Infinity II: Control - Part Six
Nobody saw the red Acara sitting on the edge of the flat rooftop. But she saw everything.
The Engineer leaned forward. She placed her elbow on her knee and rested her chin on her knuckles. Her usual grin formed on her face as she looked down on the Neopets below her.
"This should be interesting."
* * *
Flicker knew of five colors of magic gems that Wingen could make: purple, green, yellow, black, and blue. The yellow ones granted the user invisibility, which made sneaking out of Town Hall absurdly easy.
Now there was no escape from Granite. But Flicker would not have had it any other way. Running away was not part of his plan.
Flicker was not about to let Granite have the chance at getting the first strike. After a short glide across the chasm, Flicker broke out into a run straight towards Granite. Granite stood his ground, giving Flicker a still target. With as much power as he could muster, Flicker swung his fist at the Meerca.
The punched connected, but it didn't produce the result Flicker was expecting. Granite skidded backwards a few feet, but his stance was firm and unshakable. More importantly, there was not a single indication that Flicker's attack did any damage against him.
On the contrary, Flicker was the one reeling from his own attack. He leaned over in pain as he wrung his hand, his fingers throbbing from the impact. Flicker had always assumed that relic Neopets just looked like rock in the same way that fire Neopets only had patterns resembling flames. He didn't think they were actually made out of stone.
Flicker straightened his posture, but not quickly enough. He barely even noticed Granite's tail before it struck Flicker and sent him tumbling across the ground. Getting directly hit with what might as well have been a slab of stone kept Flicker on the floor for a few seconds. But he wasn't going to give up. Flicker stumbled onto his feet. He could take more.
Granite didn't seem so convinced of that. It wasn't really pity that Granite looked at Flicker with as he crossed his arms, but it was the closest that he was ever going to get to showing sympathy. "What did I tell you?" Granite gave a gruff laugh as he glanced at the foremen and pointed his thumb at Flicker. "He's a waste of my breath. Go tie him up so we can get out of this dump."
The foremen were nervous over Granite's orders; they eyed Flicker anxiously and none of them wanted to be the first one to move towards him. None of them forgot the incident back in Obsidian Quarry and –unlike Granite- they didn't boast new forms that could allow them to withstand the glowing Buzz.
Nonetheless, the foremen surrounded Flicker and advanced towards him. Flicker held his fists out, constantly darting his eyes back and forth. He planted his feet into the ground and prepared to strike at any moment. Flicker knew he could take any of them in a one-on-one fight. But battling nearly two dozen Neopets at the same time was something Flicker knew wouldn't be as easy.
The first one to make a rush towards Flicker was a fire Elephante. He was not quite Flicker's height and was one of the few foremen that looked confident enough that they could overpower him. But the Elephante had not taken more than a few steps forward until he was brought to a halt. Flicker then saw the Elephante's hand move to the base of his trunk where three small claw marks suddenly appeared.
A black blur whizzed past the Elephante and stopped in front of Flicker. When Wingen stood still, the foremen were able to recognize the Wocky and the extra challenge he brought. At that point, the foremen decided to give it their all and charge at Flicker and Wingen all at once.
But Wingen wasn't too frazzled, as if he had already been prepared for that. Flicker saw him bite into a blue gem, allowing a transparent shield of the same color to burst out of his hand. With the effects of both the blue shield gem and the green speed gem active, Wingen made his move.
The foremen launched their attacks, but every single one of them was put to an abrupt stop when they stuck Wingen's shield instead of their intended target. Wingen was moving so fast due to the green gem that the only clue that Flicker had of his location was the brief ripples of light his shield made when something struck it.
Eventually, Wingen stopped next to Flicker again, the foremen no closer to him than they were a few minutes ago. Wingen's interference clearly exhausted them, but Flicker could see by Wingen's heavy breathing that he was running low on stamina as well. The green gem's effects didn't last for very long, which made it a strategy that –while effective- had to be used sparingly.
Knowing that, Wingen quickly thought of a new course of action. He jumped onto Flicker's shoulders as he chewed on a black gem. "Fly up!" Wingen instructed. Flicker did so and as soon as they were in the air, Wingen chucked a ball of smoke at the foremen, disorienting them.
Flicker ascended above the black cloud and quickly looked around. Now that he and Wingen had shaken the foremen off, the only person that Flicker was interested in facing was Granite. But with the smoke quickly spreading across the area, finding the relic Meerca was proving to be difficult. Undeterred, Flicker zipped through the air, searching for his target.
* * *
All it took was the sight of Granite's tail hitting Flicker for Lumin to completely lose his calm.
Had it not been for Lampyri to hold him back, Lumin would have jumped in to stop Granite himself. Even as Lampyri tried to restrain Lumin, he still struggled as he shouted, "Let me go! I can't let Granite do that to him!"
Lampyri didn't yield to Lumin's demands. She took a heavy breath before replying regretfully, "Please forgive me for saying this, but that wouldn't do Flicker any good!"
Lumin knew she was right. He knew that before she even said anything. Lumin stopped resisting and lowered his head. If someone with as much raw strength as Flicker was getting tossed aside, what could Lumin expect to do to Granite? Lumin was weak, small, and unfit for combat. He couldn't fight. But for the first time, he was desperately starting to wish that he could.
Lumin placed both of his hands on the sides of his head and tightly closed his eyes. He found that his balance was wavering under the pressure of the turmoil building up in him and was forced to sit down on a nearby doorstep. "Why? Why didn't he listen to me?"
The other Fireflies gathered around Lumin. They were quiet in their attempts to console the white Buzz, perhaps out of fear that anything they said would have no effect on him or maybe because they were just as nervous and uncertain. Lumin always tried to show no fear around his people in difficult situations. But when the center of it was his own son, it was just too much to contain within him.
Lampyri took a quick look at the smoke cloud that was obscuring the Fireflies' view of the battle. She then lifted her head once she spotted a very faint glow through the cloud. At that moment, she made up her mind and said the only thing that could put Lumin at ease, "I'll go protect Flicker. Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to him."
Lumin nodded, believing Lampyri's words. Lampyri was always the first one to reassure Lumin in troubled times. According to her, things would –without fail- turn out fine in the end.
"We're coming with you!" a voice rang out before Lampyri left. It came from a rainbow Pteri. She was surrounded by several other Fireflies, all of whom were soldiers back in the City of Lights.
Lampyri came to a sudden halt once she heard the Pteri. She turned around quickly and looked at the Fireflies as if she had misheard them. But once she realized that she wasn't imagining things, she shook her head and lowered the volume of her voice. "You're under no obligation to take orders from me."
The rainbow Pteri countered, "We may not have to, but we want to follow you! Please allow us to help!" The other soldiers raised their arms and roared in agreement.
If Lumin had blinked, he would have missed the flash of surprise come over Lampyri's face. For some time after Lampyri arrived in Central Cavern, she kept her involvement in helping the Fireflies move hidden. When she finally revealed herself to the Fireflies a few months back, there were plenty of unpleasant feelings to go around. With the memory of that obviously still clear in her head, it was no wonder that Lampyri was in disbelief at that time. The shock disappeared before anyone else had noticed and was replaced with Lampyri's acceptance of the Fireflies' pleas.
Lumin stood up, a little more relaxed now. But there were still concerns that he felt that he needed to address. "Anyone that's not going with Lampyri should evacuate. Leaving Central Cavern should not be necessary, but still go as far away from the district as possible."
Lumin knew that asking the Fireflies to leave again would not be met with ready approval, as many were standing firm. A camouflage Tuskaninny protested, "What if our homes are destroyed?"
"Then they'll be rebuilt," Lumin promptly replied. "They're just buildings; they can be replaced."
Hearing Lumin's orders, Lampyri gestured to some of the soldiers and said, "Escort the civilians and guard them until everything is resolved." The small group of soldiers nodded and left with the other Fireflies, who were still unsure and reluctant. Once they were gone, Lampyri asked Lumin, "What are you going to do, sire?"
Lumin groaned, "I wish you would stop calling me that..." Lumin glanced at the black smoke, still feeling chills over the thought of Granite. But that made him all the more set on trying to stop him. "I have an idea, but I need information first."
* * *
Wingen once told Flicker that he didn't like using the black gem any more than he needed to. Flicker was quickly starting to see why that was. Sure, the foremen were disoriented, but Flicker couldn't find who he was looking for either.
Flicker growled in frustration as he tried to find Granite. Even an aerial view wasn't helping much. "Hey, how can I get rid of this smoke?" Flicker asked Wingen, who was tightly holding onto the Buzz's head.
"Uh... You could try blowing it away with your wings," Wingen suggested in a tone that indicated that he was actually a little afraid of Flicker following his advice. He quickly added, "But you know, the whole point of the black gem is to last as long as possible so that whoever's in the smoke can't find you..."
Flicker gave a moan at the thought of having to wait for the smoke to clear out. Smoke or no smoke, he wanted to face Granite now. Flicker thought he had put enough distance away from him and the foremen, so he folded his wings and dove into the cloud. Once he landed, he started flapping them again and succeeded in removing some of the fog.
Flicker looked around. There was nobody in sight. No Fireflies, no foremen, and no Granite. He scratched his head, trying to figure out where Granite was. Flicker didn't think that he could have gotten too far away.
Wingen -who was also keeping an eye for the relic Meerca- suddenly shouted, "Flicker!"
Flicker swiftly turned around and immediately caught a glimpse of grey rushing out of the cloud. Flicker threw his fist. But instead of being blocked with a rock tail, he was stopped by Gabbro's black hooves. "Not who you were expecting, huh?" The grey Ixi taunted.
Flicker withdrew his fist and snarled, "Where's Granite?!"
"None of your business. He doesn't need to waste his time with you," Gabbro spat with the intention of fighting Flicker himself.
Flicker was having none of it. He had no desire to fight Gabbro; Granite was the only one he was interested in. Flicker ignored the Ixi's challenge and tried to rush past him. But Gabbro saw that coming and stood in Flicker's way. He jabbed Flicker again with his hooves, knocking the Buzz backwards a little.
If Flicker couldn't muscle his way past Gabbro, then there weren't many other options than to fight him head-on. With absolutely no patience left in him, Flicker charged at Gabbro, wanting to get him out of the way as quick as possible.
Flicker sent another punch towards Gabbro, only to be blocked yet again. Gabbro read each and every one of Flicker's moves and -although the power of the punches was proving difficult for him to resist- he still stopped them all in their tracks. After several attempts, the process became familiar to Flicker; it reminded him of how Gabbro trained him to fight back in Obsidian Quarry.
"I always knew you would be nothing but trouble! Why do you think I never taught you any advanced techniques?!" Gabbro grunted as he continued to block Flicker's blows.
Once he could see the first signs of Flicker starting to tire, Gabbro stopped defending and went on the offensive. He then sent his own punch flying towards Flicker that neither he nor Wingen were quick enough to stop.
Lampyri –however- was.
Lampyri rushed in and put herself between Flicker and Gabbro. Shooting out a single arm, she grabbed Gabbro's fist as it was still in motion and put a stop to it.
Once Gabbro picked up on Lampyri's presence, he ground his teeth and tried to yank his fist away. But no matter how hard he pulled, neither his fist nor Lampyri would budge.
Lampyri shot a glare at Flicker, instantly telling him that he was much more of a concern to her than Gabbro was. "What do you think you're doing?! Didn't we tell you to hide?!"
Being yelled at usually didn't spur much of a visible reaction from Flicker. But even then he had to take a step back as Lampyri chewed him out, "When you were adamant about fighting Granite, I thought that you at least could hold your own! And yet here you are fighting like an amateur!"
The word "amateur" stung Flicker's ear holes. He snorted and grimaced. Sure, he couldn't do much to either Granite or Gabbro, but "amateur?" The mere suggestion that he fit that mold made Flicker even more determined to prove Lampyri wrong.
Lampyri took her eyes off of Flicker just long enough to shout to the Fireflies that were following her, "I'll deal with this one and Granite! You take care of the other foremen!" Understanding their orders, the Fireflies immediately ran further into the smoke to find their opponents.
Even though Flicker saw how fast Lampyri was, he still took Lampyri's brief focus on the Fireflies as his chance to resume looking for Granite. He just hoped that Gabbro would distract her long enough before she tried to stop him.
* * *
Lampyri remembered when Flicker had been cursed by The Engineer. How could she forget?
She always knew that Flicker aged fast and was much younger than he looked and acted. At least, that was true some of the time in regards to the latter. When she saw Flicker fly off when she had her sights off of him for just a second, her first thought was that he was really starting to act his age.
"Flicker! Stop!" she yelled, mostly frustrated but also concerned. She pushed Gabbro back and was about to chase after Flicker. She made a promise to Lumin that she wouldn't let his son be harmed. The last time she made that promise, she failed. She couldn't let that happen again.
But even as she began to pursue Flicker, Lampyri knew better than to let her guard down. Keeping her senses heightened served her well, as she heard Gabbro run towards her and was able to move to the side before his hooves struck her head. Before Gabbro could react, she tightly grasped his outstretched arm.
"Get out of my way, lady!" Gabbro yelled as he struggled to get free.
Lampyri took Gabbro's arm, lifted him off the ground, and flipped him over. "You get out of my way."
She thought he would've have given up after that, but Lampyri soon found out that he much more stubborn than she expected. Gabbro got on his feet before Lampyri went much further. This time he managed to strike her, even if all he hit was her armor.
Lampyri spun around and took her chains off of her belt. There was no way she could protect Flicker with Gabbro constantly attacking her like that. But all the while, she knew that the longer she spent dealing with the Ixi, the less chance she had at keeping her promise. She needed to make it quick. Lampyri was well aware of the gamble she was taking.
It'll be alright. Flicker will be alright. Don't worry.
* * *
Wingen looked behind Flicker nervously. "Geez, Flicker. Are you sure about this? I mean, it sounds like everyone's worried about you."
Admittedly, Flicker started to ask himself that too. But he was certain in what he was doing and once he took care of Granite, he'd be able to show them that they didn't need to worry.
By that time, the smoke cloud was nothing more than a thin haze hanging around the floor of the cave. Flicker was able to see his surroundings much more clearly now.
But he wasn't the only one.
When Wingen pressed his hands down on Flicker's head, that was his cue to duck. Sure enough, Granite's tail swung right above Flicker and Wingen. "Looking for me?!" Granite landed on the ground, scowling at Flicker. He extended that expression towards Wingen once he saw the Wocky jump off of Flicker's shoulders. "Don't think I've forgotten about you, brat!"
Flicker saw Wingen's tail bush out the instant Granite looked him in the eyes. Wingen was sure that Granite had placed a target on his back too, considering that Flicker would have never escaped from Obsidian Quarry had it not been for him.
Granite had already threatened Wingen before, which provoked Flicker to jump to his defense. This time was no different as Flicker rushed at Granite before he had the chance to launch an attack at Wingen. Instead of using his fists, Flicker tried to kick Granite aside. Once again, Granite didn't even twitch while Flicker felt the pain of the impact.
Flicker quickly backed up to deny Granite the benefit of a short-ranged attack. But with how long Granite's tail was, it would've taken a lot of movement in a short amount of time before Flicker would be out of his range. Flicker heard the rock groan and creak as Granite curled up his tail so that it vaguely resembled a giant stone fist. With plenty of reach left, Granite lashed out at Flicker.
Wingen jumped in the way, holding up the same shield he used against the foremen. The attack hit the shield instead of either Flicker or Wingen. But the shield had already taken a considerable amount of damage from the foremen and that blow from Granite was enough to shatter it completely. Instead of absorbing the hit, the force of the attack sent Wingen flying backwards into Flicker, who in turn was knocked through the front door of a nearby building.
Flicker's back slammed into the wall, causing a nearby shelf to come loose and spill its contents all over the floor. He stood up and helped Wingen onto his feet. Wingen rubbed his back and muttered, "If punching him didn't work, kicking wouldn't have done any good either!"
"Well, what else am I gonna do to him?" Flicker retorted. "Can't your magic damage him somehow?"
Wingen shook his head and frantically said, "I only use defensive magic! Offensive magic is something I've never been good at! I can block his hits and confuse him, but there's nothing I can do to actually hurt him!"
Flicker gave a heavy sigh. He would end up breaking his fingers and toes before he'd even be able to put a dent in Granite if he just kept on punching and kicking. There had to be something else he could do.
Suddenly, Granite broke into the room, yanking the front door off its hinges and throwing it aside. As he did, Granite smirked at the familiar sight and growled to Flicker, "How did that feel, you worthless idiot?"
Flicker backed up as Granite moved forward. He didn't know what to do. He needed something to use. Anything.
Flicker felt his foot bump into something on the floor. With no choice left, Flicker picked it up without even looking. He didn't even bother thinking about it as he took the item and swung it at Granite the moment he was in reach.
To his surprise, there was a loud, metallic ringing followed by a large crack forming on Granite's rock body. Not questioning it, Flicker took the time that Granite was dazed from the attack to make a second one, knocking him out of the house.
Once Granite was outside, Flicker got the chance to look at the hammer in his hand. It wasn't anything fancy, just the ordinary sort of hammer that came with any toolbox. But to Flicker, all that mattered was that he now he could damage Granite.
Flicker and Wingen ran out of the building, the Buzz confident in his chances of winning. As Granite stood up and regained his balance, Flicker saw the cracks around the area that the hammer hit him. For some reason, they looked smaller and less noticeable than before.
Nevertheless, Flicker jumped back into the fight. Now the tables were turned; Granite was forced to defend himself against Flicker's onslaught while the glowing Buzz was the one grinning as he gained the upper-hand. With the metal head of the hammer being backed up by Flicker's strength, Granite realized that merely blocking wasn't going to work for much longer.
After a while, Granite dropped his defensive strategy in favor of dodging. Meercas were naturally agile, mostly thanks to their flexible tails. Being made of rock didn't appear to change that, as Granite stretched, ducked, and jumped out of the way of Flicker's hammer.
Seeing an opportunity, Granite used his tail as a platform to launch himself at Flicker. But Wingen was at the ready with another shield to prevent Granite from ramming into Flicker's stomach. That was Flicker's chance to counter-attack. He raised his hammer straight in the air and brought it down towards Granite.
Granite reacted fast enough to push his tail against the ground and swiftly move himself out of the way. Flicker's hammer smashed in the floor, succeeding in only breaking off a tiny bit of the very tip of Granite's tail. Had he not seen Granite give an extremely miniscule wince as a reaction, Flicker would not have known if Granite even felt that.
Flicker might have possessed more in the way of offence now that he had a weapon, and Wingen was certainly a capable defender; but Granite as a single person had both. The playing field was much more level than before and all three combatants knew that made the outcome not as clear-cut.
But then a fireball suddenly burst in front of Granite and shook the battle up again. Without the slightest clue as to where it came from, Flicker and Wingen could do nothing but watch the flames in confusion.
That was, until Flicker felt somebody grab his wrist followed by familiar voice saying, "Guys! Follow me!"
The flames rolled off of Granite, causing more discomfort for the relic Meerca than any actual injuries. But when the fire dissipated, Granite was not only left with no source of the fireball, but an empty space where Flicker and Wingen used to be.
* * *
Usually, Flicker would be voicing his frustrations over being pulled out of the fight like that. Instead, he gawked in awe over the cannon-like machine that Dimitri wore on his arm as the three Neopets ran down the alleyways. "What is that?!" Flicker shouted with the kind of giddiness one would expect from somebody of his chronological age. "Did it make that fireball?! How does it work?! Can I try it?!"
Dimitri's only answer was to put his fingertip up to his lips. He directed Flicker and Wingen behind a corner before giving one last peek behind him. He then whispered, "I'll explain later. You guys just need to come with me for a moment."
The rest of the trip was spent in a silence that was upheld as Dimitri said nothing about where he was bringing Flicker and Wingen. The Firefly district was unfamiliar to the Buzz and Wocky, yet Dimitri seemed to have some idea as to where he was going.
To be continued...