May rolled to get behind a tree, then spun out of cover as bullets hit where she had been. She fired back at the attackers, then swept out the legs of one of them when they approached, punching him in the face when he tried to stab her with a knife. Nine people left to fight. If it wasn't for Melati, May would have had much more trouble. But the reptilian woman had lost any semblance of humanity. She was screaming in rage, her eyes blackened in fury. May raised her gun.
Then someone screamed. Not like the shouts of rage or pain that had been filling the air. This one was a screech.
May ducked behind a tree and poked her head out in the direction of the scream. Then she froze.
One of the soldiers was shooting in the direction of the swamp. And striding towards them, was the creature.
Eight feet tall, walked through the swamp with red eyes set firmly forward. There was something surreal about the sight of the creature in the daylight. The sun shone upon emerald arms as they swung back and forth. Its body was soaked in water and the swamps at its feet seemed to part in front of it. It didn't make a sound.
But when the soldier that was shooting it screamed, red eyes snapped to land on him. May's own eyes widened. And the creature shifted it's path. And suddenly, Melati was no longer the focus of attention.
The soldiers kept shooting at the green creature, attempting to destroy it. Bullets passed through it, spurts of green ejecting out it's back with every shot. It didn't care. Its eyes were on the soldier who'd screamed. The soldier who was slowly backing away, his eyes wide, his small red beard shaking as he quivered. The eight other soldiers weren't as frozen. Three ran to fight Melati, who snarled even as she had her stomach shot out. Two more stayed with the scared solder. The rest rushed the creature, switching their guns for melee weapons. May, not missing her chance, reloaded her stolen assault rifle in the meantime, ignoring the soldiers fighting the creature to aid Melati.
As the two men ran towards the creature, one of them yelled a battle cry, lifting a machete high. He sliced the creature's right arm off in a vicious attack, sending the limb bouncing onto the ground. The man let out a victorious cry.
The creature didn't spare a glance. It kept moving. The right arm it had lost sank into the swamp. And as they watched, it grew its arm back. At incredible speeds, branches, mud, and leaves flowed to reform its limb. The second attacker stabbed the creature in the chest. The creature took a long knife into its form, then swept out a still reforming right arm to send the second man flying. The first man roared, slicing and dicing at the creature. Then, as his actions were proven to be futile. His eyes widened. He let out a gasp. A flash of fear crossed his face. He reared back to attack again.
And the creature, in a smooth motion, reached out and grabbed the soldier's face. The man screamed, his machete stabbing the creature's stomach. Red eyes turned slowly, like spotlights landing on a nervous actor on a stage. Then, smoke rose from the man's face. And his scream became something horrid. His face began to melt under the creature's grip, he was lifted into the air to kick and scream in fear.
Everyone stopped fighting. May, Melati, the soldiers, all stared at the monster. And it's red eyes turned to look at them, as the man in his hands stopped moving.
"May, we've been delayed! What's going on in your end?" Coulson said then.
"Coulson," May said. "That thing is back."
"...May. It's drawn to fear."
May understood without anything else. She hid behind a tree and closed her eyes. Despite what some thought, May could feel fear. Fear was useful. It made sure to keep one alive, to warn of danger. But it had to be controlled. To keep it from paralyzing you. She usually kept that balance. A hint of fear to make sure she never lost what had kept her alive.
She forced that down now. After her encounter with the Berserker Staff when she had to push back a lifetime of rage fueled by ancient alien magic, she found it easier to control the petty emotions of a human being.
The others in the area weren't so lucky. Melati, at least, had calmed down from the rampaging anger that had enveloped her from the start. Instead, she was panting in the center of the clearing, crouched low, her claws held out. She looked like an animal. Her clothes had been ripped to shreds, blood dripping from her fingers, and breath coming out in great gasps that sounded almost like ragged roars.
The creature swiped out a hand, grabbing his other attacker around his right hand. The man screamed as his fist melted under the creatures' grip. The man tried to push the creature away with his other hand, only for the hand that met the monster's body to begin to burn. Bone started to show under the skin and flesh. May felt a flash of pity. Then she moved slightly out of cover and shot that man in the head.
The creature didn't flinch when the man who had been screaming in his grasp collapsed wordlessly. It simply let the man's corpse fall. And it focused it's red eyes on the soldiers.
But May and Melati were already getting to work. As the creature strode towards the soldiers, May shot a woman in the stomach, then the neck. The other soldiers turned to aim at her. Melati struck the three men who had gone to attack her. Leaping dozens of feet forward, she landed feet first on one man's back, then swiped her tail out at another, sending that soldier flying into a nearby tree. The last of the three shot Melati in the leg. She grabbed him and tossed him several feet into the air, where he smashed into a tree with a nasty thud.
Then the creature got to the last two soldiers. May raised her gun, but the monster was already reaching out. One of the soldiers screamed. His mouth was grabbed by the creature. Another soldier tried to run. She was snatched by the back of her neck.
May lowered her gun, staring as the two soldiers died more horribly than she had seen in a long time.
"...Is it… On our side?" Melati growled in the back of her throat.
"I don't think it has a side," May mumbled.
"Don't move!" The creature, Melati, and May looked at the trailer. A single soldier was coming out of the trailer. And he was holding Otto by the neck, a shotgun held to his back.
The older man was bleeding freely from his shoulder, already looking pale. He stared at them, before his eyes landed on the creature. His eyes widened. "Fascinating… absolutely fascinating."
"Shut the fuck up!" the soldier shouted. He released Otto's neck to slam a fist into the back of his head. Otto screamed in pain, and the soldier grabbed him again. "You're going to let me go, got it! You and your band of freaks! Or I'm killing the fatass!"
May clenched at her rifle, watching the man carefully. Melati growled.
The creature took a slow step forward.
"H-Hey, back the fuck off!" the soldier shouted, staring at the creature. "T-Tell this thing to back off or I'll kill this guy!"
"He's not on our side," May said softly. "It's not on anyone's side. And it's not going to listen to me."
The soldier stared at her. Then he turned to run.
May shot him in the back of the head.
"Dear God!" Otto fell to his knees, clutching at his shoulder. "Dear god! That was…"
They all noticed it at the same time. That the creature hadn't stopped moving. It stepped towards Otto. Red eyes glowed.
"Hey, get away from him!" Melati screamed, leaping towards the creature.
A green-leafed arm smacked her aside, sending her flying.
"Melati!" Otto cried out in horror. Then he stared at the creature. "May, what-"
"It's drawn to fear," May rushed up next to Otto, kneeling next to him as they watched the creature. "Coulson told me. That's why it attacked the soldiers. It kills people who are afraid of it! Dr. Octavius, you need to keep calm!"
Otto was breathing hard, his eyes wide. The creature reached out. "Fear, fear, I-I need," he swallowed. "The antithesis of fear is knowledge… How does it sense fear?" His voice was shaky. "It is made of some sort of plant-life, so it must have some way of interacting with its environment, of sensing fear using some sort of- oh god!"
The creature's hand reached out, fingers scraping along Otto's left hand. May pulled him up and back, physically pulling him into the trailer. "Come on, Doctor!"
Behind them, the blown-up doors of the trailer were snapped out, and the creature followed. The trailer shook as hundreds of pounds of monster strode in.
May pulled Otto through the lab, past the bodies of those he'd beaten. As she did, Otto continued to bleed. He spoke to himself.
"Logic Otto. Logic, come on," he shouted in pain when May sat him down in a chair in the conference room. She ran up to the front of the trailer and worked at the keypad. After some quick presses, the door opened, revealing the driver's area. She pressed a sidewall and a panel opened, revealing several small weapons. "Oh, well, that would have been nice to know about!" Otto screamed.
"We didn't have time to go over everything," May explained. She grabbed a flare gun and some rounds, then spun to face the door as Otto rolled to a stop next to her. "Will this work?"
"I don't believe so," Otto said, his voice shaky as he clutched at his bloody shoulder. His left hand had stopped smoking where the creature had touched him. "I need to calm myself… This creature, did Coulson have any explanation for it?"
"No," May said. Just then, the creature was standing in the door. She fired a flare round into its face. The fire burned in the creature's chest. It didn't seem to care. "Damn it," May fired another round, then ran back into the cabin.
"Anyone would assume that Ted Sallis and the super-soldier serum being poured into the swamp would have made this, this swamp thing," Otto said. For some reason, May thought that 'swamp thing' just sounded wrong as the creature's name. "But that makes no sense," he furrowed his brow at the creature. Slowly, he spoke. "Your form… I have seen Swampfire do similar things. But he is an alien. A being born from a completely different world. How could a human, a man… but it is possible," Otto stopped shaking. "The Hulk. Fantasma, Thor, Dial, Abomination. So many wonders in the modern world of man."
May came out of the trailer, carrying a grenade. Then she stopped.
The creature had stilled. It was staring at Otto.
"With so many monsters and wonders, I suppose that it is not natural for a scientist to claim anything is impossible," Otto whispered. Behind the creature, Melati rushed in. May hurriedly waved at the reptile woman to stop before she could leap at the monster. Melati did so. Otto kept speaking. "So. It is not a matter of, 'this is impossible'. It is a matter of, 'what are the rules'... What, my fascinating friend, are the rules that make you what you are?"
The creature stared a moment longer.
"...Is it broken?" Melati asked.
As though signaled by that, it walked forward. May watched, controlling herself, as the monster's hand reached out for Otto once more. It touched the back of his left hand, still smoking. And Otto let out a surprised gasp of relief as the creature's touch left a bubbling foam.
Then, slowly, it turned and began to walk out of the trailer.
"I…" Otto stared at it's back. "Agent May."
"Yeah?" May asked, exhaustion hitting her just then.
"I believe I'd like to get medical attention now," Otto whispered. Then he passed out.
And the monster walked off into the swamp.
Phil Coulson/Leader of Team SHIELD
"They're almost done!" Daltry shouted as the fighting continued. He fired his shotgun at one man, then caught a haymaker from a large woman on his right arm.
With a right cross worthy of the classic Westerns Coulson had seen in his youth, Daltry punched the woman in the face, knocking her flat on her back. A man tried to stab Daltry. The sheriff blocked the stab on his shotgun, then kicked the man in between the legs. His opponent's eyes crossed before Daltry laid him out with another hard punch.
"Anyone tell you that you look like Clint Eastwood when ya fight?" Coulson quipped, firing an ICER shot that brought someone else down.
"I've always been told I was pretty," Daltry said. Then he grinned. "But yeah."
A man landed on his back next to them. The man tried to scramble to his feet, only to get a boot to the face. Skye grinned at Daltry and Coulson. "You two are so cute."
All around them, the bodies of Nakamura's men lay. Some were dead. Most were knocked out, ICER's allowing them to drop the death toll significantly. Daltry looked around, panting. He had scrapes on his face, his jacket discarded. Coulson's suit was covered in dust and blood. Skye's armor had been similarly damaged despite it's enhanced durability.
Daltry, despite his exhaustion, still looked fierce and angry. "...Where's Danny?"
Skye frowned, looking around. Coulson did the same. Then he saw Danny.
The man was lying in the dirt behind one of the trucks. He'd been hit in the leg and was crawling away. A trail of blood was leading from where he'd originally fallen. He'd gotten pretty far.
Before he could say anything, Daltry saw the deputy as well. Growling, Daltry began to walk forward.
"Don't," Daltry snarled at Coulson. He kept striding forward. "This part… It's something I have to do."
Skye and Coulson shared a look. Neither said anything. Daltry was soon at Danny. The deputy, realizing he'd been caught, spun onto his back and tried to raise his gun at Daltry.
Daltry stomped down on his arm.
"Aaaaaagh!" Danny screamed.
"Enough," Daltry smirked. "Danny. I always liked you. But you know how I feel about chances… You get one," Danny snarled, trying to reach for his belt for another gun. In a lightning-fast move, Daltry's revolver was in his hand. A .44, a massive gun that shone in the light like a sword in the hand of a knight. The barrel was pointed at Danny's nose. He froze. "Danny. You've been stupid. Stupid enough to steal from the government. The branch of the government that deals with superheroes for fuck's sake. You were stupid enough to attack me, and their agents. You're already under arrest, Danny. Everything you say will be held against you in a court of law."
Daltry cocked back the hammer of his revolver. The gun seemed to vibrate. Danny's sweat was making his face shiny. "You tried to kill super-agents, Danny. You've been stupid for months…" The gun was massive. "Don't be stupid now."
Danny slowly laid back. Daltry looked up at Coulson. "If y'all have people to take care of things like this. Might be a good time to get them."
"Badass," Skye whispered nearby.
Coulson chuckled, then brought a hand to his ear. "May?"
"We're okay, Coulson. But we've got a hell of a story to tell you," she said softly.
next chapter is a small wrap-up, the Dial and Jen catch up. The next bit of the story is going to be Jen telling her own perspective on things while she and Dial talk to hang out in the tower.