From under him, he heard the sound of something large and heavy hitting the floor, probably the table. How much protection it would give, he had no idea. He could already hear the crackle of burning wood.
It was up to him. He wasn’t sure how well he’d do against Spitz’ heat after he turned back into a human, but as long as Spitz wasn’t radiating sunlight, he’d be fine.
Crossing the distance, he reformed off to Spitz’ right and a foot behind him.
The heat hit his body along with the accompanying pain. Though he wasn’t in full armor, his vulnerability to sunlight meant that he always wore something. It only took a word to cover every part of his skin. Even though he could still feel the heat and thought he might smell something beginning to burn, it wasn’t his skin.
Ignoring all of that, he said the true name of an entity he’d researched hundreds of years before. As the last syllable finished, a dagger appeared in his hand. Made of dark metal and stained with the blood of a dead god, summoning it would touch sensitive people across the world, but most would know better than to investigate.
He stabbed Spitz’ kidney.
Spitz moved forward as the heat from him burned Vladislav’s glove. Then Spitz turned his head to look backward at Vladislav, aiming his arm in his direction, gibbering as if he’d forgotten how to talk.
The glow around Spitz’ arm expanded as it fired a wide beam of heat in Vladislav’s direction, missing only because Colin hit Spitz from the side as if he was playing football.
Colin was in full costume, but Vladislav saw the upper layer blacken. Colin might still be up, but his protection wouldn’t last forever. Running toward Spitz with the dagger in hand, he reached around, stabbing at the man’s back again.
As he did, Spitz pulsed with another blast of white heat. Colin dropped to the ground as the heat broke through Vladislav’s armor. He could feel his skin crisping. Much more and his arm would burn into immobility.
He powered through the pain, aiming for the kidney again, the blade sinking into Spitz’ back even as a chair thrown by Ape Nasty hit Spitz in the front.
Whether Spitz’ growth had changed his internal organs or Ape Nasty’s chair knocked the blow off, Spitz didn’t go down in a combination of pain and internal bleeding. Of course, the pain was still there. A spiderweb of black veins extended under Spitz’ skin, pulsing as they pulled blood from his body. It would kill the man, but it would take more time than Vladislav had.
With Spitz distracted, Colin rolled away, showing he was still alive, but he began to stand, looking up at Spitz as if he intended to charge the man again.
Vladislav said three words, the ending line of a summoning spell. Scree would understand. It wasn’t the first time he’d used it. He’d just have to pay the rat more.
Spitz tried to pull away from the dagger, screaming as the web of black veins stayed within, pulling his skin.
At the same time, rats exploded out of the corners of the room, big and small, all of them with teeth bared. The sound of thousands of claws skittering across the floor combined with the thumps of rats that had appeared near the ceiling, and Spitz’ screams as the rats covered him and tore into his skin.
Spitz tried to burn the rats, turning hundreds into ash, but for every rat killed another would take its place. His blasts of white light became gradually weaker until his body went limp.
Within a minute after that, only bones were left.
Everyone in the group had survived. Morgan, Lindsay, and Ape Nasty came out from behind the flipped table— more charcoal than a table. Ape Nasty’s fur and the skin under it were burnt. Morgan’s light armor and skin on her gun hand had also been burned.
At first glance, Vladislav thought Lindsay had pulled her entire silver costume out of nowhere, but then he noted that she didn’t have her backpack or gas gun. Ah, he realized, an emergency backup costume then. He approved.
Lindsay tapped a spot on her belt and the costumed turned into gooey strings that the belt absorbed, “It’s not as good as my normal costume, but it’s good enough.”
In the background, Colin began to spray Morgan and Ape Nasty’s wounds with something in a canister from his belt, “We’ll have to get a doctor to look at you, but this will work for now.”
Hours later, they stood together in Vladislav’s office. Colin sat on the desk. Vladislav stood in front of him.
Letting out a breath, Colin said, “It looks like they bought all of it. We weren’t lying, but trying to frame Morgan shooting Spitz before he did anything as a heroic act? I didn’t think we were going to get away with that. You didn’t mess with their heads, did you?”
Vladislav shook his head, “They take precautions. Someone would have noticed.”
“Good. I’m glad you’re thinking that way. Because if they do, it’s not just you who suffers, it’s all of us. That was your original plan for Spitz, right?”
Nodding, Vladislav said, “Yes. And what was your plan for Spitz? Surely it wasn’t for Morgan to shoot him.”
Colin sighed, “We never even got to my plan. Back when I didn’t know how much of a hold they had on him, I planted bombs I confiscated from the Nine in his car. I planned to blow it up when no one was near it. When they studied the bombs, they’d have discovered that ‘the Nine’ had planted them. Spitz would have been reassigned or identified as one of the Nine’s agents. I didn’t want you linked to it.”
Vladislav laughed, “Are you sure you’re a superhero?”
Colin’s mouth twitched, “Most days, yes. Some days I wonder how thin the line between villains and heroes is.”