Battle at the Loft

Like a rat in a maze, the path before me lies.
Patterns, Simon & Garfunkel

She looked just in time to see Jason lunging from the bathroom swinging the toilet seat lid at a large man draped in a black long coat and fedora. The guy was distracted looking at Jason. Her awareness focused to a point, flowing though and around the figure. Jason brought the toilet seat down into the man's uplifted arm. It shattered, sending bits of porcelain flying through the hall. In the next instant, the intruder's body, the very structure of his cells perhaps his atoms flooded her mind.

He grabbed Jason's arm. And said a single word: "Stop." She sifted enough to find a jink… a point of stress at which she struck, sending the bat crashing into the man's side. It connected with a meaty thunk, the impact jarring her slender frame. The man grunted under the impact, something cracking in his side. He staggered but didn't release Jason. Dimly Willow felt Jason's power surge and the man holding him stiffened, lashing out and catching her in the ribs with a gloved fist.

The force of the blow lifter her off her feet and sent her sprawling back into her room, dazed and breathless. Astra's cool mental hand stroked her pained mind. Be still… I am coming for you…

Willow lay where she fell, trying not to cry out in agony. Instinctively she tried to shut down the awareness of the pain, trying to lessen it, but it was no use. Astra. Willow's mind cried out. Why are you going to help me? I don't know you. I don't know anything anymore, not even myself. Why should I trust you? Willow curled up in a ball, both her mind and body aching. It hurts so much…

I have never hurt you… Who else can say that? Her voice is calm, reassuring. You feel yourself harshly jerked to your feet, the sharp pain driving you back to full awareness. The guy in black had grabbed you, hauled you to your feet, the towel almost slipped from your body.

Astra! Clay! Willow let fly a mental shriek of sheer terror. Oh God, someone help me!

Willow began to struggle for all she was worth, trying to get away from the man, to get to some sort of weapon she could use to hit him. Let go of me! She formed her thoughts like barbed spears and sent them at the man's mind, praying it would distract him long enough so she could get free.

Wait… we are coming for you, Astra says urgently. You will be safe!

Struggling aginst the man seems useless, his grip is a vise. Your struggles don't even budge. He looks over his shoulder at a crash from the living room and you rake your nails over his cheek. He starts, looking back at you both at the pain and the stinging lash of your deperate mental cry. Smoke starts to billow in the door from the front room.

One of them are here, and a fire has started in the loft. Hurry! Willow tried to send the image of the man in black's face to Astra.

This is the man who is attacking us. Oh God, how far away are you?!

We are here… get away from him, he is dangerous! Her mental voice is tense and raspy. You see her in the doorway beckoning to you from the living room. There is no feeling of danger.

The man holding you rasps harshly in your ear. "You're in grave danger. They are outside right now, and they will kill you and your friend without hesitation. Do you want my help… or would you rather me open the door and show them inside?"

Before you can answer Jason charges through the door barreling to the man. They both go sprawling over in a heap.

"Jason! Clay! Stop! Tear off his sleeve! Show me his arm!" Willow yelled. Tear off his sleeve! Does he have the tattoo? Hurry!

"Show me your arm. Now!" Jason wrestles with the man for a moment before being shoved away. He grabs the man's coat as he sprawls, taking it partially off him… and revealing the source of his strength. His arm in not flesh but a horrid metal contruct of streel and plastic, whirring with mechanical life wedded to his body at a scar laden stump at the shoulder. Your already weakened stomach roils. The man rolls over to a kneeling position and grabs Clay by the throat.

"If you persist in delaying our escape from being slaughtered, I will kill you right now. And you will have doomed her as well." After saying that he pulls out his pistol. Then turning back towards the girl, "Is there another way out of here?" He takes his shirt and pulls it up over his mouth before the gas starts spreading to where they are.

"Sorry, no can do, Chief," another figure says, stepping into to the doorway. A big guy, dressed in black fatigues, under a grey flak vest and web-belt. His face is covered by goggles and a gas mask, making his voice hollow and deeper than its already bass rumble. He holds a long assault rifle almost casually, the barrel pointed in your and the wispy guy's direction. "Little girl's coming with us." He lifts the gun and pauses for split second, his eyes meeting the metal armed man.

"Fire escape," Willow manages to say before lifting her hands to her head and collapsing. Clay, her mental voice fades. Go with the metal armed…