Here’s part two of the three chapter marathon! This is my personal favorite chapter so let’s keep it going friends and fictional folk!
Daniel dove behind an ambulance as the van he had been using as cover was picked up by one of Kraken’s tentacles and tossed aside. He had stopped thinking of Patrick by his human name after he had chopped a man in half with his crab claws. It had happened before he arrived to the lake but seeing those two halves of a whole person covered by white sheets stained red with blood would haunt his nightmares if he survived. There was little humanity left inside that monster.
Since that incident, everyone had adopted the strategy of staying as far away from Kraken as possible. Given the reach of his tentacles, it wasn’t easy. At five agents had been dragged into a watery grave.
To Daniel’s surprise, Bellerophon was also using the ambulance as cover. The agent was tying a bandage around Medea’s leg, which seemed to have been grazed by something sharp and jagged.
Bellerophon looked up as he approached. “Where the hell is Agent Orpheus?”
“Good to see you’re alive too,” Daniel snapped. “I don’t know. We ran in opposite directions to distract Kraken.”
Bellerophon grunted, returning to caring for Medea’s leg. She was looking dangerously pale. He hoped Mr. Ross would be ok.
“Where did we get an ambulance from?” he asked, having to raise his voice to be heard over a sudden volley of gunfire. Super-tasers still.
Mr. Ross had brought more than two dozen from his wife’s workshop. Unfortunately, they seemed to be having little effect on Kraken. Only eight or nine shots at once could even phase him. And with that many limbs, he could pull them out faster than they could muster up a large enough firing squad to hit him all at once.
“Confiscated,” Bellerophon explained, not looking up from Medea’s leg. “Flashing a government badge will get you just about anything.”
“Isn’t that an abuse of power?”
“Would you rather be facing this thing without medical equipment?”
Daniel wondered if it was normal to throw quips back and forth with people you were stuck in a life or death situation with. War movies showed that kind of stuff all the time and here he was doing the same thing with Bellerophon.
He peeked around the corner of the ambulance. Searching the faces of the agents he could see, he found Mr. Ross crouched behind what had once been some sort of communication array.
Half of a car went sailing through the open space between them and he ducked back behind the ambulance.
“Hopefully, Agent Lamia will wake up soon,” Bellerophon said, finishing off Medea’s bandage and picking up his super-taser. “We could use a hybrid on our side right about now.”
Daniel sighed and leaned his head back, hoping to catch one last glimpse of the stars before he died. He was certain that, even if Natalie was awake, she had taken the tongs and gone back home to be with her family. Given the state of the battle, he couldn’t blame her. She had suffered enough because of his weakness. He hadn’t been strong enough to hold onto the ark orb. He hadn’t been strong enough to stand against Carson and Paul. Natalie had been nothing but a victim, of circumstance. He deserved to die here.
He suddenly thought of Monica and Drew, his foster parents. They would have no idea what happened to him here today. He had never said goodbye. They had been so kind to him, and he had forgotten them.
I’m sorry, Monica, he thought as tears stung the corners of his eyes. I’m sorry, Drew. I should have been a better son.
There was a flicker of movement in the night sky. At first, Daniel thought it might be a low flying plane or bird. But then he saw the undulating tail and the shape of a human torso.
He squinted. It was coming closer, gliding through the air in a straight line toward Kraken. There was no mistaking what and who that was now. Daniel’s jaw fell slack as he beheld Natalie. She cut through the air with a grace and ease that was inhuman.
Natalie straightened her body and tail but kept her underside concave. She shot through the air toward Patrick. Wind screamed in her ears as she plummeted, arms outstretched.
One of Patrick’s antenna twitched, and he looked up. His Black, beady eyes met hers. He froze, seeming unable to comprehend that there was a snake woman flying right for him.
Right as she was about to crash into his face, Natalie turned her glide into a flip. With a painful smack, her tail slammed into Patrick right between the eyes. Continuing her momentum, she turned the flip into a roll and tumbled up over his head and down his back. She rode her inertia all the way down one of his tentacles until she slid to a stop on the grassy banks of Lake Levi.
Patrick staggered, nearly toppling from the force of her attack. All activity from the ISRD agents had stopped. They stood, staring dumbly either at her or Patrick. Unfortunately, this gave him time to right himself and turn his considerable mass to face her. He glared down at her with all his eyes.
“It seems the snake has crawled out of her hole to play,” he said, his voice rumbling deep and powerful over the lake.
“Ssstop thiss now, Patrick,” she said, raising her voice so he’d be certain to hear her. “Ssurrender peacefully. We can help you find a cure.”
He laughed, the sound sending ripples across the surface of the water.
“A cure?” he asked mockingly. “These forms we have been granted are not a disease, but a gift. A gift which has finally allowed me to take my rightful place and return the world to its natural order.”
“Survival of the fittest.”
Now it was her turn to laugh. “Survival of the fittest? You? Before this you were just a scrawny jerk who couldn’t stand the thought of his girlfriend leaving him for someone else.”
“Quiet!” he growled, slamming one of his crab claws into the ground. “Fate has revealed who truly belongs on top. And that is me! I was given this form to lead us to dominion of this world and it only proves that I was right about Jamie. She was led astray by the wiles of some godless whore. But her true place is with me! And I will have her back!”
Natalie crossed her arms. “You know, Patrick. I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt. But now I can ssee that you won’t lissten to reason and come with us peacefully. Sso, I guess I’ll have to bring you in by forcce.”
“You think you can beat me?” He laughed again. “I am far beyond you, little snake. Step aside while I finish cleaning up this trash and maybe I’ll let you be one of my wives in the new world I am going to create.”
She coiled her tail like a spring. “Wrong answer.”
Natalie shot toward his face like an arrow loosed from a bow. Patrick moved his head aside to avoid her punch, but she had anticipated that. As she passed, she wrapped her tail around his neck. She used this to reverse her trajectory and slam her fist into the side of his face.
She landed a dozen more rapid-fire punches in the seconds it took for him to reach up with one of his tentacles and pull her off. He flung her toward the trees, but she twisted around in the air to right herself, caught a passing trunk with her tail, and used her momentum to swing around and throw herself at Patrick again.
This time she hit the softer flesh of his gut, but this time she didn’t wait around for him to try and grab her again. Grabbing folds of slipper skin, she climbed to one of his starfish arms. She bit down hard where the limb connected with the torso.
Patrick screamed. As Natalie had expected, her teeth had grown into long fangs. She had felt it happen each time she faced off with Ahuizotl. And considering that Patrick was a much greater threat than she had been, it had been a good guess that her body would react this way.
Patrick tried to grab her with his crab claws, but she slithered across his back to the other starfish. She bit down hard again. He bellowed and reached for her, but she was already at the eye of his torso.
She landed a volley of machine-gun past punches on the soft tissue of the eye before he even had a chance to blink. Patrick thrashed about wildly, roaring in pain.
Natalie made her move. Her attacks might hurt, but given his size and the likelihood of having gained regeneration powers from his starfish shard, she was little more than a painful nuisance right now. She needed to act quickly.
Dodging a blow from one of his whale shark fists, which caused Patrick to punch himself, she slithered down to where his solar plexus should be. With one swift motion, she ripped the tongs free from the duct tape on her tail and plunged them into his torso.
Patrick’s body turned into the same glowing, translucent shape Sam’s had been and his shards appeared within his chest. They were scattered throughout his torso, a half dozen pieces disconnected from each other. it took her only a moment to spot the one she wanted. She thrust deeper with the tongs until they clamped down on the shard with a silhouette of a mantis shrimp. It resisted her pull but with a mighty heave, she managed to tear it free.
Coiling her tail, she leapt back, away from Patrick. He grabbed at her as his body slowly became solid again, but his movements were two slow and she merely flipped past his grasping arms and tentacles.
She landed on the shore, right in front of the ISRD agents. A quick glance confirmed that Daniel was still alive. Some of the tension knotted in her gut loosened.
Patrick shook as the mantis shrimp arms retracted into his body and disappeared. He was breathing heavily. His eyes darted about, wide and terrified.
Natalie plucked the shard from the grip of the tongs. She flinched as they crumbled into a pile of dice-sized chunks, their last charge depleted.
“You,” Patrick growled, voice quivering between fear to anger. “What did you do to me?”
“Oh, you mean thisss?” she asked coyly, holding up the shard. “Well, I saw that you weren’t using it, sso I thought I’d take it off your hands for you.”
“But why? Those arms were useless. I could barely pick anything up with them.”
“That’sss because you didn’t know how to use them.” She smirked. “Ever heard of the mantiss shrimp?”
“Well you’re about to get a crash coursse in their biology.”
She spat onto the shard.
All it took was a little bit of your DNA. That was what Mr. Ross had told her when explaining the history of Omphalos. Before the explosion, they had not even known a shard could be embedded inside a person. The effects were only temporary when using them this way, but she only needed this power for a little while. After all, mantis shrimps had the fastest and most powerful punch in the animal kingdom.
Her spit landed on the shard and Natalie felt her body change. Multi-colored carapace sprouted on her head, forming helmet like armor. It grew down her spine all the way to the tip of her tail where it fanned out into a fin. Antenna sprang from her brow and her sight was filled with a hundred new colors. The world became a tapestry of unnamable shades and hues.
On her arms, the carapace grew thicker and she dropped the shard to free her hands. Her forearms became armored boxing gloves of rainbow exoskeleton and she could feel her muscles thicken and tense like springs waiting to be released.
She threw back her hair and stood tall upon her tail, an armored knight ready to face down her monstrous foe.
Patrick laughed. “You think painting yourself up like a pride flag is going to save you from me?”
A tentacle as thick as a tree swung down to flatten her.
Natalie let the muscles in her left arm release.
A sound like thunder split the air as her fist moved faster than even she could see, backhanding the tentacle into a toppled van.
Patrick stared at the limb. It lay broken and useless atop the wreckage of what had once been a car.
For several long seconds, no one moved. The sonic boom still ringing in their ears. Then Patrick roared and flung all his remain tentacles forward.
Natalie sprang into the air, jumping from limb to limb and breaking each of them with a single thunderous punch. Reaching the last one, she launched herself toward Patrick himself. He tried to his claws in defense, but she was too quick, delivering a devastating strike with both arms.
His body was sent skipping across the surface of the like a stone. He bounced once, twice, three times before crashing into the opposite shore.
Natalie dove into the water. Her new fin granted her incredible speed and she reached the other side before Patrick had a chance to stand. He lashed out at her with a pincer as she sprang from the water, but she batted it aside as if it were flimsy driftwood.
She struck him again in the torso—this time with only one fist—throwing him into the front line of trees on this side of the lake. Bark groaned and branches swayed with his collision, but again Patrick tried to stand.
Putting everything she had into this blow, Natalie threw one final punch.
Trees snapped like twigs and a deafening explosion of sound tore through the air as Patrick collapsed to the ground, finally unconscious.
Natalie stood over his massive form, panting heavily. Her heart, which had been hammering in her chest through her entire flight here and the subsequent battle, finally began to slow to its normal pace. She had done. The plan had worked. She still couldn’t believe it. She had taken down something that big and powerful all on her own.
The cheers finally reached her ears. She turned to find nearly all of the agents running around the lake toward her, whooping with victory. Leading them was Daniel and Mr. Ross. Even Bellerophon, though he wasn’t celebrating, jogged near the back of the group, supporting Medea on his shoulder.
Natalie felt a smile spread across her face. Danny was safe and unharmed. The cheers were great, but that was reward enough for her. That and a good night’s sleep.
But there was one last thing for her to take care of. With her vision enhanced even further than before, she had spotted a certain someone lurking in the woods nearby. A certain someone that she needed to have a talk with.