Diversification 19.16

Striding away from Trickster's power reaching for me, I took in the battlefield.

The river that ran alongside Philadelphia, separating it from Camden, now had several large steel bridges crossing it, creating several paths into what was could only be described as a warzone. The end of each bridge was defended by gathered parahumans, held as ad-hoc beachheads, one group pulling back on one to funnel Striker clones onto the steel corridor to better handle them.

But that wouldn't be enough.

On the opposite side of the ruins of what had once been a city, an army had formed, and was continuing to form, thousands upon thousands of Dryads growing and creating a perimeter around the rest of the city, swarming the clones that sought to escape that way, with far more coordination and efficiency than the naked masses. A group of several dozen clones made a break for it, only for iron spears to shoot up, impaling them as the Dryads attacked, the constructs pulling the unoccupied spears out of the ground and using them as weapons.

But that wouldn't be enough.

Blasters flew high, constantly on the move lest they be wrenched from the skies as they rained death upon the masses. They darted back and forth, trying to weave between the attacks from below, and were mostly successful, though I saw a woman clipped by a flying bit of folded space, blood spurting, another Host flying in, grabbing her, and heading for safety. The flying Hosts were killing their twisted copies by the hundreds, a massacre the likes of which was unknown to America-Bet.

But that wouldn't be enough.

The bridges only held because the clones were only locally organized, small groups trying to take out the gathered heroes, instead of the masses working together. The Dryad Legions took horrendous losses against the Clones they fought, having no powers other than the ability to grow, control their own bodies, and 'call' for spears to be grown upwards, and it was obvious that Taylor didn't know what to do with the large numbers other than mobbing attackers, her handling of the spears, obviously something she'd just come up with, awkward as the girl herself didn't know how to use those weapons effectively. If the clones tried to escape en masse, they'd break through. The flying blasters were few, comparatively speaking, and most had single-target attacks, chipping away at the teeming hordes with an efficiency best described as cleaning a city's sewer system with a toothbrush.

It's not enough, I thought, reversing my hold on Unidirectional Telekinesis, throwing anything that came at me fast enough down instead of up, causing deflected attacks to be spiked into the hordes below me, instead of upwards. Acoustokinesis had been stressed, and needed time to repair itself, fed from the stream of energy I constantly generated. I could speed the process if I diverted more to it, but that'd drop my own capabilities, and that wasn't an option.

Opening my wings wide, I reached through them to manifest Absolute Territory, making sure not to use the beams like Legend did, in fast, straight lines, but the way his clone had, slower, but larger, stronger, and able to curve. Six silver beams stretched up and out, slowly turning around to hit targets across the city, twisting to almost skim the hordes, piercing through dozens before dissipating. Firing again, I held the use in place, designating targeting parameters and handing it off to my pseudo-Shard to control.

It was more, but it still wasn't enough.

Striding into the naked masses, I struck out with an oriclacum sword in one hand, extended mithral claws with my other, plasma wings firing sun darts, even as more AT beams streaked out every few seconds to kill more False Hosts. Those that tried to dart out of range were brought in with Mass Material Skating, dispatched, and thrown into the others as I dashed several dozen feet away in a burst of lightning, to do it all over again.

I killed, and killed, and killed, and it wasn't enough.

I needed more power.

Continuing to cut through the masses, moving almost on autopilot, I took a half step out, and considered the increasingly populated mass of stars in my personal constellation. I needed a Minor power, which would allow mass destruction, but which wouldn't backlash against me.

Unfortunately, I didn't know what well over half my powers did.

Minion creation powers were normally either limited in number, or required a setup time I didn't have. Dryad's ridiculousness was only because the power was a creation/manipulation power taking to an extreme degree. Personally empowering abilities would be useless, given how I was already carving through the normal flesh of the clones with ease, and the Brutes were taken out when hit by wings made of startstuff, or at least damaged and pushed away enough for me to move on.

As I fought, a dozen twisted versions of the same woman darted forward at me with blistering speed, clawed hands that shimmered a bloody red reaching out for my flesh, only for them to trigger my defenses, their naked bodies glowing silver faster than I could consciously use the power, and the women slammed down into the rubble with enough force to break their bodies, Aerokinesis nudging them to go flying past me as their wrecked, naked bodies, shattered limbs twisted unnaturally, flew past me as I took their power for my own, a dozen variations of Piercing Dash added to my constellation.

A Straight-line Mover power, with enhanced attack capabilities if attack is in the same direction, and all the variations are just different means of propulsion. Pass, I thought, Striding away before a Trickster could get a lock on me, starting the process anew. I took my time to See the attacks of the clones, which were Minor powers, though a few of the grouped uses I had taken had already crossed some invisible threshold into Major ones.

It was actually interesting, in a way that I would've been fascinated by in other circumstances. In this chaos, I was gaining insight into power formation, while, at the same time, more sure than ever that Echidna needed to die.

Slicing through an eight-foot tall naked African woman who could've disintegrated my flesh with a touch, but whose power was effectively reverse-Manton limited and thus useless on the sword that killed the False-Host, I caught her 'sister', who almost looked like a photo-negative of the first, with black eyes and teeth, but skin that was pale in a way that Caucasians weren't, with a mithral clawed hand around her throat. This False-host, whose power was actually Manton limited, tried to strike the limb holding her as dozens more False-Hosts died around me, and her hair caught fire from the heat of my wings as her skin blistered and burnt.

However, when her power tried to activate, it failed, the metal I projected considered part of my body by her power, and thus a null-target to her twisted Shard.

Closing my claws, I negligently beheaded the False-host, spotting a Trickster and closing on the naked Hispanic man, whose hands splayed out, a dozen fingers sprouted from each palm as he reached out for me. Before he could do anything, he was slammed in the shoulder with the side of my orichalcum sword, everything from the bellybutton up turned into red paste as I moved on, considering what I was Seeing.

Shards were like gems, which, yes, crystal, but it was more than that. Minor powers were just a single facet of the power. You could look through them and maybe get an idea of its core, but you were always going to be missing things, especially as they weren't flawlessly clear, but full of complex patterns of 'flaws' that defined what they actually did.

What would a flawless Shard look like? I wondered, dropping down on a naked Ballistic, the young man exploding under my feet, as the other two Ballistic clones turned, one dropping to the ground and striking it while the other punched, not me, but the air in front of me.

Oh, he's weaponizing the air, cute, I thought, the momentum imparted into the gas enough to scour flesh from bones twisted around my form, then enhanced, to kill the dozen or so clones behind me. The other Ballistic's power dropped into the ground, and then seemed to bounce, coming up to create an explosion beneath my feet, but I'd already dashed away as lightning before it went off, killing himself and the others that'd charged me in an eruption of Momentum-infused stone.

Lifting a hand, I grabbed the rising rock with Mineral Manipulation and dragged it down along with my limb, firing it into the masses swarming me, enhancing the stones with Unidirectional Telekinesis, turning them into a veritable artillery fusillade of kinetic death, the shockwaves diverted around me as I destroyed everything in several hundred feet, the recovering Acoustokinesis more than enough to dampen the shockwaves before they touched my skin.

. . . What was I doing? I wondered, as a Trickster from atop a pile of wreckage tried to reach out to me. The more I did this, the easier it was to track Powers. Striding over, I overshot, but a burst of living lightning got me close enough for me to run a wing through him, vaporing the False Host. Right, flawless Shards! I thought, with a snap of mental fingers.

Striding over, I dropped into another mass, as I considered the nature of that which granted powers. If a Shard were 'flawless' it'd be nearly useless, just a mass of concentrated power and little else. As a way of storing energy, it might be useful, and could possibly be something that the Entities themselves actually used, the ones that couldn't give entropy the middle finger like I could. However, if a Host tried to use it?

I grimaced, as I let out another set of Absolute Territory beams, tilting myself forward slightly to let them extend at a flat angle to better kill False Hosts, as a clone that had a Stranger power that rendered it unremarkable closed and tried to kill me. Cataloging the power for myself, Emotional Stability wiped its effects from me long enough to notice it, before its power affected me again.

I had to agree, that it was unremarkable, not out of place here at all.

And so it died to my powers, just like all the others.

No, the flaws in the Shards is what made them work, which is why, only looking through a single facet, you only got part of the Shard to work with. Which, admittedly, was probably for the best, as most Hosts would likely explode, go mad, or go mad then explode if given unfettered access to an entire Shard, given what havoc could be wrought with a Major 'Shard', which was not the Shard in its totality.

A minor power only got a part of the larger design, layering itself in an almost two-dimensional snapshot of a design which was at least three dimensional. Actually, thinking about it, was a more akin to a three-dimensional snapshot that then moved in six dimensions when used, while the Shard itself moved in fifteen. But, when I explained this later, it'd be best to keep this in Host-centric terms, as I'd noticed Taylor struggle to understand me when I tried to outline how all of this functioned.

I smiled at the memory, Lighting Dashing into an Echidna projection, slashing it apart to find the False Host creating the projection inside, like one of those kinder chocolate eggs, taking her power even as I ripped her chest apart, setting off the ambush as the 'hidden' clones erupted from the wreckage around me, their breathing having given them away.

As I impaled, cut, smashed, and burned, my thoughts were on the explanation of powers I'd tried with my second in command. The girl had understood the dimension of potentiality, as well as the concept of dimensional sidestepping to describe another of the dimensions that Shards existed in, or the dimensions of h̷̡͖̙̬ͧͧ͊̚͟o͒̑͂̍̈́̔҉̸̰̥͎̱̙̟̲̣ṱ̷̠̹͚̰̒̈́ͫ͗͛ and i̧͘n̛͡ as it was easier to express them as, but she didn't really understand them when explained straightforwardly, for some reason. I'd lost then completely lost her when I'd tried to describe b̴͜͟͝l̸̛ù̴̵̕͜é̴͢͞, which I was having a hard time putting into other words. I mean, it was kind of like quantum superpositioning, from what I could read on the subject, but the explanation just felt off for reasons I couldn't explain, and something moving b̴͜͟͝l̸̛ù̴̵̕͜é̴͢͞ was just so easy I wasn't sure why she was having trouble understanding it, which had led me to try to simplify things without losing too much in the process.

A pained cry brought me out of my thoughts, and I moved to see a Host under attack by others, but as I closed I Saw the power of Illusion Screen wrapped around the Host, who reached out as soon as I closed, wrapping me in a veil of power, obscuring the False Hosts positions around me by a few feet, as they attacked. if I relied on light alone, I would've missed my attacks, and been killed.

Thankfully, I Saw through it easily, killing the False Hosts, and the 'Host', who, as she died, flickered to reveal a naked woman with mirror-like scales on her skin. "O̵͕̝̽v̷̡̼͊̒e̵͚̖̒r̶̮̐͝ẘ̴̠͝a̶̗̍̀t̷̜̃͝c̴̱̬͌̍ḩ̸͑͠,̶̪̞̈ ̶͎̮͆n̸̥̳̍̍e̶̻͇͆w̵͍̓́ ̵̤̱͂F̴̩̖̉̊a̵̮̬̓̊l̵̪͎̈́̚š̸̥ë̷̤̯́ ̶̣͆̄Ĥ̴͖͚ò̵̼s̵̼̟̈́̈t̴̮̮̒.̴̗͋̍ ̵̞̀̑Ï̸̤l̸͓̊̋͜l̵̺̓ù̵̬̄s̴̠̖͛͂ì̷̠̀o̴̢̪͑ṇ̶̀͊s̸͑ͅ ̴̖̲̉t̴̢̼͑͗ö̶̹͎́̈́ ̶̟́̀m̴̼̆̌a̵̬͕̿̕k̵̗͛͝e̷̥̯̕ ̴̥̐͂i̵̟̻̿t̴̝̠̋̆s̴͇̩̅͛e̸̳̋̈́l̷̯̈́̇͜f̴̡͉͑̔ ̸̛̭̠̿l̴̛̥ò̷̥̦o̶̢͊͒͜k̸͇̃ ̶̱̔ļ̵͆̓î̷̺k̷̫̍ͅê̶̪̲̊ ̷͉̅̎o̶̩͗n̷͈͠e̵͖̬̍́ ̴͚̇͒ò̷̭͘f̶̱͖̕ ̷̬͝ó̵̹u̸̥͗͝r̶̜͘s̸͇̄,̸̊́͜ͅ ̶̝͋͐a̵̳͝n̷̦̈d̶̠̎̉ ̸͖̳́t̸̖̣͊h̵̘̩͛̕e̵̹͛̒ǹ̶̯̞͠ ̴̡̿͑i̶̜̕ḽ̴̥͌͛l̵̫̾u̵̥̼͂s̵̪͚̿i̶̬̰̓͒o̴̯͇̍n̵̫̯̏͋š̷͇͠ ̵̨̺͂̌ő̴̖̹n̸̦̿̔ ̵̳͇̂w̴͇͕͌ḩ̴̠̚o̸̤̹͆ḛ̷̙͂v̶̞͈̚é̴͈̪̄r̸̼͗́ ̴͔̪̇͌ḡ̷̥̀ȅ̷̜͝t̴̡̓s̵͚̥̆ ̶͎͆͊ċ̸̝͇̆l̸̫͋ͅo̸̰͖̒̌s̷̳̈́͛ę̷̔ͅ ̶͇̯͂̈t̶̼͓̆ö̶̤̱́̾ ̷͚͎́́l̶͓̖̎è̸̲̥̀t̸̖̏̃ ̵̬̱̈͐t̴̛͍h̵͍̫͝ẽ̴̜ḿ̸͇͎͘ ̵͓̻̀͌g̵̼̍e̷̥͛t̴̡͒ ̴͓͒͂k̷͕̈́͑ĩ̶̢͈̓l̴̙̽l̷̟̓e̸̼̐͗ͅd̴̺̦͆͝ ̴̝̲̓ô̸̬͗f̴̯̏̇f̴̙̰͐̋ ̸͖́e̶͉̚a̶̬̽s̷̳̅̔i̷̖͘l̵̛͉̕y̷̧̡̆͝.̸̠̐̒: I reported, toggling on my comms.

"What was that, Nephalim?" the man replied, puzzled.

I took a second, to focus. "Sorry if you're busy helping the others, Overwatch," I apologized, turning and hardening the air in front of a group of charging clones, firing a sun-dart into it to make it explode, and shaping the plasma-charged flames over them. "There's a new False Host. Illusions to make itself look like one of ours, and then illusions on whoever gets close to let them to get them killed off easily," I repeated. "Well, if they rely on their eyes to fight," I amended. "Lady Bug and others like her would be fine."

There was a slight pause, as I Strode to a new group, lashing out at another batch of clones, ripping the naked men, women, and, in some cases, children, apart as they snarled and screeched, trying to kill me with single-minded abandon. I grimaced, glad it was me doing this, and not someone else. I wouldn't want Taylor to have to go through this, and I knew she technically was, but there was a disconnect between bug and human senses that helped.

She wouldn't hear their screams, of anger and agony, the same way I was, wouldn't smell the stench of torn viscera, not feel the warmth of their blood and entrails as I had before I'd shifted my wings to starstuff.

"Updating the others now," Quinn informed me, again pausing before asking, "Are you alright? Do you need assistance?"

With how hot I was keeping things, I'd either need someone who was immune to heat, which wasn't a power anyone in the PD had, or I'd need to keep them in the safety-bubble around me at all times, which wasn't tenable. Stopping as I was to talk, and glancing around to make sure no Tricksters were trying to grab onto me, Dryads formed to join the fight as more False Hosts charged. However, the Dryads that were created even a dozen feet away instantly started to burn, the temperature likely in excess of four-hundred degrees, with the sun darts I'd been firing, and with how I'd been spreading my wings.

"No, I'm making the area around me kind of dangerous," I joked, though seeing the hundreds of torn bodies burn as well, skin blackening, muscles sizzling, and fat bubbling, the humor was more than a little hollow. "How's everything else going? Am I doing well here, or do you need me elsewhere?" I asked in turn, still pumping out beam after beam to decimate my surroundings, using the Insect Network to coordinate my shots.

I could feel Taylor in it, working furiously, and in response to my unspoken question, she started to direct my attention, guiding my AT shots herself, which let me offload the effort even more, taking a little of the stress off me, something I was equal parts guilty over and grateful for. I wasn't sure how she was doing this, managing everything, but she did have the benefit of controlling it all at a remove while I had to keep myself safe while I fought.

Again, there was a pause, and I moved to a new area, muting the incoming sounds to my comms as I let go with a silver pulse of Anarchic Structure Inducement, breaking up the ground and throwing the False Hosts, which had just started to turn and face me, about in all directions. Snapping my clawed fingers, I carried the sound outward, using it to take control over all the glass in the area, spinning it around like a giant blender, adding air blades into mix for maximum destructive potential. Those without Brute ratings were torn apart in seconds, emaciated, warped men, women, and children torn asunder as I stood in the center of a tornado of death.

Those that were tougher screamed in mindless fury, running, crawling, and flying towards me, only to be met with blade, wing, and claw once more, their efforts fruitless as I moved between their blades, hands, and claws, reading the nigh-mindless' attackers' intent through their Shards as if they were screaming them, their warped, copy-pasted personalities not natural, but impressed upon their copies of their abilities.

It was only when I dispatched the last, setting the tornado on fire for a few seconds to make sure, before letting it dissipate around me, that Quinn replied. "No, keep doing what you're doing Nephilim. The. . . the enemy has precognitives as well, and while our people are trying to counter them, your actions are turning things towards our side. Gauge and the others know to work around you, while I'm told the enemy keeps making larger plans, which your actions disrupt."

So more of the same, I thought, intellectually glad that I was helping. But emotionally?

"Will do, call me if you need me," I commanded, Striding away from the ash-filled crater I stood in, turning to survey the battlefield. Any locations as good as any other, as long as I make a splash, I figured, Seeing the battlefield, looking for. . . there.

A Stride took me close, and a burst of lightning brought me right next to my target, a tall, naked African woman moving with others, with a power I'd been examining before. This version's power wasn't Manton limited in either direction, but as she lunged for me, the others around her dying as they were ripped to pieces by metal tendrils or bored through with sun darts, it had other limitations. Throwing a metal tendril in her way, the False Host latched on to it, starting to disintegrate the limb, giving me a look at her power, and through it, another glance at the Shard it originated from.

Taking a mental snapshot, I lashed out with my blade, bisecting her as my attacks continued to lash out in every direction without my need to personally command them, but, as I did so, the disintegration slowly crept up the metal tendril I'd blocked her with.

Ah, it's infectious, I thought, reviewing what I'd spotted of the power. Nasty. But it was easy to sever that tendril, a feeling of physical tiredness accompanying it, but that was easily shrugged off. There were a few survivors amongst the False Hosts, but others could handle them, as I Strode up, found another version of the same woman, and came down to her.

Hers, actually, as there were two, and I realized I found myself near the front lines, on the other side of a horde of False Hosts, as True Hosts fought and killed them a few hundred feet away. I resisted the urge to use to use Stellar Creation, defaulting to metal tendrils and pure strength to carve a bloody swath towards my targets. The first of the two, a hunchbacked version of the same woman, slammed her hands down on the ground, the fighting happening on a mostly intact section of road.

From the False Host, a wave of disintegration spread out, heading right for the fighting True Hosts, the False Hosts caught in the way coming apart from the feet up as the effect spread.

That looks bad, I thought, leaping in front of the oncoming wave, which needed a continuous series of connections to spread, and lashed out with my sword, burning a shield as I cut asphalt and concrete as id it were air, creating a space to work through, while reaching under the road to the stone underneath, yanking and breaking it with my powers to lift it up. As I did so, air moved to fill the gaps, which I hardened and started to lift too, curling the street upwards even as my powers lashed out around me, killing the False Hosts that tried to take advantage. The road curled upwards, before disintegrating into ash, the power it carried spreading out into the air and diffusing, along with the remains of the street.

The False Host, breathing hard, the effort having drained her, moved to try it again, but a bit of telekinesis threw her up into the air, where I riddled her with sun darts, killing her. The other disintegrator ignored me, leaping for a woman in geometric spandex, who fired off a flying blade of twisted space, ripping off one arm of the False Host. Then the naked woman, this one with a greyish tint to her skin, seemed to disintegrate herself, a mass of ash and dust flying for the True Host.

Silver surrounded the Blaster, tossing her backwards towards her friends as I hardened the air in a wall in front of the Changer disintegrator, who tried to eat through the solidified gasses. She was doing so, slowly, before sliding down into the ground and starting to disappear, before I reached out, cupped the air around the feeling False Host, and pulled. The ash cloud was yanked back, and started to disperse before it snapped together into the False Host, whole and healthy. The naked woman turned, saw me, snarled, and started to transform again, but a shot from the front lines caught her in the head, killing her before she could resume incorporeality.

I looked, seeing Miss Militia with a fifty-caliber sniper rifle, her Weapon Projection Flames burning brightly. I nodded to the woman, turning my back on her, while hardening the air behind me as I did so, just in case. Looking at the next wave of False Hosts, I hardened the air in front of me as well, until it was a tight mass, pulling a fist back and sheathing it in silver plasma.

Slamming it forward, I detonated the ad-hoc bomb, Acoustokinesis massaging the blast and directing it forward in its entirety, clearing the field and giving the True Hosts some breathing room as I dismissed the flames, Striding forward once more.

I tried to See another who held the Disintegration Shard, as I built a mental model of it. Each was a Minor power, and each one had given me a look into the workings of the base Shard. Through those, I was starting to form a fairly cohesive idea of how it worked. Organic Disintegration, Inorganic Disintegration, Spreading Disintegration, Chain Disintegration, and Disintegration Form where all aspects, and I could feel them in my head, a tight constellation that almost seemed one.

Scanning, I looked and found. . . there. Dropping into her group, I found the woman in question had several dozen eyes spread out across her face, only the normal two open. However, as she turned, the other orbs were unveiled, and her power shot out at me faster than I could react, dozens of invisible beams roving over me. My metal tendrils crumbled to dust but my armor held, even as I killed her in an instant, her Atropos Gaze, which was really just eye-focused disintegration, added to the mix inside me as I lashed out, killing several dozen more naked clones as I weathered the tiredness losing the metal from Metal Projection incurred, looking inward.

With that extra power, the Ash & Dust Flames reached out at to other, connecting and pulling the stars together, the Shards in my other space twisting until they flowed like water, coming together to form a Major Shard, that held within it the way to render all that I touched into its component particles, but something about it was familiar.

Striding elsewhere, into yet more screaming, naked, and sickly-looking people. It was stupid, but part of me wanted to find a way to save them. Yes, they were Shard creations, but I'd been Seeing the Shards that formed the core of their being, and I knew, on a soul deep level, that if I had enough time, and enough skill, I could scrub Echidna's programming, give them the ability to choose, instead of. . . this. These beings that operated on nothing but kill or be killed.

But they were, in effect, Master victims, just like the Heartbroken, and the only thing I could do for them now was to kill what were, in effect, newborns, though they looked, for the most part, like fully grown men and women. The children, and I'd killed dozens of the same little girl in the last half an hour, were the worst part, as that meant that, somewhere, was a child trapped in an eternal nightmare by Echidna.

A child that I'd been unable to help, when she needed it the most.

And I kept having to kill twisted copies of her, by burning, cutting, crushing, impalement, decapitation, and so much more.

Did I make a mistake? I wondered. I'd chosen to save Dinah, rather than kill Echidna when I'd had the chance, and when I'd gone looking for the power-warped woman again, she'd disappeared, along with the rest of the Travelers. Did I trade Dinah's life for this girl's? For so many others?

I picked a group at random, and started killing once more, hesitating when I saw another copy of her, the naked child, maybe nine, screeching as this version of her summoned crystals that were fired at me, like Ice Projectile Projection functioned.

My defenses acted when I didn't, silvery telekinesis surrounding the shots and throwing them down, where they bloomed into crystalline flowers, which then exploded. Move, I thought, shifting to lightning and stopping behind the tiny girl, wanting to try and save her, but I knew I couldn't. Maybe if it was just her, I could hold her in place, weathering her attacks while I reached out and overrode her Shard, but, as other attacks came in from every direction, and I protected us both, an Air Prison solidifying around the small child and lifting her while holding her steady, the False Host unable to fire behind herself, I knew that wouldn't be the case.

No, all I could do was grant these False Hosts mercy.

Even as they did their best to rip me limb from limb.

A single spark set off the Air Prison, at least making this girl's death quick, and I turned, checking myself over.

Acoustokinesis was still recovering, but another half an hour of fighting and it'd be good to go again. Unidirectional Telekinesis was getting a workout, but as long as I didn't drop another building like a rectangular meteor, I could keep it going for hours. Aerokinesis was almost happy, getting a workout, and Absolute Territory was nice and stretched out, ready to do something different, so I mentally shifted AT from piercing to cutting, the beams flattening out, and considered the others.

Personal Force Fields, Emotional Stability, Lightning Blink, Area Teleportation, and Metal Projection were active and running, the last having extracted its price for losing so much mass to disintegration, the False Hosts gaze thankfully having left my sword alone, focused on taking me out. However, my Peak Condition had already replenished those reserves of endurance.

Physically I was fine, able to keep doing this for hours if need be. Mentally. . .

"Nephilim!" Quinn's voice sounded, full of urgency, catching my attention as I finished clearing out this pocket, the ones at the edge choosing to pelt me with ranged powers instead of getting into my kill zone, the beams I was firing only taking a few out as they streaked off where they could do more good than if I controlled them.

Striding up and away, I replied, "What's up?"

"Alexandria's been captured. Forty seconds until a wave of her clones emerge against bridge Delta!" he practically yelled. I turned to look at the six bridges, trying to figure out which one was- "Gauge is on-site!" the man added.

Ah, that helps, I thought, easily picking out the boy's Parchment Beige & Gunmetal Gray Waves, the power having developed to be something between Aura and Flames. Striding above him, the boy glanced up, saw me, and pointed off to the side, where a naked woman burst from the rubble, squatter and more musclebound than the True Host she was cloned form, but her Area Temporal Stasis was clear, the same Grey and Faded Black as the original, Flames instead of Aura.

From the tunnel she carved out of solid rock, dozens of other False Hosts, all with variations on the same power, came flying, running, and teleporting out, against the True Hosts who had no means of defending themselves against this group's esoteric powers.

With Temporal Protection, however, I did.

"I swear to god," I sighed, already flying towards the lead clone. "That woman never listens."