The Battle of Grand Lake: Part 18

She fired anyway, but the burrito missed, hitting the hill in an explosion of chunky salsa that coated the area around the blast.

A spattering hit the two stuck to the hill above her and they screamed, trying to wipe it off their clothes.

A ladle sized splash hit the one leaping toward her as it was still in the air. His eyes widened and his faced tensed, but Kayla barely noticed.

Beams of white light hit the creature, causing it to tumble in the air. When its hand hit her, she expected to die, but it barely hurt at all. She’d heard stories where the bad wounds, the truly terminal wounds were surprisingly easy to take, but when she looked down at her chest where the hand hit, she didn’t see any blood.

She saw most of the creature’s forearm lying on the ground. The rest of the body lay nearby. It hadn’t been tumbling nearly as much as it had been tumbling apart.

Her stomach gave a long roll, and she looked away, noticing the darkness of the jet above her and that it was firing on the other side of the hill.

As she looked up toward the blasts of light, more aliens appeared, coming around the side of the hill where she’d trapped the alien that was still shouting for help—or possibly in warning.

They stopped and stared at the cheese threads that bound their colleague. One reached out and touched a thread despite whatever the other one was saying, and couldn’t pull his hand away.

Trying not to think about the pieces of alien on the ground, she set the gun back to green sauce, extra cheese, and beans. Then she fired, watching another burrito explode into orange cheese threads and green splotches.

Not all of the aliens were hit.

They had Haley’s reaction speed. Three dodged, and ran back around the hill. The other six were caught. They struggled, grunting, and one pulled free, threads of cheesy goo still hanging from his body, collecting dirt and leaves as he pushed between the others and the hill.

He gathered for a jump, but it didn’t go as he probably expected. As his back claws left the ground, a gray arm extended around the side of the hill, grabbing his front arm.

He flipped over in the air, landing on his back.

Kayla only had time to notice that the arm had to be more than six feet long, but that the body it was connected to still hadn’t come around the corner yet–except then Marcus did come around the corner, his other arm stretching forward to punch the invader.

The alien tried to flip itself over, pushing off with its legs, meeting Marcus’ punch in the air.

Marcus’ fist hit the creature in the stomach, and it grunted. Meanwhile Marcus’ hand and fingers became wider and longer as they oozed around the alien’s waist, suspending him upside down.

Almost more quickly than Kayla could see, the alien raked out with his unconstrained arm and his legs, barely touching Marcus’ arm with his legs.

His hand’s claws hit Marcus’ arm solidly, but didn’t pierce it. Marcus’ face tightened, but he still loosened his left hand from around the creature’s arm, and wrapped it around the alien’s face.

The alien struggled longer than Kayla would have expected, cutting deeply into Marcus’ arm, but not drawing blood. When the alien fell unconscious, he didn’t fall unconsious because of asphyxiation, but because Haley stuck her dewclaw into his neck.

Kayla didn’t know where she came from. Then she realized that all the aliens had fallen unconscious–though not always to the ground.

The cheese strands held them in the air, their heads lolling forward.

Over the comm, Chris announced, “And that’s all of them. They’re either dead or unconscious.”

“Finally,” Gerald Cannon muttered.

“I’m calling the police,” C said. “I’m sure they’re already on their way, but they should know what they’ll find. Good job, everybody.”

Marcus said something back, but Kayla missed it.

Haley walked up the hill, avoiding the the sticky cheese, and stopping next to Kayla. Blood dripped from a long cut on her right cheek, and from her left arm where something had ripped a hand sized chunk out of her costume.

Kayla stared. “You should see a doctor.”

“For my arm? It looks worse than it is. Really.”

“And your face.”

Haley frowned, and took off her right glove, and starting from where her black mask ended on her cheek, drew her hand downward, coming away with blood on her fingers.

She shook her head, and looked at her hand. “I knew one of them hit me in the face, but I didn’t know I was bleeding.”

She pulled a flashlight off her belt. “It’s just a scrape, right? I’ve been feeling around inside with my tongue, and I can’t find a hole.”

She took a tissue out of a canister on her belt, and wiped away some of the blood.

Kayla stepped closer. Haley had taken most of the blood off, but not all of it. All the same, Kayla couldn’t see any holes or worse, muscle or tendons.

“You look okay to me,” she said, stressing the me, “but I still think you should see a doctor.”

“I’m fine. I heal better than normal–not like Captain Commando. She’d already be better, but I should be fine by tomorrow, mostly.”

If she said anymore, she’d be arguing, so Kayla didn’t say anything.

“Besides,” Haley said, “let’s talk about you. You did great. You weren’t even supposed to be fighting, and you took a bunch of them by yourself. I’d hug you if I could do it without bleeding on your clothes.”

Marcus stepped toward them. He’d shifted back into a completely normal (if gray) human shape, his face and body covered in his green costume.

Kayla almost asked him where it had been, but suspected she’d be happier not knowing.

Marcus grinned at her, and said, “You were awesome. You got most of the ones that were escaping. Hey, you know what would be crazy? You could become ‘Yellow Burrito 2’. Think about it. It would be hilarious, but it worked, you know? That gun is amazing.”

“It was mostly the gun. And no, I’m not becoming Yellow Burrito–ever.” She looked down at the gun. She let go of the handles, letting it hang from its strap, stretching her hands after gripping it for so long.

“You fired it,” Marcus said. “The gun didn’t do that. Anyway, we’re done. All we’ve got left is to wait for the cops to show up with a Box, and we can leave. There aren’t too many living ones to pick up.”

He paused, shaking his head. “It got pretty awful for a while there, but that’s it. We can go home pretty soon.”

Haley sighed, and looked away. “You can. I should go join Gravity Star and Railgun. The last update I had said she might have to go to the hospital.”

Haley looked up. Kayla thought she looked worried.

“Could you call the Rocket? He’s a friend of Paladin, and maybe they can get him here somehow when their fight’s over. Is that okay with you? You don’t need me, right?”

Kayla said, “Yes,” and Haley left, disappearing around the corner into the hangar entrance, leaving Kayla standing with Marcus.

She pulled out her phone, wondering if the Rocket was still fighting, and if Haley could realistically hope for any help at all.

They probably needed every healer they could get in New York.

Marcus must have noticed her staring at her phone. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Kayla said, and pulled up Nick’s location at a dock on the Hudson River along with Sean, Travis, Vaughn, and Izzy. All their status colors showed up as green.

She called, and even though Nick didn’t know if Paladin could do it, it sounded like he could get Paladin’s father.

“The Rocket thinks he can help,” she told Marcus.

“See?” Marcus said. “This stuff always works out in the end.”

It took a while before the police cars came, and Kayla had to coat a few of the aliens with more cheese when they woke up and started to struggle.

Ten minutes into the wait, Cassie called. “Kayla, are you okay? I heard it got pretty crazy back home.”

Kayla held the phone to her head and watched the aliens. Only one was even trying to escape now. They stared back, sullenly.

Marcus whistled a tune Kayla didn’t recognize.

“I’m fine now,” Kayla said. “It was horrible, and I was in the middle of it.”

“You were fighting?” Cassie barely sounded like she believed it. “After the Cabal, you were saying never again.”

“I know,” Kayla said. “I meant it, and I was right. I never want to get in the middle of anything like this again.” Surprising herself as she said it, she added, “But I will if I have to.”

25 thoughts on “The Battle of Grand Lake: Part 18”

  1. Well, I’m still not done with the Kickstarter video, but I’m hoping to finish tomorrow.

    But enough of my failings… In other news, this is the end of the current story. Next up is an original League story, and after that we’re back to Nick.

    I’m still undecided as to which League story it will be:
    1) How the Rocket joined the Wold War 2 supersoldiers group that was a precursor to the League, or
    2) The story about the aftermath of fighting the Abominators, and how all the weapons ended up in the storage rooms..

    Since the second could be a bit of a spoiler in the long term, I’m more likely to do the first. Still, the second would be fun too–and it will definitely happen eventually. It’s just a question of timing.

    Oh… And feel free to vote for Legion on Top Web Fiction (as well as the other stories you like).

  2. Nice frantic fight scene. It’s fun to see the other side of Nick’s view of what the fight must have been about.

    I guess hanging from strands of cheese is better than strands of barbed wire…

    “He flipped over the air” missing an “in”?

    “And no, I’m not becoming Yellow Burrito ever” – would this read better with a comma before ‘ever’?

    1. One can only wonder what his thoughts would have been if he knew that the gender swap gun and Yellow Burrito’s equipment were playing major roles in the fight.

  3. “They Haley’s reaction speed” is missing at least one word.

    Lucky the Burrito Gun’s ingredients hadn’t gone off, those must be some serious preservatives.

  4. A spattering hit the two…, trying to wipe it on their clothes. Should be trying to wipe it off their clothes.

  5. @AVR
    Since they defy physics, I’m pretty sure they’re not actually foodstuffs. The Burrito Gun doesn’t shoot real burritos, just like Batman’s batarangs aren’t actually bats. Though I’m really curious what drugs he was on when he decided to make a burrito themed superhero, especially considering the region.

  6. I love the Burrito Gun!

    I’m not always enthusiastic about things reminiscent of the “Silly ’70’s” or “Golden Age… er… Goofiness”, but this was well handled and just… appropriate. Well done, Jim. It doesn’t hurt that the Gun itself is extremely effective.

    Definitely a Legion of Substitute Heroes-style weapon. Long Live the Subs!

    @Psycho Geko: Joking aside (if that’s possible with Gekocomments), I really rather like “Cornwolf” as a concept for a northern U.S. hero (Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin), and I thought “Ludafist” was wonderful (once I’d stopped groaning in agony and could think straight again).

    Perhaps a nasty caustic lye-attack for our Codfish Crusader, and slimy, gelatinous skin for slipping out of traps and holds? And as disadvantages, how about high sodium (the medical condition), and a rancid, fishy aroma?

  7. Wait, that’s it? That’s the end of the arc?

    …. I don’t think it works. This arc was all about Kayla and her experience with what it really means to involve herself with a superhero team. So where is the emotional conclusion? You cut things off right before we can get a clue about how Kayla will grow and change as a result of this experience.

    Will she bow out as Control? Decide to dedicate herself to this for real? Something else?

    There’s no payoff here. All we know is that she’s not going to become the Yellow Burrito.

    I guess maybe we’ll see the fall-out on Kayla from Nick’s perspective when it gets back to him, but right now this feels incomplete. I can’t help but think it needed one more chapter to finish off whatever this did to Kayla.

    1. Honestly, that’s something I wondered about myself. I wasn’t completely happy about where I ended it, but I also wasn’t completely happy with my options, most of which seemed anti-climactic.

      In the end, I decided to end here and take it up literally in the next chapter (Thursday) since the next chapter is a League story bookended with Nick.

      It will only work because it’s a serial and means that the short story has to be revised if it’s ever published alone. Fortunately, I’ve long ago made peace with the fact that I’ll need to revise everything here before it gets published.

      That said, there are subtle hints of where she goes next–possibly too subtle to actually work.

      1. I didn’t see how it was before as I’ve only just read the update, but I like the way it ends now. Nice work as ever Jim, keep it up!

  8. This was a fun arc, Jim!

    “It took a while before the police cars came, and Kayla had * coat a few of them with more cheese when they woke up and started to struggle.”

    Need a “to” between had & coat.

    Might consider a rewrite of this sentence – on first read I thought Kayla started shooting police cars with cheese.

  9. The extra bit you added on the end, wrapping-up Kayla, works well.

    Looking at the story, overall, I’d say it looks pretty close to professional publishing quality, already. Though, I guess you’d want to go over it, and think about pacing, and various structural elements, if it’s published in a different form.

    I continue to be impressed by your work.

  10. For amusement you might want to use the phrase “cheese-coat a few aliens” in the added final bit.

  11. Oh, Farmerbob, did you mish me? As much as they say cheddars never prosper, I’m having a gouda time as anyone else. I don’t understand why you want me to swiss gears. Is it because you’re home provolone? Bah, there’s no reason to be alfredo the dark.

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