Battle at the Loft

Stand and fight
Live by your heart
Always one more try
I'm not afraid to die
Manowar, Heart of Steel

You slip the toilet lid into your hands and click off the bathroom light, leaving the door slightly ajar, just enough so you hide behind it. The figure passes in the hall. It's a big guy, all in black, long duster-like coat and a fedora. Taking the chance you rush him, raising the heavy ceramic lid to crush his skull! He looks over his shoulder, eyes widening with shock.

You bring the lid down, the guy brings up his arm and the lid shatters. He doesn't flinch. Instead he grabs your arm in a viselike grip. "Stop." Before you can do anything, you see Willow step out from her room. Her eyes seems to mist over before she swings the bat into the guy's side, staggering him.

Eye contact. My will over his. Kill yourself! You bear down and focus your will to the stranger, your mind a searing claw wrapped about his, trying to squeeze. But he fights back, surprising you with his will to live. Lashing back a fist, he slams Willow aside, knocking the air out her, she tries to bring the bat up again. She goes sprawling into her bedroom.

Anger. Bright, searing. How dare he touch her! Continuing the mind pressure, Clay sweeps a leg out, in an attempt to knock the dead man off his feet.

He shoves you against the wall, knocking the wind out of you, and staggers back, running his hands over his head and body. You are about to press your attack when you hear Willow moan lowly from where she lies, "… coming… coming for… " her voice trails off.

Clay looks towards Willow, then back at the intruder. Clay takes special note of the man's face, he will pay for hurting her. Not here, not now. But he will pay.

Okay, how about fire? She is an artist, there must be plenty of flammables, do I have something to light it with? Paint thinner or better yet a torch. You remember some flammable stuff in the back room where you slept, a little down the hall. Racing back you grab a can of thinner. As you do you hear a loud crash from the living room!

Dash back into the living room. Willow!

The living room is full of thick choking smoke. You hear the door crash open. There is a quick burst of bullets, chewing a stream of holes in the wall beside you, showering you with plaster. No sound seems to accompany the fire. Instinctively you throw yourself into the doorway for some cover. Willow… where is she? You make out the guy, standing within her bedroom. Who… what's going on? Willow screams in your mind, Oh, God! Help me!

With a wordless snarl he launches himself at the man, heedless of the bullets.

Charging through the blinding smoke, you feel bullets pluck at the legs of your jeans and something hot caresses a furrow in your back. Half blinded by the stinging fumes, you run into the bed room and barrel into the man. The both of you go down in dog pile. Grabbing one of his arms, you feel some sort of hard armor under his coat.

"Jason! Clay! Stop! Tear off his sleeve! Show me his arm!" Willow yells. Tear off his sleeve! Does he have the tattoo? Hurry! "Show me your arm. Now!" Her mental and physical cry give you pause, just enough of an opening for the guy to shove you back. Grabbing his his coat as you fall back, you feel it tear free, tangling him and revealing something… something unbelievable. The man's arm. It's metallic, a dull grey and silver construct of plating and metal tendons wedded in a gnarled scarred section of flesh. He pulls back, shrugging and tearing out of the long coat.

From the living room your hear a deep male voice cry out, "Hold your fuckin' fire! You'll hit the girl!"

The guy rolls into a kneeling position. "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 flack vest and web-belt. His face is overed goggles and a gas mask, making his voice hollow and deeper than its already bass rumble. He hold 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's.

Willow's voice, "Go with the metal-armed man." She swoons, crumpling as the man charges the gun man. You lunge and catch her. There is a breathy buzz of silenced automatic fire. Taking the unconscious Willow with you, you reach the window. It is partially ajar and leads out to a fire escape. Behind you there are the sounds of a scuffle, muted cursing. You climb out onto the fire escape, feeling it creak under your weight. You're about 10 feet up over an alleyway between this and another apartment building. The ladder is down, but clambering down it with Willow is difficult. Just as you get to the street, you hear a crash above and the dark suited man comes hurtling through the window. Clearing the fire escape completely, he lands next to you. The concrete cracks under his feet.

"Okay, the lady thinks we can trust you, I trust her. Lead on." His heart clenches as he looks down at Willow. Hang on. He reaches for Willow. No way.

"Keep up or you'll be dead," he says over his shoulder as he runs down the alley. Sparks shoot from holes in his pants and he trails a slight smell of ozone. There is a brief spat of gunfire behind you, shattering brick and cement.

"Hold, you idiots!" a voice cries out from the window above. The man in black pauses, looking over at Willow's car. Running up to it, he smashes the window and gets in, unlocking the back door for you and Willow. You are just getting in as he pulls off, tires screeching into the street.

Clay runs his hands over Willow, checking her injuries.

"Who are you? Where are we going?" he asks wearily. He was beginning to feel his own injuries. Pain. A constant companion. He felt his eyes close and snapped them back open. Not while she sleeps. He makes an effort to watch where they are going–street signs and landmarks.

You have to to keep it together… focus on Willow, sleeping like and angel in your arms. Her breathing is so shallow, steady soothing. No, must stay awake. Your head is whirling. A metal man… the tin woodsman. He hit Willow… heartless bastard… if I only had a heart! Giggle. Systemic shock… over pushing your talent… that's it… yes… Eyes heavy, blackness…