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#1 Edited by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

Abigail stood on the border, approaching just outside what used to be Venezuela's Gate of Appeal, and waited for Ivana.

The bridge, reportedly destroyed when the country's leadership changed hands, remained in disrepair. "It looks like they haven't even begun to repair it," she thought aloud, the abandoned site conjuring feelings of pure isolation, loneliness. But even more off-putting than the still-gone bridge...Why was there no one guarding the area?

A sharp immaterial spike punctured her mind as she neared, forcing her to a halt. The icy resonance of death chilled her spine, causing her bones to shiver, a tremor which reverberated through her muscles and every facet of her being, physical and nonphysical alike. What she felt or how she felt it she couldn't ascertain, but, as pieces of her self clung together in haphazard adjustment to the environment, she became certain of one thing at least.

This area is toxic.

Outside, looking in...She never lost the sense that she still had work to do within the country. She could've gotten in anyway. Multiple contacts within the country, even believing her human, held a soft spot and loyalty for the work she put in "before anyone else gave a damn." She'd done it before; she could probably do it again, but it was always a risk. One which would've been superfluous and unnecessarily dangerous with their circumstances. For now, however, that border represented the Gates of Troy; she would enter and finish what she started, but only after extensive planning and gathering of resources could she hope to succeed.

For now, she fell back, daring not risk retaliation for her cover as an X-gene–free human being within the borders or discovery of the truth hidden her entire life. Unaware, still, that the Shogun had previously harboured suspicions.

The two had most recently met in a courtyard within Abby's own domain, and while an alliance came of it, to describe the relationship as turbulent would be less than a trivialisation. Something, or nothing at all, set off an anger reaction in the Shogun, and the new Raysh al Shaytan responded in turn. But even before then Abigail was plagued by feelings of ambivalence; an ill-suited curious sympathy mixed with a sense of revulsion at the "psychopathic bitch."

But after an unusually vivid, foreboding dream, she drafted a letter in the spirit of truce and sent it out. Location, date and time specified. There she showed, slightly early, and there she stood.

This is where it happened. This is where she stormed with her Orochi - with Alyssa - and took the country. "With a knife throw," they say.

Ridiculous. Some rumours get way too absurd, way too big way too fast.

However she did it, she didn't do it well enough to keep Alyssa from...

She caught herself and forced it to stop. No use getting riled up before they even came face to face. There would be enough of that after. And hopefully only in the immediate after...At least, until the time came to resume their regular relationship activities.

Abigail stood on the Venezuelan border, at the site of what used to be the Bridge of Appeal, and she waited for Ivana.

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#2 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

Once upon a time there had been a man named Andy Summers. He had been brave and strong and worn red and white and blue. He fought Amaranth on the fields of Somme and Amaranth blew his brains out.

Ivana thought about that during her ride from Caracas to the bridge. Once upon a time it had been Amaranth leading the mutant race. Now it was Ivana. Once a sword. Now a knife. Once upon a time Andferne had been the worlds most famous hero. Now it was Arquitenens. Once a shield. Now a bow.

There was a synchronicity to it. The leader of the mutant world and the worlds most famous hero. It seemed their destinies were intertwined. Destiny didn't care who you were. It cared what you were. There was a difference, Ivana thought.

Like Jungian archetypes what they were had been waiting for them for all eternity. The trickster. The wise old man. The hero. The messiah. When the stars were new and bright ideas had laid waiting, weapons of thought and form amid the void until dust became planets and apes became men and like miners chiseling gems from the stone they discovered ideas that had lain waiting for them a million, billion years.

Find us and become us.

Now we put them on and live their destinies. Take up the shield, and live the destiny of the shield. Take up the bow, and live the destiny of the bow. Take up the knife, and live the knife's destiny.

That's why she hates me. I took up the knife and all she can see is the knife. Like destiny, Abigail cares not who I am, but only what she am.

Maybe that's all destiny is. The way we see things.

The armored limo door slamming behind her snapped Ivana out of her reverie. Her thoughts focused on her immediate reality. Across the rubble of the bridge, destroyed in Homeland, stood Raysh Al Shaytan. Master and commander of the League of Shadows.

Even Ivana did not cross the League lightly. If she must, then cross them she would. But never lightly. They were a window into the outer world. A crack in the wall of international sanctions against the mutant nation.

She slipped the black fabric of her undersuit's mask over her face. Made of vibranium nano-fibers it guarded the mind and flesh and spirit against the esoteric. Magic. Internal telekinetics. Bloodbending. Psychics.

The vibranium plates of her armor would guard against the rest.

Here is where I threw the knife. She thought as she climbed down into the rubble. The psychic attack unleashed that day had been so powerful the fabric between universes had been damaged. Repair crews had been driven mad by something scratching on the doors of the mind.

Some doors should be left closed.

Ivana felt a sensation like water washing over her mind as she walked through the rubble. Psychic thermodynamics, they called it. Bleedoff of her suit guarding against the psychic screams that were burned into the Bridge's space-time.

She climbed the other side and stood face to face with Abigail.

"Well? Speak."

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#3 Posted by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

There.

A limousine. Huh. She's really embracing it, Abigail thought, half-amused, as the mutant leader stepped out. Before that very moment it would've been nearly impossible to imagine the dogmatically warrior-like terrorist engaging in what could be considered "celebrity."

It'd be endearing if she weren't such a goddamned nutter.

She met the Shogun but stopped a few metres short of her position. A distinctly familiar feeling washed over her - same as the last time. Ready to run or fight. But that time, her course was set in stone. She'd determined it soon after she awoke, before she even wrote the letter. Her mind echoed Alyssa's words from her dream.

"You'd better be ready to take your first life or die yourself."

She shuddered. Hopefully it wouldn't go that far. Hopefully she could preempt it. Hopefully her attempt - her admittedly daft idea - wouldn't get her killed.

But Ivana spoke. She just had to speak. Every time she did so it made being the bigger person so much harder. Abby's upper eyelid twitched once. Just shut your cakehole and listen to me for once.

"Yeah, that's what I came to do," she snapped sarcastically under her breath.

Duh.

Her fists tightened and released along with a deep inhale-exhale. The dream flashed again, reminding her of her promise to try and be understanding.

As calm as she could've been, Abigail sighed. "Look I don't know what exactly your problem is, how you got this way or how I set you off last time, but can we just...not? Do this, the 'tenuous truce' thing, I mean. I'd rather we stay enemies and know it than get a knife in my back because I decided to trust you with my life. So if we're going to break it off, it should be now." She paused to take a breath, but raised her hand as if to say "hear me out."

"But I still think together we could accomplish so much more. Between the two of us we could help so many people, mutant and non alike. Enemies...They could do so much less damage if we worked together, if we weren't so busy damaging each other. But it's all or nothing, the way I see it. We can't work effectively if we can't even trust one another."

She looked Ivana in the eyes, and for the first time that she could recall in her presence, Abby allowed her expression to show softness. "So...look, whatever it was, I'm sorry I upset you. I won't try and justify anything or drum up any feelings over the whole incident. Just...I didn't mean to.

"But...and forgive me if this bothers you, I just don't know how else to say it...you're not quite normal, are you? Interpersonal relations, they're not your thing. This life...it hasn't been kind. You've got a lot of pent-up anger and it's easy to set you off. I'd like to talk, civilly. But I don't know that we can do that if there's this...whatever, festering between us." She hated that she couldn't put it more eloquently, but the message was clear enough.

"So I thought, so I can maybe understand you better, we can try it both ways." She hoped she wouldn't come to regret her decisions but she'd already started, so she sighed and continued. Her hand fell behind her back. The nanite bow snapped to life, extending its rigid limbs primed to fire, and she brought it to bear. "We'll do it your way first. I invite you to vent mutual frustrations - a little light sparring, if you wish. This is the one opportunity before we start this partner thing; then it's off-limits. Get it all out til we're both satisfied and too done to go at each other's throats. I hope afterwards we can talk free of aggression, and hopefully we can come to an understanding even if not total agreement."

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#4 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

"The problem isn't me. Its you."

Ivana slipped her black helm over her head. It hissed as it sealed to her armor.

"You feel entitled to dictate how other people should be in relation to you. I should treat you like X, Y and Z and if I do not its is because I am angry or bad or had a bad childhood or whatever." A shrug of an armored shoulder, red cape fluttering in the warm breeze.

"I always reject that. Always. I am what I am and no one can tell me how to treat them. They do not have that right."

Behind the featureless black helm blue eyes watched the heroine draw her bow. A moment of silence stretched out as she said nothing. Behind them the southern sun glowed hot in the sky over a land of golden browns and vibrant green and the scent of hay mixed with chirping crickets and a distant highway.

"And this won't change anything. Everyone is trapped in who they are, you included."

She knelt, drawing the black hilted daggers from her boots. With a thought tachyons rushed through the specially designed blades. Long and double edged they glowed violet in the golden sunlight.

"This sparring shit sure is not 'my way'. It is yours. It is your idea to achieve your goals." Ivana stood, twirling her daggers in her armored fingers.

"So here is what is going to happen. I am going to beat the hell out of you and then things are going to be exactly the same." She walked forward, slow, casual steps.

"And Abigail.. you won't leave the way you arrived."

As the final word left her lips she sprang, body uncoiling like a striking serpent. Her right hand flashed upward, the back edge of her dagger carving a violet vertical arch through the humid air. The vibranium blade hummed.. as it sliced upward toward Abigail's left eye.

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#5 Posted by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

It was a mistake to trust Ivana. Her gut told her, as it often had, that these attempts at forgiveness and understanding were mistaken. That some individuals simply couldn't be touched by their redemptive qualities, not under normal circumstances. And, as she often had, she ignored it, choosing instead to place her faith in the potential good in people when extended measures of kindness. That gesture, she assumed, was to be the "special circumstance," the experientially different motion that said it's okay. No matter what's happened, it can be okay if you let it. And, as had always been the case, it seemed, when she went against her instincts she suffered.

How stupid was that? Putting your faith in a dream.

Her words were weapons, as damaging as any strike. Blindingly quick and lighting-strike precise was the Shogun. Stunned by her biting remarks, Abby was still processing them when Ivana struck out.

But she reacted, fast. Instincts honed over her entire heroic career dealing with metas moved her before even she realised what was happening. She'd only gotten better with the League. The premier hero of the world, she was as quick as a whip and more agile than a dancer.

She was almost fast enough.

A hair too slow, she retreated backwards. What came next...It happened so fast, and the results were so unbelievable, so unthinkably grim, that for several moments afterwards she wasn't sure what "it" was.

Indescribable pain in the left half of her face, a deep red stinging. Some force pushing her, unbalanced, from her feet. A high almost deadening shriek in a voice she vaguely recognised as her own.

Her back slammed to the ground and as instincts dictated, she stayed there, gripping at her flesh around the wound, her only move to lurch about where she lay. And while she continued to scream aloud, inside she was a torrent of measured loathing and panic.

Oh God. What just happened?

Am I okay? Is it...Can I still...Oh God, this isn't happening. Anything, but not this. This is the end of everything.

It's over.

I can't. I can't fight her like this. I can't fight her at all.

I can't shoot like this. I can't do anything like this. She'll kill me. If she doesn't, anyone could. I have to do something. But I can't do anything, not like this. God, why this, why now?

Why did I have to be so stupid?

Abby lay on the ground writhing, afraid to even look at her assailant for fear that it might provoke further punishment while she had yet to fully wrap her head around her grim situation. As she understood it, her career if not her life ended that very moment. How could she not cry? It'd been a point from the start that the heir to Raysh al Shaytan was, after all, very human.

That's it. The end. Gone was her ability to shoot, to fight, to help anyone. Even if she could find Charles, she couldn't fight him at anything less than a hundred percent. Along with her fate, her stupidity and Ivana's temperamentality had also sealed her mother's, and so many others.

Her mind was pure despair. But these thoughts stirring gave rise also to anger, a deep loathing for the creature that stood above her. Spat in the face of her compassion and snuffed her lovingkindness for no reason at all. If she was to die, Abigail Aensland would not do so crying helplessly on her back. And if she could help it, she would reciprocate, affecting the Shogun's life just as deeply as the terrorist queen had hers.

"Spare me the bullshit philosophy lesson, you bloody cow; this is all you," she growled through restrained sobs.

"It shouldn't surprise me that a dose of kindness would have a toxic effect on an emotion-deprived cretin like you. People like you are the reason we're not getting anywhere with mutants and humans." She glared up, the left side of her face almost completely covered in pouring blood, tears leaking from her eyes. Feeling along the ground she gripped the nanite bow and pushed herself to her feet, staggering into a shaky stability. Her remaining good eye showed a hazy image of the black-armoured warrior.

Blood loss. She didn't have much time.

"You feed on the conflict. The conflict gave you a country and subjects who'll blindly follow you thinking you'll make it better. But you're just a shithead who likes to be violent. There's no place for people like you in a better world, in a world of peace." As she spoke she nocked an arrow on the bowstring, wiped her right eye clear, and prepared as if to draw.

"Alright then. Let's finish what you started."

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#6 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

"You are right about that much."

The black armored warrior knelt and sheathed her unused dagger. She spoke without looking up, as if she and Abigail were old friends chatting at a picnic.

"A better world does not have a place for me. There's no place for revolutionaries after the revolution is over. The mutants of a future mutant world deserve peaceful leaders. Noble role models. They deserve heroes. People like you."

"But that is the future. Not the present."

She started to wipe the blood and fluids from her other dagger and then hesitated.

"And I am not the world. Getting rid of me will not change it. I am an agent of change Abigail. I change the world. I change it in ways you do not have the guts to change it."

The dagger slipped into its sheath, still stained with blood. Abigail's blood. And Abigail's DNA.

"You are an agent of stagnation. If there is anyone who wants to change things you jump in and stop them if you don't like their methods."

"You just talk about a better world Abigail. But you aren't willing to make a moral sacrifice. The universe does not give a shit about your morals. It is what it is. If you want to change it you have to play by its rules. You cannot demand it play by yours and wonder why things did not get any better."

"Deep down you know it too. So when you talk about a better world its just that. Talk."

She stood and waved a hand at the heroic archer. "So go on then. Get even. Shoot some arrows. Say some angry stuff. Get revenge."

Ivana crossed her arms over her chest. "I am waiting."

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#7 Posted by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

Just shoot it. Take the shot already. Shut her up! Abigail urged herself to attack, but...something wouldn't allow it. Something forced her to stand idly while listening to the beratement of everything that she was. Her glare shifted, all indignation and utter incredulity, and her body fought itself for control of its own inner state. She wrestled with her anger, ire urging her to action, and a defeating emptiness that kept her still. She'd been cut, belittled, and the shogun didn't even respect her enough to feel the slightest bit threatened.

She was almost sure it would've been better if Ivana flipped out and kicked her head in.

Abigail drew on the bow, aiming at the blurred figure; but her arms were shaking, unsteady. Either the tension and adrenaline were getting to her or she'd already lost too much blood. Damn.

She held her draw a few seconds longer, then her arms fell and she dropped to her knees. Her head hung and her gaze sunk to the sangre fluid pattering on the ground.

"You...self-righteous bitch." Her voice was a rasped whisper, pushed out between rushed, shallow breaths. She looked up at the apathetic black figure and started back up as if set by some trigger.

"You have no idea what I've done, what I am doing! I fight for humans and mutants! Everyone deserves a future. You try to instigate change, but not for the better, and what the hell do you know about morals!? You're a killer, that's all!"

She couldn't cut as deep with her words, she knew that. Perhaps her biggest fault was the very same thing that motivated her in the first place: love. Maybe it was that she wanted to like people a bit too much. Abby cared and she never dismissed people. It made her an easy target, she knew that too. But to call what their kind did a "moral sacrifice..."

"You're no better than Charlemagne, just two ends of extremism, and however bad you think he is, so are you. It's the ones like you who're blocking progress. You're what's keeping me. You...You do things likeDo you even realise what you've done, and for what!?" Her voice broke; she was practically shrieking as she motioned at her eye. Still trying to calm herself, she took deep breaths, slowly quieting the hyperventilations.

"But...it's stupid to expect you to care anyway," she said, more whispering to herself than anything.

The worst part? There was never any real reason for it, and no substance. No matter philosophical cause or differences. They'd supposedly struck an alliance. Abigail reached out to try and strengthen that alliance. Ivana flipped out over thoughts she figured the hero might have been having, and then, as if that or the person she made a personal attack on meant nothing, decided she'd had enough.

On and off, just like that.

Abigail sighed, deep and weary. "Maybe...there's still a chance for you. But right now I don't really give a damn."

As strong as her anger was – as much as she hated Ivana, some part of her recognised there may have been hope, but there and then she didn't really want to care. Even if attacking was a hopeless endeavour, she wouldn't allow herself to not even try. She stood and drew – quick as ever – and fired her acid arrow. She knew better than to shoot for anything other than centre mass as she was. Her aim, though no longer perfect, she hoped would be good enough just one more time.

She fired, and she charged. Just under the speed of sound, her arrow would hit or miss before she could so much as plant her foot; but with their close proximity the idea was that even if Ivana dodged the arrow (which was precisely anticipated) doing so would leave her vulnerable to the tackle–takedown, after which the seething archer would seek to pry off the helm and unload her anger on her "partner's" face.

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#8 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

Ivana had clawed her way to the top of the martial arts hierarchy through a ravenous hunger. Every day she awoke, stared into the sunrise and wondered how she could improve. She didn't want it; she needed it. The Shogun wasn't driven by logic or pragmatic desire to master her tools. She was driven by a deep emotional need, a bottomless pit of hunger to be the best.

It drove her across decades, like a lone wanderer on the wastelands desperately seeking enough food and water to live just one more day. Hidden temples, secret masters, forbidden techniques, foes vastly more powerful than herself and standing alone against many; it was never enough. It could never be. Though she now called herself the greatest warrior alive she still lived with a thirst that could never be quenched.

Now she stood, adorned in the vibranium panoply of war. A billion dollars of the tools of war wrapped around her body. Each pound debated by strategists, run through countless computer simulations and subjected to dozens of tests to ensure the weight to payoff ratio remained favorable.

Her body was refreshed, renewed by the Pool of Resurrection, Ivana's lifetime of injures washed away and her youth returned to her. Muscles driven beyond human limits by ancient Strigidae arts and honed to perfection by a team of coaches, doctors and mutant scientists in hard-light training simulations. The battle-worn and war-fatigued Ivana that Abigail had faced in Gothic City was simply gone. Her body had been replaced by a war machine of muscle and bone.

And the war machine's black gauntlet flickered out, quicker than the blink of an eye, to intercept Abigail's arrow-

-and missed.

It was a moment that Ivana would meditate on for years but she would never come to a satisfactory understanding of why she missed that exact arrow. Perhaps she didn't anticipate the speed of Abigail's arrow; after all her mutant power read the nervous system not the weapon itself. Perhaps it was simply luck. Or perhaps the new Raysh al Shaytan too had improved in the years since their last encounter, developing some trick or technique that allowed her to pierce the preternatural defenses of the greatest warrior alive.

The arrow struck home on her vibranium cuirass. Acid spewed across the matte black surface, sizzling and bubbling. Vibranium was a dense, durable metal but it was reactive with the acidic compound Abigail had deployed. A thick white smoke billowed off the black metal, swallowing the Shogun as she staggered backwards, coughing and waving her hand in front of her at the smoke.

Then the newly crowed leader of the League of Shadows darted in for a takedown, her every movement a precise flow of battle-honed efficiency. But Ivana had only been taken down once, by a grandmaster with a grappling specialty and thirty tons of raw strength.

No Caption Provided

The Strigidae Grandmaster saw Abigail's every movement in perfect high definition before it happened. Like a great black bird she sailed through the white smoke, acid still sizzling on her armor, into the same flying knee strike that had shattered Clutch's helm. The vibranium armor upon her knee drove in a point toward Abigail's temple, driven by the explosion of inhuman strength and concealed by the acid created fog. The strike was timed with machine-like precision to intercept the Raysh al Shaytan's skull as she changed levels, redoubling the power of the strike.

Yet Ivana did not believe for a heartbeat that Abigail would fall. The heroine had taken blows of tremendous power and remained standing; Ivana had thrown several of those blows herself. Like the boxer who could be knocked down but never out Abigail was, in Ivana's estimation, simply impossible to KO. It couldn't be done. She didn't waste her time hoping for what she knew wasn't so.

Instead, regardless of her blows success or failure, she landed, pivoted away and bit the release clamps inside her helm. Airtight seals hissed and she tossed the ruined vibranium cuirass aside. Her helm followed- splashing acid had ruined it as well. Snarling she pushed her vibranium weave hood off, standing unmasked in the smoke of millions of dollars of precision craftsmanship, ruined by a single arrow.

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#9 Edited by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

It was almost stunning to see the Shogun attempt a move like that and fail; it'd always been her impression that no matter how good one's skill in archery or marksmanship, the mutant leader was impossible to tag save for pure overwhelming force. But Abigail had neither the time nor the care to calculate exactly the implications of her attack. Reactant smoke told her its success and she looked to capitalise. She pressed and exploded with the haste and power of a Division I wrestler.

But as fast as she was – as much progress as years of training gave her toward her human peak, Ivana Strigidae was...simply not human. Whatever training she did, Ivana had been doing it for longer and likely almost all of it better. The difference was mentality. Abigail might never reach her peak fighting in anger or for the sake of it; love was her nature. But war was the life of the Strigidae from the day she entered the world. She was birthed and raised with the mind of a fighter, so even encumbered by the previous attack she somehow managed to be better, to use it to her advantage. However fast and explosive the takedown attempt, she matched and exceeded. Abby saw (just barely), but there was nothing she could do to react. One instant a knee was bulleting toward her skull; the next—

The world went black. All higher cognitive functioning shut off and Abigail ceased to be a thinking, conscious human being. Rattled by concussion—the second within weeks, this one far more severe—she barely felt anything on impact. Eyes glazed, her body fell–

–and rolled back to its feet. She never went limp or rigid or turtled up. It would've been a stretch to say she regained full consciousness so soon, but by muscle memory, pure will-driven focus, or simply by some small miracle, Arquitenens never stopped moving. She rolled and stumbled back a distance carried by some manner of survival instincts, growling almost animal-like through bared teeth.

Her glare was that of a woman possessed, and though rocked by the devastating blow her living eye fixed itself on Ivana discarding her steaming cuirass. Therein her fightmind sensed opportunity. Al Shaytan couldn't contend that she was as great a warrior as the Shogun; as a warrior, she might never in her life come close. But she didn't need to be. She had what she needed: an opportunity and the lessons cultivated through her time in Venezuela and beyond; an awakening that started at her first encounter with Charlemagne LeBeau – a killer instinct.

Taking advantage of the momentary blindness, the split-second lapse the action caused, she struck in the instant her rival pulled the hood over her eyes. Her aim may have been impaired but the rest was automatic. Perfect muscle memory. Her first ever memory. The same movement her body made thousands of times over, her craft mastered to such a degree that in total motion she could outshoot a Special Forces sharpshooter with her bow and arrow. She was divine, more than a goddess; she was Arjuna and Apollo and Artemis all in one. Her hands and arms were as lightning.

Reach-nock-draw-fire – explosive-tip arrow.

But whether it should or shouldn't detonate as intended in the Shogun's face, she loosed a series more designed to press her and lock her into a completely reactive phase, if not outright break her body.

Reach-nock-draw-fire – sonic (boom) arrow.

Reach-nock-draw-fire – rocket arrow.

Hornet's Nest.

Explosive-tip arrow.

Kinetic arrow—empowered by a hex sphere. Most kinetic arrows struck a target dead-on and imparted a few pounds to a number of tons of force directly into the target. Without the luxury of aim she was forced to rely on her seldom-used and little-known power. Embedded in the arrow, upon its close proximity the hex sphere would burst the arrowhead, discharging its fifteen tons of pure kinetic force in a wide cone arc, neutralising some of that force by concentration but perhaps still enough to do real damage.

With any luck the assault would send the bitch over the cliff where the bridge had been.

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#10 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

Tactical genius was made out of little things. The sun to ones back. Knowing when to take the higher ground and when to not. It was acquired slowly, over the course of much study and much experience. And it was demonstrated in little moments that no one noticed or remarked upon.

Raysh al-Shaytan had built it over her years of wondering the four corners of the earth and fighting those who stood against what she believed. And so though concussed she retained the presence of mind to wait to draw and fire until Ivana removed her cowl, and in doing so obscured her eyesight.

But Ivana had spend nine months blind and while blind she had fought a gauntlet of challengers who possessed great skill, power and technology. Tenjin. Aphasic. Clutch. Arsenal. Dragonfang. Shootout. Grandmaster Yen. Vex. Blindness forced her to hone her mutant abilities to a razors edge.

And so, pre-warned by her mutant powers, she tossed her body into a roll with the casual speed of the jaguar. Tucking into a crouch at the end of the roll, her red vibranium cape wrapped around her as the explosion shattered the peaceful still of the warm and human Venezuelan air.

Then the second arrow came and it was far more devastating. Without her helm Ivana had no protection against sonic attacks and her newly enhanced senses were vulnerable to them.

A smooth rise to a combat stance was interrupted by the sonic boom. Ivana doubled over, clamping her hands over her ears, face twisted into a rictus of agony.

The rocket arrow screamed through the blue sky toward her doubled-over form. Fast as lighting, as accurate as a laser, Abigail was relentless. Fully unleashed the power of her archery was frightening, as the unreal speed of the rocket arrow proved while it ripped through the air toward Ivana's doubled over body.

Her hand flashed out and the Shogun's fist caught the arrow. The force of the rocket almost tore the Grandmaster from her feet; only the reflexive activation of her adhesive boots saved her from tumbling head over heels.

Blood ran from her ears. She looked at Raysh al-Shaytan, face locked into an inhuman snarl. The rocket in her fist screamed and fire blazed from it. Ivana gritted her teeth and squeezed. Metal and polymer buckled in her fist. Sparks flew from the rocket arrow and it died. Crushed to death.

The hornets nest arrow flashed toward her. A backfist caught it mid air, sending it tumbling to harmlessly detonate a long distance from Ivana.

The Shogun ran straight for Abigail. Her legs worked like pistons, her feet hammered the dirt. The explosive arrow died, sliced in half by the tachyon infused blades that ran along the bottom of her forearms. Its pieces bounced from Ivana's shoulders as she charged, preternaturally quick.

A hand snapped through the sky to intercept the kinetic arrow, Ivana never breaking stride. But it had been hexed and exploded a foot away from the Strigidae.

She felt as if the hand of an invisible god had reached down from the heavens to swat her away. The ground and sky whirled around her. Her head hurt. Her arms hurt. Her shoulders hurt. Every bone in her body hurt. She couldn't breath. There was something broken in her lungs. Something bad.

She didn't care. Flipping mid-air she landed on her feet in the rubble of the bridge. She remembered what she heard and she-

-teleported. Appearing directly in front of the leader of the League of Assassins. An armored fist drove forward with inhuman force. She could break stone. Dent steel. And blood ran from her ears and she was filled with rage.

Her fist aimed toward the center of Abigail's chest, directly over her heart. For Ivana heard something. Something strange. Something abnormal in the al-Shaytan's heartbeat. And so she aimed a single strike of tremendous power for her heart.

It was called commotio cordis. Cardiac arrest induced by impact to the heart. Death.

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#11 Edited by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

Teleportation.

Ivana had showcased a plethora of abilities that left outsiders scratching their heads with regards to what exactly her mutant power was, and others likely aided by mysticism or technology, but whatever its origin, teleportation was entirely new. In that moment, everything shifted. Even were she at a hundred percent Abigail would hardly have seen it coming.

Then and there, she never stood a chance.

Through every arrow, she had been undaunted by Ivana's advance. It was nothing she hadn't come to expect in facing her. But this changed everything. In that instant, time shifted and the world seemed to move in slow motion.

Up close—and so suddenly—the Shogun was terrifying. Only in that moment, her attack closing in and Abby near powerless to do anything about it, did the hero notice the massive size difference between them. Ivana was Goliath; she was a giant who'd been rightfully feared, there and then seeking to add one more to her list of kills. Then wide-eyed and marginally sharper, Abby looked to the armoured fist. She knew both its target and intent. If she were someone else fighting her, knowing her own condition, it would've been the first thing she did. But Ivana couldn't have known about her heart...Could she?

Capitalising on her surprise, Strigidae was raw speed and power. Even as good as she'd gotten there was no way Abigail could move her body in time; not enough to evade the strike.

She made no attempt to. But though forced to accept the attack, by no means did she accept death idly.

In the instant before impact Al Shaytan turned her mind inward, applying every iota of her mental focus into her own power by mutation – seeking, then, to graze upon the abstract planes of probability and reality both. Her efforts were twofold and driven by as many motivations: survival and revenge.

Probability. Whatever her chances of surviving, be they 1 in 960,000 or a flat zero, she channelled her power to increase them as much as she possibly could. Nothing else. Just survival of the attack. Unpractised, it was all she could reasonably hope for.

Reality. She reached out with her neophytic hands and shaky grasp on the thing itself. Gripping, pulling, stretching. In her time as a hero these uses had always been motivated solely by survival, but in that moment what she wanted was to cause her opponent the same pain as she'd felt. To do so she attempted to work by force what she couldn't with her words before. She tried, then, to etch into the fabric of reality–

–a connection. A connection, as real as the air itself, between Raysh al-Shaytan and the Shogun of Venezuela—that in the same time as Abigail was struck, Ivana too would feel the force and effect of her own strike. And every pain inflicted upon each of their bodies would be shared between them for a period thereafter.

A thunderous blow struck. An audible crack! echoed between them and for a split second, Abigail felt her chest cave and her breath stop. The force threw her body into the air. She crashed into the ground and her body rolled along, tumbling over its head and shoulders until finally she skirted to a halt several metres from where she'd stood.

Abigail fell still, partially obscured by dirt in the air, and she did not move. The air ceased its stirring and fell completely silent, still as her limp body. Raysh al-Shaytan lay face-down in the dirt, her arms and legs splayed about without dignity.

Then she coughed – a sign of life, weak as it was. She strained to lift her head and looked down at the reddened dirt and her fresh-stained hair. With every breath – every cough – she hacked up a splash of blood. It hadn't yet stopped leaking from her face, which stung with both blood and dirt. It was filling her chest too, she could feel it. She could feel...everything. Her entire body was racked with crippling pain. Aching muscles lay still in rebellion despite her best efforts to try and move, arthritic knives stabbed at her every joint, and the long tumble did no good for her concussion.

Altogether mind-numbing, she wouldn't know if she'd succeeded in harming Ivana or not. Either way the archer knew she was at the end of the line. If the strike itself didn't kill her, the combination of internal and external bleeding would. If not that, she risked infection in the eye without treatment soon. Barring that, she likely still had an enemy to deal with.

That enemy made it clear she was out for blood. With Ivana's temper it might've been worse if Abigail had succeeded. As if it made a difference either way. She couldn't turn her back, and even if she could walk away she stood minimal chances of making it to safety before passing out due to the injuries and blood loss. Or bleeding to death. Or stumbling across an opportunistic rogue with an agenda. Or...anything.

"Pfeh...I don't suppose...it'd do to ask her for aid," she mumbled, the slightest bit spirited even in her brokenness. Or trying to be.

Faced with a seemingly endless series of catch-22s, she faced the most immediate directly in front of her. Straining with her entire body, she pushed herself up on shaky arms, hacked up another splash of blood, and she looked up.

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#12 Posted by The_Shogun (4803 posts) - - Show Bio

"F*ck."

Pain radiated out of her chest. Tendrils crawled up her jaw, squirmed down into her lower back and a sudden ache ran through the back of her neck and bottom of her skull. She felt nauseated. It felt as if someone was driving a spike into her chest.

It wasn't like anything Ivana had ever experienced before but she recognized the symptoms immediately. Somehow, some way, Abigail had given her a heart attack. Exactly what she had tried to inflict upon Abigail. This is no coincidence. And- She has attacked like this before This is her power. Her magic. Whatever.

The Shogun stumbled to one knee, black armored fingers clutching the dirt, red cape gleaming in the sun. Sweet beaded on her forehead and she could smell the scent of the soil and grass that surrounded them.

Why did I take the mask off? Stupid. Her vibranium microweave was designed to protect her from attacks of this nature but when she removed the mask she broke the seal.

The self-recrimination flashed through her head in a heartbeat and then was gone. Survival always came first. Its why she survived.

The Grandmaster dipped into Na-au, an ancient Strigidae technique that when mastered granted total control over the mind. Including the autonomic system, giving her perfect control over her body. She could control hormone levels, blood pressure, dilation of blood vessels and more with the same precision that one might adjust the settings on a computer.

And she did. Her body was flooded with beta blockers. Heart rate was dialed down. Blood vessels and arteries dilated to prevent a clot from forming. Anticoagulant protean were dumped into her blood stream.

For several long moments Ivana was lost to the world, trapped in a life or death struggle against her own body. But skill and will prevailed and she stood on shaky legs and looked over to Abigail.

Then she laughed. "If you were in condition to attack I would have been in much trouble."

Her voice trailed off as she looked back toward her nation and begin walking away. "I have no nitroglycerin but someone will come with tablets and take you to doctor." Then she-

-teleported with the crack of a sudden vacuum filling in the air where she once stood. She needed a doctor herself.

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#13 Edited by Arquitenens (11973 posts) - - Show Bio

"So...that's it?"

The battle-weary heroine held herself up, struggling with everything so that, if nothing else, the enemy wouldn't get to bask in her brokenness. And she held herself, unsteady like that, for a few moments afterwards.

"All that, a laugh, and then gone?"

She gritted her teeth, insecure in the knowledge that, if she'd desired Ivana likely could've finished her off; infuriated by her attitude and beliefs; and ultimately, beholden to her mercies in a way that was humiliating. There was a bright side, sure. That the Shogun didn't seem to want her dead just then, and maybe even wanted her alive...a blessing, of some kind, and an indication. There's still hope, she would remind herself. But, so much unresolved...

Under the circumstances...

A Venezuelan hospital? Most likely. Any other would've been dangerous for Abigail as well as whomever would retrieve her. The alternatives – Another (unreliable, suspect, shifty) hospital in the area; danger with risking the long travel anywhere else – left much to be desired as far as options went.

She coughed. More blood. Her head hung and she stared at her crimson vital fluid in the dirt. Like so much more strewn over the battlefield and staining the Shogun's blade. She stared, and after several moments her eyes went wide.

Shit!

Her blood, her DNA, and soon her entire body, at the complete mercy of the doctors and scientists of the Shogunate. Like that, again she had stirred the torrent of emotions within her. Abby gritted her teeth and bit down on her mettle, but by then tears were already a foregone conclusion.

Finally, under the strain of her injuries and the areal malignant psionic impedance, her body and mind gave out simultaneously. The last thing she recognised was the ground rushing toward her as her world faded to black.