• Published 21st Jan 2014
  • 11,489 Views, 588 Comments

Dread - bossfight1

Equestria becomes host to a being who can plunge people into their darkest nightmares with but a touch. He claims to have no ill intentions, yet the ponies are skeptical; how does one do good through fear?

  • ...

Prelude, Part 2: The Raid

A distant boom woke me from my sleep. Groaning, I reformed into my usual shape, feeling little ripples in my mass as I ‘stood’.

I glanced at the clock; 2am. Since I didn’t have a mouth, I had to tilt my head to the side instead of frowning. I slithered over to the large, foot-thick glass door that served as the entrance to my room.

Our rooms here in Housing were plenty spacious, though initiates were strictly forbidden from leaving them after curfew; some would call this imprisonment, but I was part of the crowd that understood the DHMA’s concerns regarding superpowered newbies. Each dorm was roughly fifteen square feet with thick one-way windows to the outside, and a small cubicle in the corner that obscured the bathroom. The beds looked comfortable, but I didn’t know; when I slept in mine I usually ‘melted’ and eventually formed a puddle beneath the bed.

I shifted my right claw into a loose representation of a fist and banged loudly on the door. “Josh?” I called. “Is something going on?”

There was the chirp of a walkie-talkie. “Control, can I get a sitrep?” Came the voice of Josh, the evening’s guard; he was a nice enough guy, so long as you followed the rules.

There was no response from his radio. “...Josh?” I called out.

“Keep quiet, Joel…” Josh said, though I could tell he was scared; I’d spent plenty of time these past few weeks getting to know fear.

I heard something echo down the halls. Gunfire. I flinched from the door and slithered back towards my bed. I heard a door slam open.

“Hey!!” Yelled Josh.

There was another gunshot, much louder and clearer; Josh yelled out in pain.

“Bit harsh, don’t you think?” Came a new voice.

“It’s one in the thigh, he’ll be fine,” came another. “We’re not here for humans, though. Find the freaks!”

Great… I thought. Purists

I’d heard about these imbeciles plenty of times—the usual batch of xenophobes that were terrified of a big metahuman uprising. They’d started out as a simple, yet sizeable, protest group some time after the first Metahumans popped up. After a while, though, they realized they were being classified under ‘Idiotic group of people unable to get with the times’, and were never listened to. So they decided to get a bit more active; they elevated to vandalism, then to hijacking radio and TV broadcasts… Before long there was even the occasional ‘unsanctioned’ attack on MHAs.

For a while, the sane world had hoped that the Purists would eventually see they had nothing to worry about… But they kept getting urged to keep up their ‘noble crusade’ every time the news reported on the latest exploits of a Malefactor—a metahuman who was either greedy, sociopathic, or simply insane, and was content to use their abilities to steal, kill and destroy as they saw fit. The Purists saw no difference between MHAs and Malefactors, and sought to rid the world of both. They’d occasionally been known to ‘pitch in’ during some Malefactor rampages—tossing molotovs or grabbing their guns—but they usually didn’t discriminate between the bloodthirsty psychopath and the guys usually trying to stop said bloodthirsty psychopath.

They’d never been able to take on fully trained MHA’s, of course; one could just save time and put a bullet in their head. So the Purists opted for the next best thing: go straight for the initiates. For the past several years they’d attacked Metahuman Training Facilities and go for the newbies who hadn’t gotten the hang of their abilities yet; the idea being to stem metahuman growth. Ever since then, security had skyrocketed at every facility worldwide. That did little to dissuade them, though; their attacks got bolder, better planned and better armed.

And now I was gonna be among the targets of their latest raid.

“Get these doors open!” Someone yelled among the murmurs of trainees, sleepily asking what was going on. “Anyone tries anything, any of their superpower bullshit, kill ‘em!” He called out into the hall. “And any of you who ain’t hurt by bullets… you try anything, your friends will pay the price!!”

My mass quivered anxiously. Shiiiit shit shit shit shit…

There was the blare of a siren and, with a series of chunks, every door in Housing opened, mine included. I heard hurried footsteps echo throughout the hall, and angry shouts of ‘Get out here’ or ‘Move’. The Purists were herding us out.

Gotta move. GOTTA MOVE. I looked up to the air vent near the ceiling; I’d always considered that a way out in the event I wanted to escape. I extended my arm to reach the vent grating and wrapped my mass around it. I ‘reeled myself in’, so to speak, drawing my mass up the tendril and into the vent. Once my full mass was inside I adjusted my focus to peer through the grate.

A man wearing the usual Purist outfit—a black, three-hole balaclava, a bulletproof vest and carrying an AK47—entered my room, twitching fearfully. He pointed his gun in various directions for a second before calling over his shoulder, “This one’s empty!”

“Don’t let your guard down!” Came one of the earlier voices. “We don’t know what they’re capable of! Check everywhere, they might be invisible for all we know!”

The goon’s trembling worsened as he stepped further inside, holding his gun out in front of him in an attempt to locate anything invisible, prodding the walls and furniture.

If I saw this a few weeks back, I’d be on the floor laughing… I mused. I glanced down the vent behind me; it reached all the way to each end of Housing, with an entrance into every room in the hall, before it branched off to other areas of the building. I could hear the distressed mutterings of various trainees of all ages, being ordered and dragged out of their rooms.

“I can’t find anything!” The goon in my room yelled.

“Who was in that cell?” Demanded a voice, likely addressing Josh.

“No one!” He said before grunting in pain as what sounded like a punch echoed through the hall.

“Hey…” came a hesitant voice. “Lay off, man!”

“Just tell me who was in that cell, and where they are!” Demanded ‘Bad Cop’.

“That room is vacant!” Josh said before being punched again.

“You’re lying!!” Bad Cop yelled before yelling in agitation. “Get the freaks into the training center! I’ll get this jackass talking…”

“ALL RIGHT, ALL OF YOU, GET MOVING!!” Came a new voice. I heard the marching of terrified trainees being escorted out of Housing as the goon in my room quickly exited. I heard Josh yell in pain again and, a few moments later, he was thrown into my room, blood pouring freely from a bullet wound in his left thigh. He was followed by a much more stable-looking Purist in the usual garb.

The Purist glanced at the table beside my bed and spotted my framed family photo. He reached over Josh, picked up the photo and showed it to him. “These common in ‘vacant cells’, jackass?” He tossed the picture to the ground, where its glass shattered; my mass rippled angrily. “Whose cell is this?”

Josh remained silent. The Purist chuckled before punching him again. Josh fell to his side, and the Purist repeatedly kicked him in the stomach.

I wanted to step in right then and there, I wanted to make this sadist pay… But I could still hear people outside. If I acted now, I had no idea what would happen; I still didn’t know if bullets had an effect on me, but I wasn’t in a hurry to find out. I had to watch Josh get the shit kicked out of him for a good thirty seconds before I heard the footsteps in the hall fade into silence.

The Purist seemed to get bored. He drew his gun and aimed it in Josh’s face. “You’re gonna tell me who this cell belongs to, and where they are…”

“He’s not here!” Josh said, spitting out blood. “He was brought to the branch in… Vermont!”

The Purist shook his head. “You’re a godawful liar, you know that, buddy?” He aimed his gun at Josh’s other leg. “I’m gonna count to three, and if you don’t tell me what I wanna hear, you’re gonna find walking a whole lot more difficult. One…”

Josh shut his eyes and braced himself.

“Two…” The Purist’s finger touched the trigger. “Thr--”

I landed behind him with a loud ‘thwump’. The Purist spun around, pistol ready, but I’d already reached out and wrapped my ‘hand’ around his face. I glanced out the door; we were alone. This idiot had made the average horror movie mistake: getting separated from your friends.

I stole a glimpse into his mind. Nothing unexpected, given his crowd; he saw himself standing in the street, buildings ablaze all around him, various people with the powers of gods flying about, causing untold destruction and mayhem. I took the gun from his hand and squeezed my mass around his nose and mouth, cutting off his breathing. The Purist scratched at my arm, ineffectually trying to free himself. I feared how long the brain could function without oxygen; I hadn’t gotten to full-on training yet, so I had no clue what I was doing.

After about thirty seconds, the Purist’s eyes flickered shut and I released him, letting him drop to the floor. I reached down and put two ‘fingers’ to his neck; there was a pulse. I sighed in relief before glancing out the door; nobody. I peered into the hall and saw it was empty. I turned to Josh, who was cradling his wounded leg. I bent down beside him; I’d never dealt with any form of first aid. “How bad is it?” I asked.

“It’ll be fine…” Josh strained, applying pressure to the wound. “I think…” He glanced out the door. “The initiates… They’re gonna kill them!”

I looked out the door, then back at Josh. “...Alright, I’m gonna go to the training center…”

Josh shook his head. “No, NO! We need to wait for backup… An alarm will have gone out, someone will come...”

“By the time they get here, they’ll all be dead!” I argued. “Look, I’ll just keep ‘em busy, alright? Just long enough for the cavalry to arrive. You need to stay here, control the bleeding, and try to call for help; call ‘em on your cell, the Purists might be listening to the radio, alright?”

Josh stared at me for a few moments before finally shaking his head. “Goddammit, I’m gonna regret this…” He looked up at me and prodded me with a bloody finger. “Don’t be reckless, you hear me? Do what you can, but don’t get yourself killed.”

I shrugged as I stood up. “Still unsure if I can.

Josh took off his belt and strapped it tightly above the bullet wound. “Try to keep to the maintenance areas, they might not be as well guarded…”

I shook my head. “I have another idea.” I fed my mass up, through the grate, and disappeared into the vents.

- - - - -

It took a few worrying minutes of peeking through grates, trying to find my way around the complex, but I managed to find one that exited into the training center; a massive gym space the size of a basketball court that had practice dummies, targets and obstacle course fixings, usually used as basic exercise equipment for the initiates. Most of the equipment had been moved into one corner, while the thirty or so initiates had been crowded into another, whispering, whimpering and crying in fear. In the far corner from them were all the night guards the Purists had caught, all bound by the hands and mouths gagged. Some Purists were busy setting up what appeared to be a camera, aimed at the wall some distance from the trainees and hooked up to a laptop. The only light in the gym came from the flashlights held by the occasional Purist, and the large “photo-shoot” lights illuminating the wall the camera was pointed at.

“How’s the feed coming up?” One of the Purists asked one of the ‘tech guys’; he wore a grey-camo hunting jacket that made me identify him as the leader of this group.

“Just about finished, sir,” said a Purist slaving at a computer. “Then we can send the footage to our guy in New York and he’ll have it broadcasted by noon.”

“Alright, get the first batch up against the wall!” The Purist in charge said. Two of his cronies directed a group of six trainees to break off from the group and stand against the wall. The two backed off as five other Purists aimed their rifles at the trainees, ready to fire.

You sick bastards… I thought, disgusted.

“Please…” sobbed one of the initiates, Cara, a girl I’d heard had lightning speed; she’d only arrived here last week, though, so I doubted she had the skill (or nerve) to try anything. “Please don’t do this!”

The Purist Leader ignored her and walked, hands behind his back, before the camera, with his pistol drawn. “We ready?”

The Purist behind the laptop nodded. “Recording now, sir.”

“My fellow Americans,” the Purist said, clearly in his element. “My fellow humans… Tonight, our race takes another step closer to securing our future, to protecting our children and theirs from armageddon, heralded by these beasts.” He gestured towards the trainees. “Our governments would have you believe that they are special, that they are still human… But you’ve seen the madness and destruction caused by these ‘special humans’. You all saw Splice, whose abominable minions killed hundreds in San Francisco, and Faultline, who nearly leveled Chicago…”

Both of whom were stopped by MHAs, you irredeemable fucking idiots… I thought angrily. I glanced around the gym. I counted fourteen Purists, loosely scattered throughout the training center. It would be difficult to get close to even one of them without being spotted; despite not being particularly organized they had eyes in every direction. It wasn’t so dark they wouldn’t see me approach.

“We, the Purists, are the only ones who see through the government’s lies, who see the true danger posed by these mutants, these monsters…” continued the Purist. “If allowed, these beasts will soon wipe out humanity overnight.”

I tensed up; even he couldn’t monologue forever. I looked towards the guards. Freeing them wouldn’t work; even if they had their guns, which I had reason to doubt, they were outnumbered and outgunned.

...Maybe they don’t have to FIGHT… I thought. Just make noise… I poured through the grate and up into the suspended ceiling. I slithered between the tiles towards the corner where the guards were kept, keeping watch on the guards below. I got to the corner above the guards and, very carefully, dripped down; it was dark enough that the Purists shouldn’t see me, but I remained cautious as I slid down the wall before reaching the floor.

“And yet the governments continue to tolerate, even train those who would see humanity enslaved, butchered, extinguished!” Barked the Purist on camera. “This is our reason, humanity! This is our purpose! To protect our race!”

Once all of my mass had reached the floor I slithered up behind the guard closest to the corner. I gathered some of my mass and shaped it into a close representation of a mouth. “Hey…” I whispered.

He and a couple of his friends glanced back at me; I felt a pang of guilt. It was Nathan, the first guard I’d given the Nightmare, the one who made me realize I could do more than form a black puddle. His eyes widened in recognition, but he kept silent.

“Listen…” I whispered. “I need to keep these guys from killing anyone, but I need a diversion.”

Nathan glanced back around the gym. After a moment, he nodded understandingly before glancing at me. He took a deep breath and nodded.

“...You sure?” I asked. “Even if you know it’s coming, it doesn’t make it any better…”

Nathan nodded, more urgently.

I reached a tendril towards him, while pouring my mass into the cracks between the mats that covered the gym floor. I hesitated for a moment before finally tapping his hand and quickly draining between the mats.

Nathan began screaming, his wails muffled by the cloth wrapped around his mouth. He began to flail around, startling his fellow captives as he twisted and writhed, eyes wide in panic.

The Purists immediately took notice. “What’s going on over there?!” Their leader yelled, clearly angry that his ‘claim to fame’ had been interrupted. He and several Purists hurried over to the guards, leaving only two to guard the trainees, two to keep their guns trained on the ones at the wall and the one at the computer.

Okay, that’s something… I thought. Now what? I peered around the gym, trying to ignore Nathan’s screams; I needed to act quickly, both to save the others and dispel the Nightmare.

I glanced at the guy on the laptop; I didn’t need to fight these guys—in fact, I shouldn’t fight them, or else I’d put the trainees at risk. All I needed to do was buy some time… It looked like getting that broadcast put together was important to them. Would be a shame if they didn’t have what they needed to put their little snuff film together...

I flowed among the mats towards the Purist at the computer; I could see the barest hint of skin above his sock. Focusing as best I could, I reached a single strand towards his leg. I glanced in his mind and saw, alongside the requisite fear of Metahuman uprisings, a fear of snakes. I quickly formed a vision of a massive, hissing cobra and molded a more ‘personalized’ Nightmare; one where the Purist suddenly saw a massive snake coiled right in front of him.

The Purist jumped back from the computer. With a scream he drew his pistol and unloaded his clip into the computer screen, sending sparks and shards of glass everywhere. The other Purists spun at their comrade’s screams as he kept pulling the trigger, the empty clicks of his gun echoing throughout the gym. I tapped his leg again and withdrew; his Nightmare quickly faded, leaving him aiming his empty pistol at the ruined computer.

“What the hell are you doing?!?!” Screamed the Purist leader, storming over and snatching the pistol from his hands.

“Snake…” the techie stammered. “T-There was a snake…”

The leader stared at him before stomping towards the cowering initiates. “Which one of you did this?! I know one of you freaks is doing this!!” He grabbed a rifle from one of his goons and aimed it at them. “And will someone shut that guy up!!” He roared over his shoulder towards the Purists still watching Nathan, whose screams hadn’t died down.

“It’s not us!!” One of the trainees yelled. “I swear to god, it’s not us!!”

There was the distant sound of a loud vehicle screeching to a stop outside; all eyes fell on the doors out of the gym. I smiled internally; the cavalry had arrived.

“Barricade the doors!!” The leader yelled, motioning with the rifle. There was panic in his voice… I flowed towards him, forming another plan; it was risky, but it could serve as a distraction and give the rescue team more time.

I formed beneath his boot and reached a tendril up his pant leg, where I tapped his shin; his fear of metahumans was much more livid, meaning he was far more terrified of them than most. I formed another custom Nightmare for him and withdrew, ready to strike.

The leader recoiled, glancing at his comrades. I knew what he could see: his allies controlling fire, sprouting wings, turning into monsters… He saw his allies as his greatest fear.

“You… you’re all freaks!!” He shrieked, aiming his gun at the nearest poor sap, who stepped back, hands raised. “All of you!!

One of his shrewder goons aimed his gun at him. “Boss, calm down!! What’s wrong?!”

I slithered over to the lights; I reached tendrils up to their power cords and formed little blades.

I cut the cords, plunging the place into near pitch black.

The leader screamed and opened fire on his comrade; the Purist stumbled back as his vest took most of the punishment, but a bullet hit his shoulder and he dropped to the ground, screaming.

The Purists began yelling in confusion, aiming their guns everywhere, trying to figure out what was happening. One of them aimed his gun at the trainees, believing them to be behind the havoc; I quickly flowed over to him and sprang up, knocking his gun away and wrapping myself around him like an ebon snake. I formed an arm, punched him in the face as hard as I could. I pulled him to the ground and used him as a springboard to launch myself at one of his friends. I snatched the gun from the next Purists’ hand and snapped it in two, sending pieces of plastic scattering to the floor before wrapping a thick tendril around his chest and hurling him at the wall.

The other trainees took this as a sign to act, either to fight or leg it for the doors. Jason, one of the guys I’d seen training, spawned fire at his hands and hurled fireballs at some of the Purists; their armor took the worst of it, but no amount of protection will keep you from panicking when you’ve burst into flames. Cara looked ready to run for the exit, but she quickly calmed herself and streaked, almost invisibly, towards the Purists near the bound guards; their guns vanished from their hands as she sped past.

The Purist leader seemed to run out of bullets and resolved to use his gun as a club, viciously beating one of his compatriots around the head with it. Figuring I’d let him have his panicky fun, I turned to the Purists still standing. One of them spotted me and pointed his gun at me. He fired.

The bullets flew straight into me; I felt them enter my mass, but the effect was like firing bullets into a sand trap. The bullets either flew out my back, my form robbing them of their momentum and letting them drop harmlessly to the floor, or sank down my mass and fell to the ground.

I glanced up from the ‘wound’, looked at the shocked Purist and shrugged. “Well, you learn something new everyday.” With a snarl I streaked towards him and ripped the rifle from his hands before spinning around and smacking him in the face with the butt, sending him sprawling to the floor.

The doors to the gym crashed open; a SWAT team filed into the room, rifles primed. I quickly backed up to the wall to let them do their job; some of them escorted the remaining trainees out of the gym while the rest forced a surrender out of the Purists still standing. In the havoc I quickly hurried over to Nathan and dispelled his Nightmare, whispering a hushed apology to him before slithering towards the exit.

I noticed the Purist leader still screaming, his back to the corner the trainees had been gathered, holding his empty rifle like a sword as three SWAT officers surrounded him. “Get back!! GET BACK!!”

With a sigh I slithered over to him. “Just a second, guys…” The SWAT tilted their heads in confusion as I approached the Purist, who didn’t notice me. I pulled the gun from his hands, pulled up his sleeve and touched his arm, dispelling the illusion. The Purist shook his head in confusion before noticing me and yelping.

“He’s all yours…” I said, passing the bewildered SWAT officers and heading for the exit.

I slithered down the halls towards the lobby, where there were dozens of cops and paramedics, the flashing lights of their respective vehicles flickering outside. The front doors were blown off their hinges, scorch marks blackening the frame; I guessed that was how the Purists got in. None of the trainees had been hurt, thankfully, and Josh and a couple other guards had only taken bullets in their legs; if there was one good thing about the Purists, it was that they took every effort to avoid hurting any Basics caught in the crossfire.

Daryl was there, checking up on every trainee. Daryl was a great guy; he wasn’t one to cut corners, sure, but he cared deeply about the initiates in his branch. He’d always watch their training, help coach them in better understanding and controlling their powers, and did everything to keep us comfortable—some books here, some dorm decorations there… If we wanted it, he’d deliver it in a way that didn’t involve a requisition form.

Daryl noticed me and hurried over. “Joel! Are you alright?! What happened, the other initiates, they say you…”

I raised a claw. “It’s fine, Daryl, it’s fine… I just… kept the Purists busy for a while and bought the SWAT team time.”

Daryl stared at me before reaching up; he hesitated before putting his hand on my shoulder. When nothing happened I saw a spark of relief in his eye before he smiled. “I want you to tell me what happened later, okay? For now, we’re getting all the initiates to the Department in Vermont for the next few days, while they beef up security here.”

Won’t dissuade the Purists… I thought, thankful I didn’t have eyes to roll.

Daryl removed his hand. “I need to see to the other initiates… Not looking forward to the report on this…” He turned and walked off, pausing to look back at me. “Good work tonight.”

I grinned; a sight that, I’d been told, was rather unnerving. “Thanks, Daryl…”

Author's Note:

"So... there gonna be ponies in this at some point?"

I'm getting there! GOD.

Also, I'm interested in commissioning cover art; message me if you're interested.