Perspectives: ReciprocApril 2009

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Re: Perspectives: ReciprocApril 2009

Postby AlwaysAPrice » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:08 am

AlwaysAPrice: Black Starbeam - Never a Weakness (pt 3)

((Not proofread but omfg finally finished. Inclusion in the end was based on who wrote theirs. Sorry for the wait, Beam. Also the vein thing was totally Bolty's idea.))

Around the mask's edges black fire flared from Grinder's skin, searing it into place, and his eyes took on a blood red glow behind the eye sockets. Grinder's arms lashed out to either side, and the mocking mutters and taunts of the Bone Daddies all silenced at once as churning shadow exploded out from his markings and swept across the ground before seething upward to envelop every one of them.

His body could barely contain the raw power his black magic siphoned from every Skull at the gathering. He screamed as his body reshaped itself with the returning wave of shadow, growing in height by over a foot with a horrible sound of tearing sinews and splintering bone. His muscles rippled spasmodically and strained against his skin, splitting it open in places as thick, blackened veins pulsated beneath his tattoos. His face contorted as he gasped in the agony of his transformation, but he did not scream. The sound he made instead was familiar -- a scratchy, rasping cackle nearly identical to the giggling that had pervaded Starbeam's mind in his confrontation with Hairline's amplified magic.

Black Starbeam lunged, rage overcoming the icy grasp of his shadowy bonds, leapt over the grave with the intent of driving his knees into Grinder's chest, but Grinder reacted with inhuman speed, lashing a clawed hand forward to smash into Beam's chest and drive the Reciprocator down into the dirt beside his brother's bones with the force of a freight train. Shadow swelled up out of the tears in Grinder's flesh and raced down his arm, forming seething black talons over his fingers that sank into Beam's chest. As fists rained down into his face, splintering his cheekbone and dislocating his jaw, darkness and giggling seethed in Black Starbeam's mind, but this time with such intensity that he could barely make out his own thoughts.

Grinder laughed in Beam's face, tongue thrashing over jagged, pointed teeth, breath wafting over his face, the stench of decay it carried only marginally filtered by the faceplate. Beam wrapped his arms around the one that held him down, trying to force it away or buckle the elbow, but it wouldn't budge: it was like wrestling a steel pole. Beam drew his legs up between them, braced his feet against Grinder, and glared up into the bloodshot eyes behind his father's eyesockets. The glow of his contacts immediately intensified and blasted forth, burning into Grinder's eyes -- that loosened his grasp, and Beam kicked up as hard as he could to buck Grinder off.

Grinder smashed into the dirt a few feet away and sprang immediately to his feet clutching his eyes, his laughter slowed but not extinguished by the pain. Starbeam got up, shoving his jaw back into place as his nanites rebuilt his battered face and knit closed the deep claw marks in his chest, though they did nothing for the lingering chill that permeated him. He told himself it was nothing new, just the Skull's usual trickery turned up to eleven, and tried to ignore the pervasive sensation to focus on the immediate threat.

Beam ran and leapt onto Grinder's back and tried to seize the mask, but as his fingers curled at its edges they went as cold and numb as if he'd dipped them in liquid nitrogen. Grinder snapped a hand up and grabbed him by the back of the head to whip him overhead and back down to the ground. Beam tried to go with the momentum of the throw and angle his shoulder towards the ground to roll with the impact, but Grinder's claw stayed snarled in his hair, not letting him out of his grasp with his vision impaired and jerking Beam's head back to force him to twist his landing into an awkward three-point stance. Grinder swung a knee wildly and it connected, smashing into Beam's still-shattered cheek and knocking loose one of his contact lenses.

Starbeam dropped to a knee with the sledgehammer-like impact, but rose again, bracing his feet into the rubble and debris beneath them. His vision felt skewed, the shine from the remaining lens distracting in his unprotected eye, but he could make out Grinder nevertheless and acted the instant he saw the monstrosity rearing its leg back for another knee strike. He burst forward low and fast, ignoring the wrenching in his scalp as Grinder's talon tore out a handful of his yellow spikes, and slammed his shoulder into Grinder's forward leg. The impact felt like he'd just thrown himself into a brick wall, only with none of the give. Still, the tackle was enough to throw off Grinder's balance and pitch him over Starbeam's back.

Marrow Grinder slammed into the rubble with a startled growl but soon lurched cackling back to his feet. Starbeam had already whirled to face him and was sizing up his next attack. Even as nanites knit his torn scalp and swarmed into his shoulder to repair the damage smashing into the leg had caused, Beam could feel the bitter chill of the death magics that seethed through Grinder's being seeping through his own system, a cold throb emanating from everywhere they had come in contact.

Worse, he was beginning to suspect the dark tingle was not just an after-effect of necromantic magic but a deliberate part of Marrow Grinder's arsenal. He didn't look down to check, but he could feel a warm trickle of blood still making its way down his torso from where the talons of shadow had torn into his chest. Not only did trying to injure him appear almost futile, every blow Grinder scored left Starbeam feeling cold and sluggish and let a little more of that maddening giggle into every corner of his mind.

Marrow Grinder's tongue lashed across his teeth as his laughter subsided and his voice came in a wet, thick rasp from deep in his corrupted throat. "You feel it, don't you, Vinccent? The power you have given me with your ssorrow, your rage over their sscattered, rotten bones."

The Black Starbeam glared at him, only one of his eyes blazing yellow. "I'm giving you something, all right." Clamping his teeth around the pegs in his mouth, he breathed in deeply, flooding his system with more of the faceplate's nanites, then launched himself up into the air at a sharp angle with a leap aided by a pulse from his repulsion field generator. Brute force wasn't working particularly well, but leverage could at least take the thing off its feet and give Starbeam more time for his nanites to do their work, to try to shake off the black chill in his system.

Grinder's maw spread into a grin as Starbeam soared up several feet above his head, and drew an arm back to strike, darkness spilling out of his broken skin and flowing to the end of his fingertips to form again the wispy, jagged talons. Beam came down at a more severe angle than he expected, however; Grinder took a step back in an attempt to reposition, but Beam's aim was not to land on him. Starbeam seized handfuls of Grinder's greasy mane and swung his knees into the thing's protruding spine as his fall completed, jerking back and using the momentum of his fall to double Grinder over backwards and whip him up, over, and down onto his head with a surprised snarl.

Beam rolled away from the thrashing, up-ended Marrow Grinder and sprang up to his feet. Grinder only had time to push partially up to all fours before Starbeam started raining stomps on his head and neck to try to keep him down while he reassessed the situation. It didn't particularly work, but it was pretty satisfying for a couple blows until Grinder surged angrily back to his feet and seized the ankle of the offending foot.

As Starbeam sailed through the air, whipped like a rag doll by the necromancer, he surveyed the ring of dazed Bone Daddies. As he smashed through the upper half of a flimsy particleboard wall jutting up out of the wreckage of the Bannitronics parking lot's attendant's shack, he triggered his flight device to counter his trajectory and smoothly slowed then rocketed back towards Marrow Grinder, who was up and charging to meet him.

Why the Bone Daddies? Beam's mind raced urgently around the question as the two collided again, the puzzle rattling around the few free spaces he had in his mind to consider it while the rest was devoted to trying to gain the upper hand over Grinder. Grinder swung like an animal, wild and wrathful, with so much force that even the sloppiest of his swipes crashed into Beam with bone-crushing force. For his part, Beam kept his wits about him and went reluctantly on the defense, focusing on dodging rather than deflecting or striking back, letting Grinder's own momentum carry him into awkward positions when Beam sidestepped to capitalize with quick strikes meant to impart additional force rather than wound on their own.

He had no doubt that Marrow Grinder had tapped into some enormous reservoir of death magic to power his transformation, and the fury that coursed through him hotter than the black chill of those magics could ever hope to cool told him that the ritual desecration of his family's remains must have been relevant to that -- but if it were the source of such limitless necromantic power as Grinder had claimed, why had he needed the dozens of Bone Daddies to draw upon?

Black Starbeam was distracted from the conundrum by the force with which he was driven facefirst into the crumbling asphalt of the parking lot. He pressed up quickly to try to get his feet back under him, but a bony knee slammed into his lumbar and drove him flat. Punches crashed down on the back of his skull like a hail of tombstones.

Amid the thudding impacts, Starbeam's thoughts began to cruelly crystallize. The sharp and sudden sound of bone cracking, splintering at the back of his skull became rhythmic over the steady wet grind of his nanites seething to repair the worsening damage to his cranium. In the depths of his mind, Marrow Grinder cackled ever madder as he drew Beam's head back by a handful of yellow spikes to rain huge, sweeping hooks across his bloody face. Beam's hands scrabbled over the asphalt, hooking deep into cracks and determining where one broken chunk began and another ended, desperate to find some edge that could balance the odds in this fight.

Right now, they felt heavily, heavily stacked against him.

With a gruesome wrenching of sinew and bone, as if every movement required Grinder's inner structure to fracture and reshape itself in its hideous new form, the monstrosity shambled to its feet and stood over Beam. Bitterly cold talons sank into his sides at the waist and hauled him off the ground. As he was lifted, Beam's fingers curled around the slab of asphalt beneath him, dug in deep to its thick sides until his fingernails started to peel back and his knuckles tore against the ground below, and he held tight with all his might so that as Marrow Grinder heaved him off the ground it came with him. Beam twisted in Grinder's grasp and whipped the slab overhead to bring it crashing down atop the other's head.

Marrow Grinder grunted loudly and dropped to one knee, losing his grasp on Starbeam, who dropped into the dirt exposed beneath the chunk of pavement he'd pulled free. Beam stalked backwards out of the hole and put space between him and the dazed necromantic behemoth, eyes scanning his surroundings for anything else that could be used against his enemy. The damage done to his fingers in ripping up the pavement was repairing, slower than he liked but fast enough to make them usable again in seconds. He heard frenzied scrabbling behind him and looked back to see Grinder loping back to his feet and charging at him.

Starbeam dove into a roll early enough for Grinder to correct his trajectory and turn to follow, and came to his feet next to a long-abandoned, half-buried Cadillac. For an instant he braced for an impact, then leapt up and back over the top of the car as Grinder closed and lunged. The roof of the rusted car buckled and crumbed under Beam's weight and the force with which Marrow Grinder barrelled into the side, and Beam followed up by punching down through the thin, corroded metal to grab the Skull's hair. Rising to his feet to brace himself on the less decayed portions of the vehicle's frame, he wrenched Grinder's head back and up through the roof as he struggled, wedged through the driver's side window he'd shattered with his face an instant before.

Beam dropped onto to his side, gripping greasy, tangled hair in both fists, and began to smash his knee repeatedly against Grinder's temple with all the force he could muster, trying to knock free the mask. Grinder howled and snarled, trying to slash at Starbeam but unable to swing with his usual wild abandon while his arms were pinned around him by the car door. He finally stopped trying and instead focused on pulling himself free of the wreck. Beam pounded against his head relentlessly, ignoring the pain and cold that shot through his kneecap with each impact, sure he saw the bone mask begin to tear away from the cauterized skin where it had seared into place.

There was a loud tearing of both metal and flesh, and Marrow Grinder threw Beam away and staggered from the ruined vehicle, the car door hanging awkwardly around his torso like some demented Freakshow sash until he lifted it off. Beam slammed into the dirt on the other side of the car and came to his feet staring at the handfuls of filthy hair in his grasp, huge clumps from which dangled strips of gray flesh dripping black blood. He threw them aside and broke into a run, leaping up onto then off of what remained of the Cadillac towards Marrow Grinder, only to be caught hard in the midsection by its door as Marrow Grinder whipped it like a discus to interrupt the incoming attack.

Beam crashed to the ground, spinning to land on his knees, and sprang up almost immediately, but it was enough time for Marrow Grinder to close the distance between them and seize him by the throat with both hands. Black talons of shadow, razor-sharp despite their insubstantial writhing, dug into his neck, and as Beam tried to lunge forward to kick Grinder away he was hauled clear off the ground and his foot fell without making contact. Grinder's grip was unforgiving and Beam felt his windpipe crush in the other's grasp. Blood surged up out of his mouth as he flailed, fists pounding at the steely elongated arms that held him just high enough that he could only brush Marrow Grinder with his kicks.

Beam clawed at the monster's arms as his vision began to narrow, nails raking over the cracked skin and grotesquely engorged black veins beneath. Blood seeped from behind his faceplate. Thick and salty in his mouth, it made the pegs that held the plate in place slippery, harder to keep in place. As if he knew, Marrow Grinder ripped the faceplate from his face and hurled it away into the grave of the other Bannisters with a cackle that echoed through every part of Starbeam's mind as much as it assaulted his ears. The nanites still in his system would repair the cellular damage, but deprived of oxygen his brain would be in a constant state of hypoxic decay, demanding constant repair that would deplete them at a vastly accelerated rate while the strangulation already impaired their circulation.

Beam growled angrily through his own blood and dug his fingertips into the broken flesh on Grinder's wrist in desperation, seizing around one of those pulsing veins in either arm and squeezing, grasping them. His growl grew into a strangled roar as he gripped and pulled and tore them loose. Icy black blood sprayed from their ragged ends, and Marrow Grinder let out a cry of shock and finally genuine pain, his hands flying open. Beam maintained his grasp as he fell to his knees on the ground and resisted the urge to cough up his own blood, forcing himself to swallow it to conserve the nanites. As he fell, over the rush of returned circulation pounding in his ears, Beam faintly heard a terrible tearing of flesh as the veins ripped out of Marrow Grinder's skin up to his shoulders.

As his most recent wounds and the damage to his throat began to repair, Black Starbeam wound the veins he still gripped around his hands and forced himself back to his feet, feeling almost rewarded by the stunned expression on Grinder's face. With a burst of speed Beam surged forward and dove into Grinder's midsection, snapping his arms around to heave the necromancer just off his feet, then slammed him spinefirst into the rubble beneath them.

Marrow Grinder came back to his senses and began to claw and punch at Starbeam, but Beam forced himself to ignore the barrage and lunged his hands upward to whip the thick, warped veins past Grinder's snarling maw and over his head, down and around his bulging neck. Rearing back, he pulled until they tightened, and as his ribs splintered under Grinder's torrent of clubbing blows he began to lunge into him, thrusting his knee between Grinder's legs, again and again.

Marrow Grinder's howl was throttled into a strained, raspy gurgle of rage as he finally stopped buffetting Beam with punches and instead dug his claws into Beam's pectorals and hurled him off. Beam refused to let go of the disgusting cords of flesh he had ripped from Grinder, however, and thudded to the ground beside him. Grinder staggered halfway to his feet, and Beam lunged onto his back, wrapping the veins around his neck a second time and hauling back.

Once again, Grinder whipped Starbeam over his shoulder and into the dirt, but this time instead of pressing his attack he reached up and with a distorted squeal of pain ripped the offending veins out of his own shoulders, and stumbled away cradling his groin with both hands, blackened blood coursing down his arms. Panting heavily, he thrust both his hands up and cast off another, darker wave of shadow from his body that ignored Starbeam when it passed and instead flowed out to all of the dazed Bone Daddies who had already contributed their strength at the start of the fight. As one, their flaming torches dropped to the ground at their feet, and the flames began to lap eagerly at their clothing and flicker up their bodies.

Starbeam grasped it now. They were not there to back Grinder up, or serve as his witnesses. He was obsessed with magical power siphoned from death. He'd already drawn substantially on their life forces, depleted as they were by their own sacrifices and commitment to Death, enough to make him nearly unstoppable, now he would take the rest that they had to offer to finish his task. The Black Starbeam tipped his head back and fired a single bolt of gleaming yellow light from his remaining contact into the sky.

Grinder turned around and began to stalk back towards him, the enormous bloody gashes in his arms knitting crudely shut as the hundred Bone Daddies who were surrendering their lives to him began to burn. Marrow Grinder's bloody eyes betrayed a grin of gleeful triumph, and a sneer twisted his gravelly voice into an even more unappealing pitch. "Impressive, Vincent. Unrelenting, even against undeniable defeat. Such defiance. Admit it, Black Starbeam. I have found your weakness."

Black Starbeam stood his ground as Marrow Grinder stalked back to him, letting his nanites fight to repair the damage through the ghastly chill that yet lingered. Grinder reached out with a taloned hand, his grin spreading wider only to abruptly freeze as two things tore his attention from his seemingly imminent victory.

Between the two bloody, battered men, a single snowflake windingly fluttered its way to the ground. In the distance, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" echoed through the ruins of Baumton.

Though his throat was still badly compressed, Black Starbeam forced the words through the pain. "Family's never a weakness, Vladimir."

Marrow Grinder snapped his head back to look up, and saw only blue-white light shining out of angry eyes before a burst of icy shards and freezing air rained down on him and forced him to look away.

"Save the idiots," growled Starbeam as he capitalized on the distraction, darting forward and whipping a roundhouse kick across the side of Grinder's head as the necromancer tried to scrape ice out of his eyes, sending him stumbling.

Yuki Frost gave Starbeam a grim and sympathetic look, but did as she was ordered, swooping high into the air and using her command of cold to set a storm of ice and wind whirling over the entire gathering of Skulls, extinguishing the spreading fires before the Bone Daddies could sacrifice themselves to their dark champion.

The cold had the additional effect of jolting them out of their dazed and siphoned reverie, and a chorus of angry shouts went up as they stumbled out of the blizzard and lunged into the rubble for anything they could find to join the fight.

Marrow Grinder snarled as he realized his ritual was broken, and lunged to cast thrashing coils of black sorcery from his fingertips towards the nearest group of Bone Daddies -- but the instant they took root in the hearts of his minions, the entire batch screamed out in agony as one as searing bolts of electricity crackled over their bodies until, twitching and spasming, they collapsed from the pain. Grinder's tendrils withdrew quickly, driven out by some conflicting magic, and he saw a red-haired woman whose entire body crackled with the same magical energy glare at him for only an instant before she disappeared in a blur of speed into the next nearest group of his servants.

Outraged, Grinder turned again on the Black Starbeam and swung his arm in an arcing swipe down towards Beam's head. Beam stood still, and Grinder was stunned to feel his arm guided away from Starbeam before he ever made contact, a strange resonance tingling through his arm where it was deflected. Past Starbeam, he saw another group of Bone Daddies being slammed to the ground by shimmering green waves of force that pulsed in tune with the rock pouring out of the battlesuit of an armored giantess. Beam drove his palm into Grinder's chin to snap his head back and followed up by stepping halfway past him to pound him in the kidney with both hands clasped into a single powerful club.

Marrow Grinder gasped, to Beam's satisfaction. It was starting to hurt. The siphon had been broken, and Grinder's power was fading. He tried to again to lunge out with his necromancy to other groups of his followers, to re-establish his bond to them and draw on their life force to finish Starbeam, but each time was interrupted.

Reaching for one band, he saw them decimated by the instantaneous arrival by teleportation of a hulking beast of white energy that knocked most of them out in its initial strike. As its massive arm grabbed the last of that group and thrust him to the ground, it knelt for a moment, and an Asian woman ran up its back and leapt off of its hulking shoulders before transforming in a flash of dark energy into an entirely different manner of being that swooped through the air hurling bolts of violet-black energy from its tentacles at more of Grinder's minions, rendering them unconscious and useless to him.

Marrow Grinder cried out in frustration and turned on Starbeam again, lashing out in raw, focused fury as he scanned the horizon for any of his men who remained, but Black Starbeam ignored even those blows that made it through Cyberette's shielding, and pressed on with his own attack, fists and feet smashing into Marrow Grinder from every angle as he began to visibly shrink, cut off from his magic.

Two large congregations of Skulls remained, but a whole swath of them simply cowered uselessly as a cloud of strangely shimmering dark matter enveloped them and assailed their senses with some horrifying sight as some indistinct white-haired figure looked on with a devilish smirk, hands dancing like a marionettist's .

The rest were occupied trying to stop a man in a bowler hat from laying them all out with an old shovel, and having no success as it rang again and again off their skulls between his politely worded recommendations that they re-evaluate the life choices that brought them to this crossroad in their lives.

As the last of the Bone Daddies collapsed, Vladimir Petrovic was also driven to the ground, no longer a hulking monstrosity but still showing all the signs of his hideously empowered form. The powerful necromantic magics he had tried to exploit had taken their toll on him in a likely irreversible way, leaving his skin torn and grey. With less and less of the contribution they provided as the sudden melee went on, he was nothing against the Black Starbeam's prowess and fury.

Crumpled, whimpering on his knees, Vladimir stared up at the broad, bloody man who towered over him with a pathetic, pleading look in his eyes. Only moments before, he had dwarfed him, thrown him around like a rag doll, but now Petrovic was nothing. Less than nothing, after whatever he had sacrificed to master the arts that nearly conquered the Skulls' most dogged foe. Beam reached for his face, and Petrovic cringed.

Beam pried the bone mask off with no further magical resistance, then backhanded Petrovic into unconsciousness, turning away before he hit the dirt.

A slight stagger lingered in his walk as he made his way back towards the pit where he had buried his father and brother. He could hear his team-mates murmuring questions about what had happened, but the one among them who knew the significance of this location, which he'd waited to reveal with his beacon to those he'd had Resistance send to Baumton for just that significance, Static Bolter, was deflecting them already. Tactfully as ever, she congratulated them for their excellent teamwork and encouraged everyone to return to the Citadel of Defiance to rest up.

Beam skidded slightly down the edge of the shallow pit as he pulled his tattered cape around to use it to wipe away the grime and blood left on the bone mask by its contactwith Petrovic, and sank to his knees between the disturbed skeletons. His faceplate stuck out of the dirt a few feet away, but he ignored it. More important things to do, he thought, as he carefully tucked the small plate of bone back into place on his father's skull.

A hesitant, jittering hand clasped his shoulder as the rest of the Reciprocators made their way back towards Steel Canyon. Black Starbeam covered it with his own and murmured, "Never."
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