"Care! Fire in the hole!" Dauntless backed up as Miss Militia fired a shot from her grenade launcher, then reloaded it and repeated the process twice more. She didn't need to reload...usually. This was not a usual fight, however, and Militia was not using her usual tactics. The PRT had recently confiscated a number of bombs made by a tinker named Bakuda, and while they were initially earmarked to be sent to the Guild for analysis, the men upstairs authorized them to use some of the spares on Leviathan. The only problem was, they didn't know what any of the bombs did.
The first landed near Leviathan's legs, too close to Dauntless for comfort, and exploded into a mess of golden thread. Sticky, evidently. The second exploded in midair, barely catching Leviathan in its area of effect, but it looked like part had been knocked off, and Leviathan was definitely trying to get away. The third hit a bit behind Leviathan's feet...and there was a shimmer, encasing parts of Leviathan's lower body. The water in the sphere was slowing down.
Before Dauntless could rejoice that they had, perhaps, trapped Leviathan, it pulled itself free of the sphere, before whipping its tail though the air, catching Dauntless, throwing him through the air. The wind was driven from his lungs as he hit the ground, and he heard two other thumps, strangely distorted. He looked up in time to see the entire city collapse straight downward and the sky flash red-brown.
Dauntless was inside the sphere.
He got up, trying to move towards the edge. The sphere didn't seem to slow down time uniformly, and being too close to the center felt...odd. He saw two other people moving at close to normal speed, one of Empire Eighty-Eight's lesser capes and some armored axewoman he didn't recognize; beyond them, beyond this little bubble, the world was blurring from speed and dust, coming in faster than it could fall down. There was a tower, with some kind of glowing thing at the top that stayed stationary as the rest of the tower blurred, shifting, occasionally vanishing and regrowing. A city rose and fell in a fraction of a second, followed by smaller towns, none staying static long enough for Dauntless to make out any specific building. Stranger things appeared as well, flashes of color splashed across the scene too fast to be made out.
"What's going on?" asked the Empire cape. Dauntless just shrugged and stepped towards the edge. He felt the piece of ground they were on starting to fall, presumably held up by the part in the center. Or maybe some other effect of the bomb? Dauntless regularly worked with two tinkers, and he didn't pretend to think their technology made sense.
Was the outside slowing down? Just as Dauntless decided that yes, it was slowing a little, a building started climbing up towards them. Before Dauntless could think, the outside was a room, with a blurring crowd slowing down every second.
"Should we leave?" asked the mystery woman.
Time continued to slow outside before they walked out.
The room was mostly empty, with only half a dozen people, all somewhat dark-skinned—not as dark as black people, but definitely darker than white ones. And I have a white supremacist with me. This should be fun. Four looked like they might be some kind of priests, which unsettled Dauntless a bit. He'd experienced his share of hero worship, but never literally, and he wasn't sure he liked the idea. The other two were just kids, though kids wearing what looked like a cross between Reinassance Fair garb and something out of anime. One of them asked him a question in a language that sounded like...no language he'd ever heard, actually. It had a pattern and speed more like English than Spanish or Japanese or something, but aside from that it was alien.
"Um...do any of you understand Eng—the language I'm speaking?" His question was met with confused silence, save for sounds from outside. Fighting.
"Should we...go out?" the woman asked. She had a faint accent, maybe German or Scandinavian. Dauntless didn't know what to say, so he just nodded. The two of them left through the nearest door, leaving the villain behind. They found themselves on a balcony. Outside was chaos—a fight between what must be at least one team of case 53's and several teams of locals.
"I'm Dauntless. You probably know all about me."
"Jotun. Brute powers, some short-ranged cryokinesis. Both like making ice and controlling it."
"Mm. Not top-tier, but it's what we've got."
"Who do we fight?"
Dauntless looked at the crowd. It was night, but the battle was lit by two pyrokinetics, both standing in a lower window of the wooden tower they were in. Seems safe. Meanwhile, on the ground, a 53 with long limbs, yellow skin, and spines was shooting arcs of electricity about.
"The 53's, I think. I think they're the ones attacking."
"The...I don't know what you'd call them, the...inhuman ones."
"Ah." The woman—Jotun—leaped off the tower, landing in the middle of a few 53 Brute-looking capes, with a burst of ice holding them in place as she struck at their arms with her axe. Dauntless considered following, before deciding to take the more cautious route down. He entered the room and found that the Empire cape had left; after fruitlessly asking how to reach the battle, Dauntless just blundered through the tower, eventually finding himself at the ground floor.
Several of the 53's were already fleeing, like civilians running from an Endbringer. Jotun was strong, but surely not that strong? Maybe they think she's a god. That thought, again. There were still others, though, and Dauntless began to fight, using his arclance to strike out across the battlefield. Nonlethal when he could, lethal when he had to. With some of the enemies breaking at the mere sight of Dauntless and Jotun, and with some of the locals seeming inspired by their presence, the locals' victory was swift. Some of the priests urged the two fish-out-of-water back into the tower, along with several Case 53 captives.
They stopped back at the top of the tower, with Alabaster. The priests shooed the three of them into the middle of the room, onto the once time-frozen pavement where they had been trapped for a minute and an eon. The captives were restrained by bonds and by some of the local capes, one of whom projected some kind of goop from his hands to bind them in place. More townspeople crowded in, some carrying bloody weapons, others with rifles slung over their back. Once the room was filled, one of the priests, with more ornate robes than the others and what Dauntless supposed was some sort of modest crown, stood before the prisoners. He began speaking, saying something that sounded solemn, a long prayer or a short sermon. He ended with a gesture to the leftmost prisoner and what sounded like a question. Dauntless knew they wouldn't understand him, so he just shrugged noncommittally. The priests talked with each other for a moment, then one took an ornate knife and a step towards the first prisoner.
Any fool could guess what was going on. Dauntless cried out and stopped the priest. He looked at Dauntless with confusion before slipping out of his grasp and sheathing the knife. He asked a similar question, pointing to the next 53. When Dauntless failed to respond, the priest drew his knife, pointed to the potential sacrifice, and looked at Dauntless. He shook his head, praying to his own god that shaking one's head horizontally meant "no". Luckily, it seemed to; also luckily, the other two from the Earth he knew agreed. The process was repeated; at this point, another priest spoke up and made some broad gestures. After a brief game of mutual charades, Dauntless figured out that he was asking if he wanted all of them to go free. Dauntless nodded, and the one with the crown groaned. The foam-maker gestured, and the foam vanished. The crowd dispersed.
"What should we do now?" Jotun asked.
"We certainly can't stay here, with this bunch of savages," the Empire cape muttered.
"That's a bit harsh," Dauntless said.
"They were about to sacrifice several people to us. How is that not savage?"
"Or odd?" Jotun said. "I am, for one...uncertain about being their god."
"Do we know if there's anyone who doesn't worship us?" Dauntless asked.
The villain shrugged. "I've got an idea that can't hurt." There were still several people in the room—one of the priests, some other locals, a 53, and a couple of kids who stood aside from the others and stared. He went to the priest and pantomimed writing on his hand. The man in question hurried out, and returned with a pen and a pad of off-white and somewhat rough but lined paper. He quickly drew a cross, one of those simple fish you see on Bibles and such sometimes, and a sort of three-part loop that Dauntless was guessing had something to do with God. He showed the paper to the adults, but got nothing but confusion. The cape tore off the paper, crumpled it up, and threw it aside. "Alright, any ideas? I mean, there's the Mozzie star-and-moon, and the Star of David, but—"
The girl ran forward and grabbed the paper, and unfolded it. She called out to her friend and pointed to one of the symbols.
"You recognize that?" Jotun asked.
The girl glanced at her, before holding out her hand to the Empire cape. He handed her the pen, which she used to draw several more symbols, among them a few stars (one next to a crescent), a manger, a flattened heart with a line coming out of the top, a jawbone, and what might have been a spider. The rest were abstract.
Alabaster took the paper back and looked at it. "...Well, she probably doesn't worship us?"