4-6

Exposure: 4-6

Impetus’ shell gleamed as the colours inverted within, his facial expressions distorted and every time it changed or he spoke, it seemed far too inhuman, almost mechanical;. He had his arms raised in a fighting stance, studying the surroundings. Spectre was still frozen in the corner, and Grandmaster lay on the floor. Only the movement of his back raising up and down as he breathed signaled him being alive. From this position, it was unclear whether Visionary was breathing or even alive, entirely without motion.

Anthony looked undaunted. The only damage that was sustained was on his clothes; tears, bullet holes, creases and folds brought about by failed attempts to stop the man. He was not lacking for breath, nor had he changed in his demeanour. He held an air of grace and poise about him, a politeness that belittled downing an agent and pushing another through a wall.

Verus had his shoulders stooped, and despite stating his feelings, showed no hostility. He didn’t even show any signs of aggression; as much as he may have said he was angry, he was tranquil amidst Impetus’ combat-ready attitude, and Anthony’s relaxed passiveness.

“Now, that’s quite a hostile tone to take. I assume you two are the remaining forces? I had expected you as well. I do still intend to leave, and I’m right to assume you don’t wish that to happen. Shall we get on with it, then?”

“Let the girl and the injured go, Anthony.” Impetus said, lowering his fists just enough for it to be noticeable. “They are not part of this fight now.”

“I suppose not.” Anthony said, turning his head to the right. He looked at Spectre and Grandmaster for a second, studying them intently. “She’s no threat at any rate, and neither are they anymore. But do you trust me to stand idly as my would-be captor, to simply allow you to remove them?”

Impetus looked around once again, from Visionary to Anthony, Grandmaster to Spectre. A moment was needed for him to assess the situation, and he took no time nor hesitation to respond.

“No.”

His shield began to lower, and the entire process took less than half a second. His fist hadn’t uncoated itself, and he cocked his arm back and threw a punch from one side of the room, and connected with Anthony on the other. With a thunderous boom, he launched his shield like a missile and the hit knocked Anthony off his feet, sending him flying into the far wall and shattering his window on impact.

There was no rest before the second attack, as he rushed across the room in an instant, pushing himself forward with barriers on his feet, and skidded on the wood floor until he was in front of Anthony. His right arm still across his body, the back of his arm coated in his shielding that started to grow. The backhand he hit Anthony with was being grown at the first moment he swung, as well as ejected from his body like a punch.

It sliced through the remaining window, and the metal that held the two windows in place, as well as throwing Anthony deeper into the wall than Visionary currently was.

“Spectre. Get Visionary, get out.”

Unlike before, Spectre got a sudden surge of confidence. She made a break and ran to Visionary, and started to try and pull her out of the hole in the wall. She wasn’t particularly tender, and needed to struggle to release her.

As Spectre caught Visionary in her arms, Verus was getting busy. The door next to him was the focus of his attention, and he took it by the edges and lifted it up. Unstrained, he ripped it clean off the hinges and held it in his hands to check the weight before turning to see Spectre. She was holding Visionary in both hands, a fireman’s carry. Her head was leaning back in her arms, and blood was clearly saturating her hair.

“She’s breathing, but…”

Anthony began to pull himself out of the wall, but Impetus brought his foot up and slammed it straight down into him the moment his head pulled out. The wall erupted, as Anthony was pushed through in an explosion of plaster and wood that rattled the nearby wall. Impetus urged himself forward and started to enter the hole he just made.

Spectre turned her attention away from the fight to continue talking with Verus.

“…we kept hitting him. Nothing hurts him. It’s not like you though. He still reacts to it.”

Verus took a second to understand before nodding. “Go, back door. We’ll cover you, okay?”

Spectre nodded. Verus took the door with him and used it as a shield, raising it and using it to cover Spectre. She ran through the house, away from the conflict to leave through the back. Once she was safely away, Verus turned his attention towards Impetus and Anthony.

Little had changed. Impetus struck Anthony once again, through the hallway and through the opposite wall. Each hit was titanic, causing the floor to tremble just slightly. Anthony had been knocked into the second living room in his house, and Verus couldn’t see what was going on.

Another moment later, and a large sofa was fired from where Anthony was, into Impetus. Thrown like a missile, it struck him and though he caught it with both hands he was still forced back, sliding through the hole again and halfway into the middle of the other living room.

“Some sort of telekinesis?”

As Verus mused, Impetus wanted retaliation. He condensed the barriers to his hands and fired the sofa back, shunting it back from whence it came with an escalation of force. He heard it strike Anthony, who had hit something else as a result, but he couldn’t determine anything else until he entered the fray himself. Verus walked between the holes where the action was, and instantly saw the sofa being launched from Anthony coming towards him.

Instinct took over and he raised the door to use it as a shield, but the sofa slammed through the middle. A gaping hole was left in the door that tore it into two pieces, where the sofa had penetrated it, and went straight through to hit Verus in the abdomen. It stopped on impact, unable to get him to budge for all the force behind it.

The door shielded his view from Anthony, who had moved into the hallway to join Verus. Just as the sofa began to succumb to gravity, he took it in both hands with open palms. He didn’t so much heft it up, as it was pushed into the air with unseen force, before it was brought down into his shoulder. The metal frame bent around him and wrapped to his body, and the leather ruptured to spray the front door with the fibre that was inside the cushions. Despite this, it hadn’t made Verus move, and the lack of reaction caused a response from Anthony.

“Interesting.”

“Yeah, really interesting.” Verus said back, before raising his right arm up. With one half of the door in his hand, he slapped it straight into Anthony’s face. It shattered and rained wooden splinters in every place that the fibre hadn’t managed to cover, even as he went to cover his face with his arm. Anthony let go of the sofa, violently thrust to the floor and stopping as he hit the wall next to the door.

Impetus began to rejoin and started to crawl through the hole in the wall, whilst Verus discarded the other half of the door and threw it to the ground. Anthony was scrambling to his feet when Verus took the sofa in both hands, and swung back in a mirror of how Anthony attacked him before.

Slightly more prepared, Anthony held out both arms. As the sofa came into contact with his bare skin, it was pushed upwards. The hit that Verus was about to strike slid off his open palms, and the couch was shot straight upwards. Verus registered the sound of the sofa exploding through the roof of the house before he saw it leave his hands, and was momentarily taken aback.

Undettered, Verus raised his palm and slapped downwards, not allowing Anthony to have a chance to react. Once again, Anthony was sent to the floor with the sound of a whip crack echoing through his house. Verus grabbed him by the cloth of his shirt’s shoulder and turned, hurling him from where he was lying, through the wall again. Impetus lowered his head to protect himself, but Anthony careened past him and slammed into the back wall, his body wedged in a spot furthest away from them.

Verus turned his head to Impetus, who stood upright and turned sideways to keep his eyes on both Anthony and Verus. “Brute force isn’t working. He’s tanking it.”

“We don’t know how his powers work. We understand him, we can beat him. Contain him in the building until then..”

Verus nodded, and Impetus started to walk through the hole in the wall. Anthony was already falling down, landing just in front of his fireplace. He made a slight dent in the floor beneath him, and let out a groan from the sudden changes of force; from being lodged, to a sudden stop as he fell to the floor. Beside him, the engine was still there, humming with power and previously forgotten.

Anthony turned his head to see it, and grabbed at the lose tie around his neck. He tore it in one pull, letting it hand in his hand, and Impetus was on him before he could do anything else. The barrier on his hand started to grow, the shell-like barrier expanding until his hand was larger than a riot shield, centered on his palm. Impetus curled his fingers and closed them together before he shoved it over Anthony, forcing him head first into the fireplace.

The barrier currently kept him in place, and as much as he struggled and shoved against it. Impetus dug the barrier until it crushed against the wall and the floor, and Anthony’s face was soon smothered against the roaring fire that was still lit, and though he was pushed into the flames they had yet to burn him.His hair started to singe but his flesh remained unmolested

“Give up, Anthony. We are not leaving until you surrender or are incapacitated, or worse.”

Anthony looked up at Impetus, his stare from behind the flickering embers was hard to see. After a second, of silence, the fire abruptly died. His hair no longer burned, but the smell of some of the waxed hair being melted to cinders was instantly noticeable; lingering in the air, clinging to the room.

“A pity, I’ll politely decline once more.”

With the torn tie in hand, Anthony began to weave it around one of his hands. Though in two pieces, he was able to tie enough of it to coat his knuckles. Verus walked inside just as he was finished, and approached to the side of Impetus. He watched as Anthony squeezed his knuckles around his tie, and commented.

“What’s he doing?”

His other hand touched the surface of the barrier keeping him in place, and then he pulled back his fist around the tie. He struck the barrier, the tie softening the impact on his hand but the barrier hadn’t suffered any damage. The shock wave from the blow caused the walls and floors to rattle, a shudder that made Impetus grow a sudden look of concern.

“On guard.”

Verus nodded, and moved over to the table that was in the middle of the room. Magazines and newspapers were littered along the glass surface, held aloft by metal bars and frames. With one sweep of his hand, Verus scattered the magazines away. He grabbed it in both hands and held it up, just as Anthony brought his fist back and struck again.

More than just the floors trembled this time. The entire house felt as if it rocked from the impact, a brutal blow that made Impetus almost lose his balance. As he moved and managed not to clench his hands, his barriers mimicked his every movement. It took seconds for the house to stop fully moving after the blow had been made, and there was the faint sound of tiles from the roof sliding down outside and shattering onto concrete.

The barrier holding him had fared no better. Cracks had begun to spread out and splinter from the point where his fist made contact. For once, even Impetus was surprised, but not before Anthony jabbed into the barrier once again, before the agents had chance to react.

The barrier shattered. Shards of kinetic energy erupted like a bullet hitting through a window. Impetus was flung backwards, propelled from the momentum being forced through his barrier into him, and if he hadn’t have activated his barrier around him when he went through the wall, he may not have even made a noise of discomfort when he tore through the middle of the stairs from where he was before.

Anthony raised up to his feet, but Verus was watching, and waited. He took the glass table and swung it into Anthony’s chest, pinning him against the wall. The legs of the table stuck into the walls like improvised nails, and the glass of the table shattered outwards. Verus moved a step closer and shoved his hands on the bars, warping the metal around Anthony’s body so that he was much firmly pinned in place. Anthony shoved his body against the bars in protest, as they dug and impressed into his body.

Verus turned his head to the side, then turned back to Anthony. “Look. This is going nowhere, and we’re wrecking your house. Can’t you just give up? Like, what’s it gonna take to get you to give in?”

Anthony turned to the side, watching as Impetus crawled through the hole he’d just made, bouncing onto the ground after pushing himself over a small pile of debris with his powers. “I think we’re far beyond that point.”

“Are we?” Verus responded with, eyes narrowing slightly. “I don’t think we are.”

“I admire your optimism.” Anthony said, calmly.

Anthony raised his head, hands already on the bars of the metal imprisoning him. The wall shook for an instant before the makeshift prison was shot out of the wall, with Anthony still clung to it. He sent it out in such an angle as to avoid Verus. Him and the cage collided with Impetus, knocked off his feet with Anthony careening into the wall. Impetus, sandwiched between a dented wall and a bend metal cage, couldn’t react quick enough. Verus turned around just as Athony pulled the remains of the table away a few inches, palms on the side so that when he rotated it so the table legs faced the wall, his hands weren’t going to be caught.

He launched the table into the wall, pinning Impetus and his barrier into the wall, just as he had done before to him. Anthony was quick and turned around with the wrapped fist raised, and Verus brought his hand up. Anthony struck right into Verus’ open hand, only for him to catch the punch. The house quaked again, bits of destroyed wall flaking off from the open wounds to the building. Verus stood, clenching his fist in his hand.

His grip tightened, and he retaliated with a punch of his own.

If he hadn’t have been holding onto Anthony’s hand, he wouldn’t have been standing in this room. As it was, Anthony was sent off his feet, held on by Verus as he almost defied gravity for the seconds he was struck, before landing on the floor on his knees. Previous hits from Anthony were a murmur at best compared to this; windows rattled and almost broke from the shock, and the sound of the punch echoed like a deep gunshot.

Anthony started to look up, and Verus lifted him to his feet and pulled him in by the arm. Anthony’s face came into contact with Verus as he headbutted him, sending him down again like a rag doll, steeled in place only by Verus’ grip. The windows that were weakened before had sprung, and the sound of glass exploding outwards rippled through the house amidst the thunderclap the impact made.

Verus frowned, and lifted up Anthony by his arm. In an arc, he was brought up, and brought down into the floor. The floor groaned, and the house buckled once more. Anthony was imprinted into the ground, his face obscured by the wooden flooring up to his ears. The rest of his body was similarly implanted down, and Verus watched for a moment. He checked his arm, a lifeless organ that limped as he shook it, and let it go. Anthony stopped moving.

Verus took a deep breath, and shook his head. “That was getting dangerous.”

He turned to Impetus, who was still impaled on the wall. He was at least calm and appeared uninjured by his barrier’s protection. Though he was unmoving, he was watching intently, feet dangling just off the ground by a few inches.

“You hanging fine there?” Verus said, in a mock tone. He turned his body to face Impetus, who also broke character to smirk for just an instant. It was one that Verus at least saw, and lightened his spirits.

“Very hilarious, Verus.” Impetus said. “But an excellent job-”

The floor behind them erupted, spraying Verus and Impetus in a geyser of rubble and debris.

Anthony was on his feet after shunting himself up, his hand raised. He was already touching the arch in his back, and this was when Verus noticed and began to turn around. Verus only managed to see him for just an instant; dirt, grit and wood chippings covered his face and shoulders, his shirt dirtied beyond all hope of cleaning. He only just heard what Anthony said, still as calm as before, his hand touching the armour covering Verus’ back.

“Goodbye, Verus.”

Verus was moved so fast that neither Impetus nor Anthony could see him move. All they heard and felt was the sonic boom in his wake, and the sound of the front wall of Anthony’s house exploding from the exit wound caused by Verus being launched out like a bullet. The shock wave was enough to cause feint cracks to appear in Impetus’ barrier, and as he rose his head, he witnessed the devastation that had been laid out.

Anthony lowered his hand slowly, flexing his grip. His head turned to Impetus, who was at a total loss for words.

“He’ll live. I’m sure.” Anthony said. “But he may have been able to actually stop me. You, on the other hand, are easier to deal with.”

Impetus’ mouth opened for a second, and his barrier dropped. He raised it again on his chest and only that, and began to expand it outwards. Metal creaked and strained, and lightly shook until Impetus’ efforts forced the barrier out of the wall. He launched the barrier forward, and the corner of the metal frame clipped Anthony’s shoulder. It pushed him back momentarily, Impetus landing on his feet, barrier flickering back over him once more.

Anthony rolled his shoulder, and Impetus brought his arm back. The barrier faded and covered his hand next, expanding outwards as he projected it off into Anthony’s chest. As much as it staggered him, all it did was blow off some of the dirt that had accumulated on his clothes.

“Valiant. That I’ll give you. But I’m through with this.”

Impetus charged him, and Anthony didn’t even bother trying to dodge. The punch landed firmly on his chest, the barrier being expended to throw Anthony off his feet. This blow was much more powerful, more desperate than the others. Anthony flew into the point on the opposite wall where ceiling and wall met, and took out a huge chunk in the process. He landed down moments lander, onto his knees. Impetus came walking over to continue the attack, but Anthony had his hand with the tie wrapped around it raised.

The walls began to quake, gently at first and growing in intensity. Impetus stopped to try to understand what was going on, and didn’t realise until the metal frame of the table had struck him in the back and sent him face first beside the hole that Anthony had made when Verus was beating on him.

The frame deflected into the air, but was drawn to Anthony’s bound hand, drawn by an invisible link. Anthony used the scant seconds he had and grabbed the nearly wrecked, bent frame with two hands; two of the long edges of metal had been severed already and snapped, leaving him with a right angled edge to work with. He grabbed the corner, feeling the welded edges in his bare fingers and held it up to his eyes, and the air around it began to distort and shimmer.

Impetus rose to his feet as he watched the metal underneath Anthony’s fingertips change in colour, from dull grey to orange an eventually white. The frame started to shake, and Anthony gripped the smaller end with his other hand, and tore the frame in half. Long, strings of molten, superheated steel dripped down from where it had been melted, hitting the floor with a scorching hiss and small smoke plumes wafting turbulently from Anthony’s hands.

“You-”

Anthony didn’t let Impetus speak. The smaller bit of metal in his hand shot out, crunching into Impetus’ shoulder. The metal hit with such velocity that it just about managed to crack through his shield, hot end impaled and pushed into the armour of his shoulder. The searing hiss, followed by Impetus reeling in pain and staggering back almost until he was off his feet, was enough for Anthony to know he’d hit his mark.

He rushed over and grabbed the bar, still lanced through the armour, and swung Impetus around and up. The bar was still in his hand as Impetus was flung through the hole he had thrown Anthony into, and broke through onto the second floor. Only small shards of his barrier seemed to return back, though the sound of the barrier breaking was quite clear.

Anthony watched, and looked at the smaller bar in his hand. He discarded it to the floor, and instead of directly following the same route, he elected to go out through the door that he was almost next to, and at a brisk pace started to climb up the stairs. As he reached the top, he went to one of the doors on the right and put his finger on the door handle. The door itself turned open, and flung outwards hard enough to impale the door handle on the other side into the wall.

Impetus had landed into a bedroom of sorts, a more lavish room that had shades of beige and tanned brown, at least what parts weren’t covered in rubble or pieces of broken wall. Impetus had crashed through and landed onto the side of a double bed, and bounced off until he was a few feet away from the door. The room was spacious enough, almost as much as the living room that they had previously been in. Impetus had skidded far to get to the door, most of the force had been used up when he hit the bed at a diagonal angle.

Luckily for Impetus, he managed to bring his barrier before Anthony swung upwards with the broken metal pole in hand, and launched him into a chest of drawers that was on the wall next to the bed. Wood cracked and splintered, and Impetus lodged into it before he fell to the floor. Wooden shelves and clothes pour down on top of him, most of which sliding off the barrier still holding up.

“I suppose this is-”

Anthony found the end of a battering ram slamming him straight in his face, and the recoil pushed him into the wall behind him. Grandmaster, who had mustered himself awake, could barely hold onto the force that such a blow exerted back on him, and his arm swung back with just as much force. He curled around and landed on the floor, letting out a deeply pained groan whilst clutching his chest.

Impetus was managing to get to his feet, a fist pushed into the ground to force himself up to his feet. The sudden commotion caught his attention, and he managed to exclaim something as Grandmaster similarly tried to force himself up.

“Grandmaster, you need to get out of here!”

“Fight’s… not over yet.” He was faring much worse, and barely managed to get himself to one knee. He had to use the battering ram to steady himself, and couldn’t muster himself any further at this point. Anthony was already pulling himself out of the wall, rolling the metal pipe in his hand like a cane. He turned to see Grandmaster, and studied him whilst he spoke.

“Admirable. You have tenacity. But this fight is over for you.”

“Like hell it is-”

A second wind gave Grandmaster the strength to start to rise up, but Anthony moved the pole to his chest and pushed it against his sternum. With a prod, the pole shunted him backwards. All the strength he had left was knocked out of him, thrown backwards into a roll that threw him out of the room, landing on his back at the top of the stairs. Anthony watched him leave, and pulled the door out of the wall. With an open hand, the door slammed shut, and he turned to Impetus.

Impetus was on his feet, in a similar stance as before Arms raised, poised and ready to fight despite all that had occurred. He’d renewed his barrier, coating himself with an inverse gleam, but he was breathing heavier. His right arm, where the metal had struck before, was slightly lower than it was before, and his expression was one of a man who was holding in some pain and exhaustion. Whilst he was aggressive previously, he seemed extremely cautious, more-so than he had ever been before.

“You still fight.” Anthony said, equally impressed as he was irritated. It begun to show on him, from his sighs under his breath to the slight slump of his shoulders.

“Always.” Impetus replied. No hesitation, just a response.

“So be it. But now, I must escalate. I have to leave. And I’m going to make sure you’re out before I do.”

“And where will you go if you do? You’re wanted now. The world will know.”

Anthony took a second to consider this, and the pole in his hand was let go. He dropped it, and it made a loud clanging sound as it bounced on the floor several times before grinding to a stop. He walked over with a determined gait, a fast pace. Impetus took a step back, but Anthony was on him. He raised his hands to defend himself, but Impetus grabbed him by the wrist. His eyes flared wide open, freezing in place. Words failed him as they were locked in that moment, and his fist slowly began to tremble and unclench.

Impetus’ other hand began to drop down again against his will, with a growing expression of horror on his face. A look of surprise, disgust and terror washed over him, sickening him to his stomach.

“My… my barrier- You’re- I know what you are now.” Impetus stammered out his words.

“Do tell. Humour me.”

“You’re… energy. You manipulate it. You can control it.”

Anthony stopped, and a small smile crept on his face. “And what makes you believe that?”

“The metal. I knew it wasn’t- wasn’t normal.”

“Ah.” Anthony said. “Yes, I suppose that’s a good giveaway. It’s all energy, Impetus.” Anthony raised his finger and slowly flicked at Impetus’ forehead, bouncing off the barrier with a distinct clink. “All of it is energy. Your barrier. Kinetic energy, isn’t it?”

Impetus tried to move, despite his body refusing to do so. He barely jerked whilst Anthony held onto him.

“You’re linked to this barrier. You control it, but it controls you. Like a shell, like a suit of armour. You push the armour, the person inside moves with it.”

“Absorbing- kinetic… You absorb kinetic energy. Every punch, every hit-”

“-fed me. I needed enough to launch Verus away. He was the only real problem to encounter. But, this is enough exposition, and I’m done holding back. This shell protects you for only so long, doesn’t it?”

Anthony put his other hand on Impetus’ head, and once that was in place he moved the other one, still maintaining control over the kinetic energy. His fingertips strummed along the dome, Impetus looking up to watch on in horror. Anthony waited just long enough before he started to look around him. The air began to distort and wave, as heat began to suddenly grow inside the room around them. At first, only the air began to show signs, but several seconds later and the air inside the room was all warped. The heat grew stronger still, and the clothes and dried plaster littered about the room began to ignite. The carpet and walls in the room darkened slowly, turning brown and black. Fires began to materialise, consuming the bed and the carpet, the walls containing the fire before the lick of flames and extreme heat began to eat away at it like it were nothing but paper.

“If your friend is so determined to fight, if he opens the door, you can watch him incinerate.”

More closer to Impetus, was the faint sound of crackling. Cracks began to bloom from underneath Anthony’s fingers, slowly at first, but starting to streak like lightning against the surface of his barrier. He could feel it began to weaken, as Anthony was siphoning the energy into his fingertips. Applying just the slightest pressure, letting it slowly degrade. Impetus began to slowly breathe in, masked away from the noxious fumes that were consuming the room around them. Anthony began to hold his breath, barely speaking a word as the flames lashed against him, a gap around him where they seemed to fade away, protecting himself from the worst of it by absorbing the heat near him.

Amongst the roaring inferno around them, it was the lightest noise that made Impetus fear the most; the sound of his barrier slowly being broken, bit by bit, the creeping noise spreading from the top of his head down to his ears.

He took one last breath, before holding it in and closing his eyes.

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