by Dan Swanson
Chapter 27 — Different Tunes, Same Dance! ####### CHAPTER 24
Sunbeam, Golden Arrow and Bolt found themselves surrounded. Golden Arrow quickly unleashed a barrage of arrows at a very large, very ugly attacker — it looked like a cross between an alligator and a caveman, with powerful jaws and dark green scaly skin. These arrows struck the man-beast with no effect, as if its skin was made of steel.
“Uh, guys, maybe one of you ought to concentrate on this guy?” He yelped and dodged a swipe from a clawed paw the size of a tennis racket and was more than a little concerned when the claws tore up strips from the metal decking. Most people overlooked the fact that Golden Arrow was stronger and faster than any ‘normal’ human, and he quickly realized his only chance to survive against this opponent was to maneuver faster than this mighty beast until one of his super-powered teammates could help him out.
Sunbeam could hardly look at her opponent. She hated spiders, and this fighter looked like a combination of all that she found gross about spiders, melded into one, and then blown up to the size of a Winnebago! She realized that if she flashed right now, it would probably be the last thing she ever did, but she couldn’t help herself! She fell to her knees and was wretchedly emptying her stomach as the giant spider strode toward her. A tube from the rear of its body was aimed at her, and something spat from it. She knew she was about to die, but she couldn’t even raise an energy barrier. She was too sick even to see her life pass before her eyes!
Suddenly she was moving! Fast, too… she realized that Bolt had picked her up and carried her away from that awful monster. She raised her head, and saw that Golden Arrow was shooting at the spider. She was feeling better already! Bolt left her facing two other opponents, and he headed for the giant lizard that Golden Arrow had been unable to handle.
Now that she was able to move and think, she decided to wrap this up fast — in more ways than one. She created chains, ropes and restraints around her two opponents until they were practically buried in glowing yellow energy. She was stunned when their bodies both deformed, lengthened and thinned, and they slithered out of her restraints as if they weren’t there!
The two split up and attempted to attack her from two directions. Carol was having none of that! She zoomed into the air where she could see them both at once.
Moving with incredible precision, one of her foes wrapped his arms around a couple of posts, and the other ran at his partner, stretching him backward like a rubber band. When Carol was certain the stretched fighter was going to tear, the other suddenly curled up into a ball, and was thrown into the sky like a ball bearing from a slingshot! Within seconds, the airborne foe had rearranged his elastic body into an airfoil and was zooming toward her again.
This hardly bothered her. She was a flier, he was only a glider. She was faster and more maneuverable — unless he had some weapons she was unaware of, all she had to do was stay away from him. As she thought that, her opponent faded totally from sight! She immediately filled the air around her with a golden fog, and was rewarded by a line of disturbed mist, showing the flight path of her invisible opponent. Time to stop taking chances with this guy — she formed a giant fly swatter and whapped him with it! Her opponent was knocked out of the sky and smashed to the ground, where he became visible, and sort of ‘splashed’, into a quivering disk, and then contracted into a ball — and then stopped moving.
‘Well, Carol, maybe you’re going to get good at this after all!’ she thought to herself. ‘That was pretty easy. So where’s his buddy, anyway?’ She couldn’t see him anywhere. Alarmed, she spun around, but the other warrior was nowhere to be seen! She quickly surrounded herself with a bubble of yellow energy — and just in time! The other guy had somehow managed to launch himself, and something invisible smashed into Sunbeam’s shield at high speed!
While impact had knocked the other chameleon-creature unconscious, or worse, this one was prepared, and it enveloped her shield. And then somehow started squeezing. Carol was able to resist the pressure and her shield didn’t immediately collapse, but she had to increase her concentration in order to sustain it against the incredible strength of this creature! She realized that she wasn’t going to be able to hold out indefinitely.
Bolt raced up to Sunbeam’s initial opponent, the lizard man. There were very few opponents on Bolt’s world that were able to resist his speed, but his luck hadn’t been good here on BattleWorld. Everything on BattleWorld seemed to have some kind of magic embedded in it — the walls, the robots, even the air — and Bolt had always had problems with magic — perhaps because he refused to acknowledge it as a unique force in the universe. He always asserted that magic was just a way of manipulating the known forces of the universe, and once scientists studied magic thoroughly enough, his belief would be proved.
So he was frustrated. And this warrior looked like the perfect target for his frustrations! He raced around it at high speed, striking thousands of blows a second and then backed off, confident that it would fall. No such luck! This thing appeared as invulnerable to his punches as it had been to GA’s barrage of arrows. Well, Bolt had a few other tricks in his own quiver, for sure! Just to be certain physical damage wasn’t the answer, he zoomed over to the pile of weapons left by the dragon-tooth warriors and picked up a sword and a mace, and tried again. Thousands of blows in a second, and Bolt was actually starting to get winded, but no effect on the warrior.
Who wasn’t exactly just standing there! He seemed to have adapted to the idea that he was being attacked by a being who moved so fast it was difficult to see him, but who didn’t seem to be able to hurt him. He started ripping up the metal floor around him, using his claws and incredible strength, shredding it until he had a large pile. Then this pile rose into the air and began swirling around him, and he was surrounded by thousands of razor-sharp slivers of metal flashing at high speeds in orbits around his body.
Jamie Barr had not become the dedicated scientist his counterpart Jim (Bulletman) Barr had become. His interest in science was more that of a dilettante — but he had the same native intelligence that had allowed his counterpart to develop the anti-crime drug that had changed him into Bulletman. And he had been a super-hero a long time. He knew of four methods of doing what this creature had just done — gravity, magnetism, psionics or magic. He hoped this wasn’t more of that darned magic!
Strong magnetic and gravity fields interfered with light, so Jamie altered his vibrations and sped up his perception until he could actually watch photons flashing by. In fact, they were being affected by whatever force the alien was using. Instead of being red- or blue-shifted, as they would by gravity, however, their paths were just being bent, which meant magnetism. Well, he knew just the cure for that!
Magnetic lines of force can’t penetrate the surface of a super-conductor. Regardless of their initial orientation and direction, any magnetic lines near a super conductor are bent so that they pass around the superconductor rather than touching it. Bolt had never tried this particular trick before, but he could think of no reason it wouldn’t work.
Using his total control over every molecule in his body, he concentrated and turned his skin into a living superconductor! He then raced at his opponent at high speed. It was very difficult to approach this time, as he had to force his way through the powerful lines of magnetic force the other was generating and it felt like he was moving through molasses. But his momentum carried him through, and the deadly shards were forced out of his path! His impact with the alien’s magnetic field accomplished what he, and Golden Arrow before him, had been unable to do so far, and the alien screamed in pain. His concentration broken, his magnetic field failed and the razor sharp slivers fell at his feet.
Bolt tried a different attack this time, racing around his opponent at high speed, creating a vacuum. Even this invulnerable opponent needed to breathe — and his super-sized body and powerful metabolism required even more oxygen than a human. Without oxygen, he passed out in seconds.
Golden Arrow had no fear of spiders, or any other bug. Growing up in a wilderness environment as he had, spiders and bugs were just another part of nature. But there was something different about this monster, and he had to fight fear such as he had never known before just to stand and face it. Fortunately, he had long ago trained himself to handle fear, and his trained reaction when facing an opponent who frightened him was to shoot first and worry later! And shoot he did…
Faster than a normal eye could follow, a half dozen arrows were whistling through the air toward this unnaturally fearsome monster. Something was affecting him more than he had thought, because he actually missed his targets with a couple of the arrows. Not that any observer would have noticed, as they all struck the spider. It was covered with long bristles, and the two arrows that slammed into the bristles, close to an eye, had no effect — the bristles were so thick they captured the arrows — which immediately began to dissolve! Well, those misses weren’t such a bad idea after all! He clearly couldn’t let this beast touch him!
Four other arrows hit their targets exactly — two were aimed at the joint where one of the eight legs joined the body, and the others were aimed at the ‘knee’ joint of the same leg. The legs were not covered with the bristles, but they were armored with some very strong, hard substance, and the arrows that struck the knee joint just broke and bounced off.
But there was a small opening through which each leg entered the body, covered by a slimy membrane. His arrows penetrated the membrane and were immediately broken off as the leg jerked in an involuntary reaction. A gooey fluid dripped out of the wounds, and when it dripped to the floor, the floor underneath would smoke and crackle! It was difficult to be sure, but Golden Arrow was certain that the use of that leg was somewhat impaired. Meanwhile, he had to dive and roll, as the spider had started targeting him with various spinnerets. Some spat a glue-like goop, while others spat corrosive liquids. He had lost a boot when some of the goop had splashed onto it, and he had been unable to pull it away from the deck. He was observing the spider’s actions closely, and learning to anticipate the spitting when he discovered that the spider had other spinnerets that were releasing some kind of barely-visible gas, which quickly dissipated into the air around it. This gas must be what had caused the fear reaction he and Sunbeam had experienced.
He fired a barrage of arrows at the thing’s eyes, and while it was busy twisting out of the way, he put his armor helmet back on. Immediately he felt the difference — his bow seemed lighter, his vision improved, and his reactions were better as well. He counted his quiver by touch — enough arrows remained for what he had in mind.
Once again, he fired a barrage at the eyes. This time, however, he continued to shoot and fired a half dozen more at various spinnerets, counting on the monster to repeat the moves that had saved its eyes before. When it did, the arrows smashed into the unprotected spinnerets as he had planned. Several were pinned shut, and the arrows actually entered the orifice of the others, puncturing the glands that were producing the various ejecta.
The spider was immune to its own poisons, but the gooey glue affected it. Some dripped on the deck below the spider and when it stepped in its own trap, it was unable to free its leg. With his foe unable to move, Golden Arrow was now able to pepper it with arrows at his leisure. The leg joints and spinnerets resembled pincushions before the monster finally surrendered… collapsing motionless to the deck.
Carol had come up with a variation on Bolt’s superconducting trick, although neither of them was aware of it. She concentrated, and the surface of her protective field became frictionless. Unable to find purchase, the shape changer slipped off and fell toward the ground. Carol helped it along by creating a giant bowling ball above it, and together ball and foe crashed to the surface. Like its compatriot, this one ‘splashed’, then collapsed into a sphere.