Chapter 39: Swallowed Pride

Tommy was lost. Very lost.

He knew it was his own fault. If he had been patient enough to ask for directions, this wouldn’t have happened. But no. He was determined to find his own way. And now he was god-knew where, holding a small stuffed bear in one hand and completely disoriented.

Then he heard the roaring.

It was a horrible sound, completely unlike any animal Tommy had ever heard. Another scream, this one high, shrill, and human, followed after. The sound made him flinch. What in God’s name was that?!

Another roar came a short time later, this one more pained and annoyed. Something shattered in the distance. Whatever that was, it wasn’t happy.

Words appeared on his visor. ‘Sound Identified. Ragno, Adult. 500 Yards East.’ Tommy gaped, reading it over and over again. That couldn’t be right. How could a Ragno of all things be inside the city?!

Think later! A clear voice broke through his building panic. Go now!

Tommy bolted, following the sound of roaring and stones being crushed. He could hear his E-Suit work, the ecstatic buzz of power rushing through him with every step. He felt as though he would be able to wrestle with the monster. Why did he need all these weapons when he had strength like this?!

Still feeling euphoric, Tommy burst around a corner, arriving at a large stretch of warehouses. There was the Ragno, massive and bloodied in one shoulder. It was charging at… wait, was that Anna?

He didn’t stop to think. He slammed a fist against his left arm, activating the weapons within. The sphere-like pauldron opened, the front and back plates of armor sliding to the side.

All he had to do to aim was look. His visor followed his gaze and directed the weapons. The suit did the rest.

Then the missiles launched.

Despite his E-Suit’s best efforts, the recoil of the blast still threw his shoulder back. He would have whistled, had he not had to clench his teeth against the force pressing against him. He had asked for something big. But that? That was a excessive!

He grinned. It was perfect!

Anna curled up around something small and absorbed the shock of the ensuing explosion. She rolled towards him like a bowling ball. He reached down and caught her in one hand. When she looked up at him, he imagined her either glaring or rolling her eyes. Maybe both.

“You are a magnet for trouble, aren’t you?”

She didn’t respond. Instead, she pressed her bundle into his arms and stumbled back to her feet. Tommy looked down, examining whatever it was that she had-

A little girl shivered violently against her chest. Tommy’s eyes grew wide. Is this- no way! “You found her?” He asked. “How?”

Anna didn’t get the chance to respond. The Ragno roared, all of its hands patting out the fire dancing on its fur and pulling shrapnel from its flesh. Once that was done, it charged at them yet again.

Tommy gaped. He had unloaded every explosive stored in his left shoulder into that monster. And here it was. Still screaming.

This is going to be hard.

Anna didn’t flinch. She dashed forward, pulling the rifle from her back. The Ragno raised its arms and swung down with blinding speed. Tommy shot up to help, but froze. He couldn’t leave a little girl here unprotected. But if he didn’t do something, then Anna-

She dropped, sliding across the ground through the monster’s legs. The air shattered as its fists crashed into the stone and Anna unloaded four shots into its underside. Silvery blood poured down like a waterfall.

Frothing with fury, the Ragno turned to pursue Anna. She was already on the move. If Tommy weren’t in his E-Suit, her movements would have looked like a black blur. Like death itself had come here for the monster.

She jumped over a chunk of broken stone, turned, and unloaded another round straight into the monster’s face. The beast rolled its head to the side, as if it knew what was coming for it. The shot flew past, leaving a thin gash in its cheek. Then, roaring with rage, it slammed a fist straight into Anna. Its knuckles were so large that they washed Anna’s entire body in a shadow.

A crack like thunder split the air. Anna’s body flew back like a bullet, leaving a crater in the concrete. The Ragno roared victoriously and pounded its chest in an odd ritual of sorts.

“Ironchase!” Tommy shouted, panic rising in his chest. Even in an E-Suit, a blow like that wasn’t something you could just shrug off. If she was- no, it couldn’t be. “Respond! Ironchase! Anna!”

“Why are you still here?!” Anna’s voice shouted from within her crater.

An odd blend of relief and frustration washed over Tommy. Yup. She’s fine.

That begged a new question, however: what did he do? He couldn’t abandon Anna here to fight alone. But if he stayed and fought, then what about the little girl?

Both options frustrated him to no end. They both felt like the actions of a coward. His first job, off to an explosive start, sure to earn him a reputation, and both of his options were terrible.

He looked at Anna. She had darted out of the pit just before the Ragno drove a fist into it like a hammer. Sparks danced around her suit. His jaw dropped. One hit and her shield was down?

Then he felt the little girl in his arms. So small. Vulnerable. Trembling. Compared to the madness collapsing all around them, she seemed so small that he’d almost forgotten she was there.

Seeing that, Tommy knew what to do. He stood up, swallowed his pride, then fled with her in his arms.

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