phoenix, his sweet wildfire, his perfect prey, soared into action despite her injuries. His dark eyes lingered on her as he saw it all, every movement, every second. He saw her land, saw her hands press against the side of the man’s head, and heard the clean break as his spine severed from itself.


So even wounded, she was still a bird of prey. He’d lost his opportunity; any attack now would only make him forty-two. That was a shame, but maybe not a problem. He took a deep breath through his nose, taking in the body spray and blood and fear, turned his head slowly to look at the living food. He scanned them over, weighed them in his mind, judged which one of them would be able to give him the most fear.

And then, without warning, he turned toward the youngest man, and charged him.

As predicted, he broke and ran with hardly a second of realization in between. The second he turned, the hunger in Cryptid’s bones started to throb, and the beat of his heart tuned to the beat of feet on asphalt.

Poor Jimjam, though Cryptid would never know his name, had lost his humanity the second he joined the chase. Now it was a matter of how long he’d last at full tilt, as Cryptid followed his every step without so much as looking back to see if his delicious firebird was watching.

There was a hunt on, after all. If she decided to interrupt, even with all her wild strength, she’d be nothing but food. And while Cryptid didn’t usually take a second course – maybe he’d make an exception, if she volunteered to be dessert.
Mary watched the events unfold before her in a trance, every movement played out like a black and white movie at half speed. Occasionally, the film seemed to scratch as her vision blurred, but, as if she were tied to a chair with her eyes taped open, Mary couldn't looked away. Walking around, unseen by all but Mary, the demon Cicatrix strummed on a six string and hummed jovially.

She stepped alongside the masked woman as Mary watched her attack Markus and snap his neck like a cheap toy. Wincing and smiling as Markus crumpled to the ground, the demon didn't stop her movements. Cicatrix, tut tutting and shaking her head while he fell to the ground, remarked,
"What an unfortunate day!" before continuing over to Brian and Harry. One of them, the one knocked down originally, slumped back down on the ground without warning.

Without a word, Cicatrix walked over to Harry and laid a third hand on his chest. Then, before Harry could react to his brother's death, started coughing uncontrollably. Cicatrix, laughing as he began to fall to the floor, added with a cruel giggle,
"Rib must've punctured a lung when he got kicked earlier! How unfortunate! How unfortunate!"

In her head, Mary was screaming as JimJam ran, the skinny kid chasing him like something out of a monster movie. She was begging to know why this was happening, why-

"Why? Oh come ON Mary! You're not this stupid!"

Cicatrix was suddenly before Mary again, blocking out her vision and standing above her. What-

"Don't you remember our deal?"

The deal, the pact Mary made in her vision. But it hadn't been real, it was just a dream. Mary had deluded herself for long enough, she knew she had to come back to reality. Mary wasn't a Warlock, Mary was a-

"Oh for FUCK'S SAKE! MARY. MARTINEZ. Do you or do you not REMEMBER our deal? Our PACT?!"

Cicatrix was raving now, waving her four arms like a mad demon. The world slowed even further around Mary as the woman began to slip away from consciousness. Then, without warning, her body flung to the side and reeled as if struck by some unseen backhand. Pushing herself against the ground, Mary listened as-

"Unlike Devils- we DEMONS make deals a little differently! No long lists of rules or clauses, lots of room for INTERPRE-FUCKING-TATION MARY MARTINEZ! So- let me remind you what you signed!"

The floor Mary was looking at lit up with red light, but nothing reflected in the woman's eyes. An illusion, a darkness that only Mary could see. A schizophrenic nightmare that wouldn't-

"In exchange for power."
"I offer everything I have."
"Everything I am."
"Everything I ever will have."

"Everything that I will ever be."
"Just give me what I demand."

"Do you get it yet, Maaaaary~? Or are you too stupid!? Come on you moronic piece of garbage! Useless pathetic waste of AIR! Mentally CRIPPLED insane sociopathic schizophrenic biiiitch~! Ahhahahahaa!"

Oh Mary, how did your debts get paid?

The moment Todd took off running, Sam tried to stand to join him. Something wasn’t right. Todd would have gone to her. He should have gone to her. Why didn’t he go to her? Why was he chasing the last standing kid down the street? Around her, the others were falling. The other standing one had collapsed in a coughing fit, and the one who’d been trying to stand had slumped down in a way that didn’t give her any hope. Before she could get all the way to her feet to give chase, her side screamed in agony and her vision whited out. She rested on her knees.

Her eyes traced over everyone to land on the girl. She had moved, and Sam had no idea when or how, but she was staring wide-eyed at the ground, unseeing. Sam pushed herself up, ignoring the pain in her side, and rushed over to the girl. She knelt in front of her, hands coming up to her arms. She gave the girl a small shake.

“Come on, come back. Wake up. You need to wake up. Fuck!” The girl didn’t respond to her words or her touch. Sam looked around and walked quickly over to the nearest kid’s body and patted him down for a phone. She found one, pulled it out, and unlocked it with his fingerprint. She quickly dialed the emergency services, and then in a high-pitched voice, one absent of the rasp her normal voice carried, she cried, “Help! I saw someone attack a group of people out in a suburb!”

She rattled off the nearest address, cut the call, and left the phone on the body. She looked around and shook her head. There was nothing else she could do here. There was nothing she could do to fix the mess this had become. She had to leave, and now.

“I’m sorry. I can tell you can’t hear me right now, but I’m sorry.”

Sam ran past her and ran after Todd. She started to full tilt run, but quickly stopped, gasping in pain. She couldn’t run. Flying it was then.

She jumped into the air and let hot currents wrap around her body. She flew, not terribly high, but high enough that her eyes picked him out in the distance. She didn’t pay attention to what he was doing. She simply took off after him, and after a minute, she caught up. She Dropped down right behind him, as he was running, and called out to him.

“Todd! Todd, stop! Hold on, please!”
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This was the life. The asphalt under his boots, barely grazing the rubber sole. The night air rushing past him, filling him with life, with joy, with the fear rolling off his prey in waves. He was faster than Mary’s drone, of course. He could catch him at any time he chose.

Tonight, the game was catch-and-release. At least for now, until he could get a proper appetite worked up. Already, he’d had to show the bug what real fear was; what exactly he wanted to do to him. It’d been a good excuse to get close enough to slip the phone out of his pocket, anyway. There’d be no calling for help – not that help would come on time. There was blood on his tongue as his feet fell into time with the buzz of the hunt, and he knew after a few more bites the distant throb would become real hunger.

But he wasn’t the only one playing chase.

The wind brought her to him. The air around him was suddenly rich and full, like someone was baking an apple pie; vanilla, jasmine, and cinnamon all played in his nostrils as her voice filled his ears. He had a quick decision to make: pick up speed and pretend to be prey, or stop his chase and give dinner a head-start while he got to work on dessert. Since the hunger hadn’t kicked in yet, the answer was obvious.

He slowed, pulling back to let her come alongside or past him. He needed to be careful. Even if he could feel the bird’s weakness, she still had talons. And he wasn’t young or foolish enough to think himself invincible, not anymore.

So he stopped, and turned, and swallowed the last of the blood before she could see it through the slightly-askew mask, looking with eyes long since borrowed from another night’s dinner. Dessert was so rare, but given this opportunity —

He kept the hunger out of his voice, at least, as he looked into her face, into her beautiful golden eyes. There was no way to put the predator back in its box. And why would he? He knew how much she loved it now. If she wasn’t so damaged…

A shame this was his only chance.

“What’s the matter, Sammy?” he asked, with a smile in his eyes that resounded with their Mine, the possession he’d always recognized and been afraid of until this moment.