(NOTE: It is recommended you read Poetry In Motion before this.)
The fire raged around him and trapped him inside. Dmitri jumped back as a pillar fell in front of him. He covered his mouth from the smoke, but it seemed useless. Ignis stepped through the flames, facing Dmitri. He dashed at him, one of his arms raised, green fire fingers ready to strike. Dmitri watched helplessly as the flame creature pounced on him.
A scientist walked along a hallway, metallic reinforced doors to his sides. He was holding a board in his arm and a pen in his hand. He looked into the rooms through a small window panel, and checked a name off the list. He sometimes marveled at the specimens they had, for lack of a better word, “captive.” A pale boy that looked like a vampire, a cape that seemed to be part of him. A purple haired girl with star-dotted skin. That one they dubbed Galaxy Girl. A girl with the legs and lower body of a spider, wearing a hoodie. A pink, cheery girl of made of goo, named “Subject 101”. He checked that name off the list.
Next was Subject 23, or “Ardea”. He looked in and saw her, lying on the floor, choking. The scientist opened the door and rushed to her side, kneeling by her. Ardea looked up to him and released smoke from her mouth, enveloping him in the cloud. The man choked and fell to the floor, unconscious. Ardea reached down and grabbed a key from his pocket, inserting it into a lock on the collar around her neck. It fell to the floor with a heavy thud, and her eyes widened as the power rushed back to her. She extended her hand and aimed at the wall.
The wall turned red for a moment before a stream of fire tore through it. She stepped out into the hallway and ran past the doors. Above her, an alarm went off, and guards flooded the room. She took them down with ease, the bullets vaporizing before they reached her. She reached the end of hallway and looked at the door.
“SUBJECT 236 – ‘IGNIS’” She took a step back and burned the door down.
A headless mechanical body laid on the corner, a collar where the neck would be. It was grey, and the arms were long and slender, ending in something resembling a trident instead of a hand; three black tubes sprout from the arms. She stepped forward and burned the collar off. Green flame ignited from the neck, fingers and feet. Two black eyes with green irises appeared inside the flame, and looked at her.
“Get up, Ignis. We’ve gotta find the Burnmaster.”
Connected black dots appeared below the eyes when he heard “Burnmaster”. A smile.
Dmitri and Nikola walked down the street. Dmitri wore a black shirt and jeans. Nikola’s phone rang inside his pocket.
He listened and his expression changed. He hung up and looked at Dmitri.
“Dmitri, we need to head back to the lab. There’s been a breakout.” They hurried into the car. “Subjects Ardea and Ignis have escaped.” He started the engine and drove away from the sidewalk and onto a dirt road.
“I don’t know those names. What about the lab’s security?” Dmitri said.
“They’re burning through them.” He made a right and went off road, smoke racing in the horizon. “They need to be stopped, and they need you.”
Dmitri took off his shirt and pants, revealing his suit underneath. They approached the rising smoke and Dmitri poked his head out the window. Nikola stopped in front of it and Dmitri got out. He turned to his father.
“I think you should look for cover. If they get out, I don’t want you to get hurt. Don’t worry about me, though.” He flashed him a smile. “I’ll be alright.”
He turned away from him and to the building, took a deep breath and ran in.
The lab had only one story above ground, but the complex ran deep underground. Dmitri ran down the stairs and heard the scream of a guard. He stopped and looked into the room. Ignis towered above a guard, his lifeless black eyes looking down into him. Ardea stood behind him, a smirk on her face. Neither of them noticed the white haired boy.
Ignis brought his hand down, burning it into the guard. Dmitri threw his hand back and then forward, releasing a shot. It hit Ignis on the back of his head and he released the man. Both of them turned to Dmitri.
“I’ll go on ahead. You take care of the little kid.” Ardea said and walked away. Ignis kept his eyes on Dmitri. Both stared at eachother a long while, waiting for the other to make the first move. Dmitri broke into a charge, his arm arched around him, green glow emanating from his hand. Ignis strode towards the boy. The boy released the shot, Ignis jumped over it and Dmitri. He swung his leg at Dmitri’s back, throwing him down. Dmitri rolled to his back, Ignis landing next to him. He jumped to his hands and sprung to his feet. Ignis looked at him, silent, and then ran forward.
Dmitri dodged slashes. The way Ignis moved was unnaturally quick. A slash caught him across the chest and kick on the ribs, throwing him to the side. Ignis moved to the side and kicked him again. Dmitri hit the floor on his side. His vision started to blur and it was hard to breathe. He saw Ignis standing over him, his dead, black eyes beckoning him in the midst of his green fire. He heard a female voice on the distance, and everything went black.
Instead of green fire, when he woke up a pink, cheery round face greeted him. He got up slowly, feeling his sides. His suit had absorbed most of the damage. Dmitri looked at Subject 101.
“…Subject 101? What are you doing here?”
“I saw you lying on the floor and I was wondering if you were okay! Are you okay?”
“I’ll live. How long have I been out?”
“Oh, I dunno. Like half an hour. Those fire guys are gone, too.”
“Did you see where they went?” Dmitri walked towards the door.
“They went towards the city! Looking for the ‘Burnmaster’, or something. They ran away from me as their fire didn’t hurt me.”
Dmitri looked at her, and remembered that training session they had, and how the scientist had mentioned she was “indestructible.”
There was a small pause from him. “101, do you wanna look for them with me? You could be of great help.”
“Sure, I’d love to help! They killed most of the scientists I talked with here.” She kept a cheery smile throughout all this.
“Alright, let’s go. And, uh…101, I’m sorry I electrocuted you back in our training session.”
“Don’t worry about it! I didn’t feel a thing. And you can call me Amy.”
“Amy. Right. I’m Dmitri.”
“I know your name, Dmitri! Your dad mentioned it a lot when he was in the lab with me.”
Dmitri’s eyes widened for a second. “Nikola! Do you know where he is?”
“He’s okay! He got into a safety bunker with most of the other scientists.”
He let out a sigh of relief, and walked out of the room. Amy followed close behind and, when they walked out of the lab, her face turned into one of amazement. She stopped, taking in everything surrounding her, the trees, the birds overhead, the sun. Dmitri looked over his shoulder at her.
“Are…you feeling alright, Amy?”
“I had never been outside! This is amazing! I had seen the simulations, but…” She continued to look, pure bliss in her eyes.
When they started to move again, Ardea and Ignis had reached the city.
They both stood on the outskirts of the city, a woman with waist-long brunette hair, clad in red and black fireproof clothes, a robot of green flame.
“No, we’re not going to blaze through the city.” She said to him. “We don’t want to attract more attention to us. No, I want to blaze through it, but we have to wait for the Burnmaster.”
To this Ignis nodded once, and looked at her again.
“I don’t know. We could try sticking to the rooftops, or go through the sewers, if you don’t mind the water.”
Ignis bent over, looking at her. She rolled her eyes. “Figures.” and got on his back. Ignis jumped to a wall, climbing up into the rooftop.
“Don’t worry.” She said as he jumped to another rooftop in a single bound. “City people never look up.”
They would later find out that Dmitri and Amy were not city people.
Dmitri and Amy reached the city quickly, Ignis and Ardea a few blocks ahead of them. They were walking down the street when Dmitri spotted the green figure. He ran towards an alley and climbed the fire escape up to the rooftop. A mere blocks away, Ardea rode on Ignis’ back. Amy swung her arm at the edge of the rooftop, stretching it and pulling herself up. Dmitri ran after them, jumping from the rooftop to rooftop. Amy followed close behind.
Ardea looked over her shoulder. She started a fire in her hand. “Run faster, Ignis. We’re being followed.”
Dmitri slid under the incoming fireball and returned fire of his own. Ardea ducked her head under the arrow and looked over her shoulder. She spotted a manhole cover on an empty street.
“Ignis. Drop to the ground.”
Dmitri watched as they disappeared from sight, between one rooftop and the next. He jumped onto it and peered over the edge, seeing nothing but an empty street. Behind him, Amy was reaching for something on the ground. When he turned around, she was holding two ice cream cones.
“I got us ice cream.”
“What?” His mind recalled to the day in Nikola’s lab, and how he mentioned she couldn’t stay focused. “How do you even know what ice cream is?”
“One of the scientists brought some with her! She was nice enough to give me some.”
“How did you pay for it?”
Puzzlement fell on her face. “Pay for it?”
Dmitri sighed. “Never mind.” She extended him a vanilla cone and he grabbed it.
“Vanilla’s your favorite, right?” She sat down.
“Yeah. How did you know?” He sat down next to her.
“Your dad told me. So what are we going to do about those two?”
“I don’t know. We’ll need to keep an eye out for them, patrol the city.” He ate the cone and got up.
Below the streets, Ardea and Ignis traveled the sewers. Above, Dmitri and Amy the rooftops. They talked to pass the time.
“You said that you had never been outside.”
“Nope!” She said. “Born and raised in the lab. Outside is really pretty, though!”
He jumped off the edge and missed the next. He started falling towards the street when a pink hand caught him. She carried them both to the rooftop.
“Phew. Thanks, Amy. Dodged a bullet there.”
“No problem! Think of it as a way of me to return the favor.”
“Well, taking me outside, of course! Nobody’s done that for me before. I think most of the scientists are scared of me. I guess you’re the only real friend I’ve had.”
He smiled at her and jumped to the other rooftop. She followed close behind.
Ignis and Ardea traveled north, following the sewer. It took them hours to reach their location, the northern end of the city. They climbed up a ladder and out into the streets, quickly running into the woods. Ardea talked to him as they walked.
“Now we get our chance. With the Burnmaster, we’ll make destruction like the world has never seen.” A grin on her face. The connected black dots below Ignis’ eyes. Sometimes, Ardea wondered if destruction made Ignis happy, as much as it did her. She only knew that they had to get the Burnmaster. They owed it to him. He made them who they were, after all. Without him, she’d still be in college, frantically looking for an escape from the boredom of normal life. Ignis would not exist. She looked at the red orbs on the back of her gloves. They glowed a bright red. She closed her hand, and gave in to the memories.
She was six when they went to the woods. A careless cigarette dropped on the grass by her uncle started it all. While the forest lit up in flames and she was being carried away, she stared into it. She stared into the fire, the smoke rising in the sky, animals dropping, charred, lifeless. She stared into the destruction and complete annihilation of what had been, mere seconds ago, a thriving, large ecosystem. She stared into the fire, and saw beauty.
Back home, she grabbed the matches from a drawer – mommy and daddy were as careless as her uncle. She started small, burning paper in their backyard. She wowed at how quickly the paper turned to ashes. As she grew, so did her thirst for destruction. Pets would go missing from the neighborhood. She’d take them and a box of matches to the outskirts of town. When she was 15, she changed the matches and lighters for the blowtorch from her father’s garage. When she left for college, she left behind a house burned to the ground. She watched as it raged and died down, and then walked away. Her parents died in their sleep, unaware. And that’s when the legends of the Burnmaster began. She followed every story, every myth, every rumor about him. In the apartment she had gotten, clippings of newspaper articles were taped to the wall, drawings of him made by survivors. His attacks seemed to have no pattern, his actions no motive. He burned, because it was a pleasure to burn.
She walked to her apartment one night, when the building to her side suddenly caught ablaze. People fled the scene, but she stayed, amazed. The Burnmaster walked out the door, showing but slight amusement on his face. She had read the stories, obsessed with them, but to think one single man could destroy a building in seconds…
The Burnmaster approached her. “Move aside, if you don’t want to get burned. Or is it you don’t fear fire?”
“I have no reason to. Fire is my only release in this boring life. Please, let me join you!”
Months later, he built her red and grey lightweight armor, with orbs on the back of her hand supplying fuel, and small nozzles on the front. The first time she produced fire, she couldn’t stop herself. She burned pedestrians with complete disregard, lost in the flames. When her mind cleared, the buildings surrounding her were no more.
Another month later, the Burnmaster built Ignis, and they were finally three. They attacked city after city until they were captured, and taken into the lab. The Burnmaster was separated from there, and for this reason more than other, she hated him. But now they were free, and all they needed to do was find the Burnmaster.
Then they would be three again.
She snapped free of her memories when they came across an old building in the middle of the woods. She burned down the door and walked in. There was a long, narrow hallway, with a door at the end. Ignis hurried forward, knocking the door down. They walked in and saw him.
Behind bulletproof glass sat the Burnmaster, his arms bound by chains, his eyes covered with a black blindfold. His silver hair had grown long and reached his back. His mouth respirator remained, green, with an orange, fanged mouth where his would be. Turrets in every corner of the room, aiming at him, ready to fire, should the Burnmaster move.
Bulletproof or not, Ignis smashed through the glass. Ardea followed and flung fireballs at the turrets, disabling them. He slashed through the chains and rid him of his blindfold. The Burnmaster looked at him, a brief flash of gratitude in his eyes, and then he got up.
“Good job. Have you found a place to hide?”
“We saw an abandoned warehouse back in the city.”
“Good. And let’s not gather attraction the way there. Tomorrow is when we launch our attack.”
“What are we going to do?”
“We make them pay. Burn the city to the ground. We make sure we leave some of them alive.”
“So the rumors and fear spread like wildfire.”
They walked out of the building and back into the sewers.
Early in the morning, Dmitri and Amy set out into the city.
“You think we’ll find them?”
“We better.” He said, approaching the edge. “Hand.”
She joined her pinks hands together and Dmitri jumped into them. She launched him upward and then swung her arm, stretching it to reach the higher ledge. He stopped to catch his breath. Amy stared down at a warehouse.
“Dmitri? What’s that building?”
“Huh?” He walked over to her. “That’s a warehouse. People store things in it.”
“Ooh! Let’s check it out!” She jumped off the rooftop and ran towards it.
“Amy, wait!” He jumped onto a lower rooftop, ran down the fire escape and towards the warehouse. Amy climbed onto a box and peeked inside from a window. Dmitri joined her.
Ardea and Ignis stood inside the warehouse, pacing around, impatiently. Amy and Dmitri ducked almost instantly.
“Alright. We have to do this carefully. Let’s try to take them by surprise.” He hopped off the box and rushed to the warehouse’s giant door.
“What do you think he’s waiting for?” Ardea paced around Ignis. “Sitting around won’t get us anything–”
The door fell off, hitting the ground with a loud thud. Ardea and Ignis turned around, her hands igniting.
Dmitri and Amy ran in. “Keep Ignis off me. I’ll get Ardea.” The former dashed forward at Dmitri, arms stretched outward. He reached him and slashed, Dmitri ducking under the attack. A pink tentacle hit Ignis on the side, sending him into a wall.
“Off him! He’s my friend, and I won’t let you hurt him!”
Dmitri ran forward, dodging a barrage. He jumped over one, hands glowing. His feet hit the ground and he released the blasts, both hitting her. Ignis slashed harmlessly at Amy.
Ardea hit the ground before Dmitri and he jumped back. She armed the sweat from her brow.
“Getting tired?” He said, his hands glowing brightly.
“I’m just starting.” Her hands ignited again.
“You’re not the only one.” He charged at her and she swung her arms. The fireballs came faster, all of them missing him and hitting pillars. He jumped onto a box, flipped to the next, the previous crate exploding. Acrobatic as he was, Ardea matched his pace. Dmitri jumped on a stack of crates and to a lamp hanging from the ceiling. He swung on it, barely dodging the fire. The warehouse around them started to burn. Dmitri couldn’t care less as he jumped from the lamp towards Ardea. She took a step back and Dmitri landed on his hands, springing towards her, his feet connecting with her face. She stumbled back and Dmitri gave no quarter. He swung a blast at her legs, throwing her off balance. She landed on her back, Dmitri jumped up and landed on her, his knee cracking a rib. Her hand grabbed his arm and started to ignite. His free arm shot out against her, his hand formed into a fist, at her face. He heard a crack – her jaw, most likely – and her face jerked away.
Behind them, Amy crushed Ignis against a wall. He struggled, shaking, and then stopped. She released and he fell to the ground, his green flame extinguishing.
Dmitri panted, and Amy ran to him. Her pink arms wrapped around him.
“We did it!” She said.
“No, we’re not finished yet. We have to find the Burnmaster.”
In their fight they had missed a door at the end of the room. They ran to it, and Dmitri kicked it down. In the middle of the room stood the Burnmaster. He looked at the pair.
“End of the line, Burnmaster.” He said. Burnmaster stared at Amy.
“Heh.” He uttered, and beside Dmitri, Amy started to melt. Panic took over her eternally cheery face, eyes fixed and pleading on Dmitri, as she turned into a pink puddle. Dmitri stared at it, shocked.
“An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. As you can appreciate, the unstoppable force conquers.”
Dmitri’s shocked face turned to rage.
“Everything burns, Dmitri, given enough heat. Nothing is indestructible to me, especially your pink friend.”
He ran to the Burnmaster, fists clenched. But in his rage, he was blind. The Burnmaster blocked his punch and shot a knee to his stomach. His fist fell on the back of his head and he fell to the floor. Burnmaster’s foot pressed on him.
Ardea and Ignis stumbled through the door.
“Burnmaster.” She said, coughing a bit of blood. “We have to leave. The building’s about to collapse.”
“Very well.” He took his foot off Dmitri, and looked down at him. “If you survive, you might prove a worthy opponent. Mark my words. This city will burn.” He walked away, Dmitri laying on the floor. He turned his head to the pink puddle, and passed out.
When he woke up, they were gone. He got up, slowly, vision blurry. He took a few cautious steps before it cleared. Dmitri looked down, spotting the puddle, and sorrow struck his heart. He got on his knees.
“I’m sorry, Amy. I didn’t mean for you to end up like this.” He remembered the Burnmaster, and hit the ground. “I’ll get him. I promise.”
The middle of the puddle rippled. He looked at it, puzzled. Amy’s face appeared in the midst of it, looking at Dmitri.
“D-Dmitri? Is that you?”
He blinked. “Amy? You’re alive?”
“Yeah! I’m indestructible, remember? I can’t die…but apparently I can feel pain…”
“I’m so sorry, Amy.”
“Don’t worry your little head over it! We have to catch him, right?”
“I’m not sure if ‘we’. You’re a puddle.”
“Oh, right. You mind getting a container or something? Transparent, preferably. I can’t move.”
“Right, right.” He got up and exited the warehouse. He came back twenty minutes later, holding a jar. He got on his knees and moved her into it. Her face floated in the goo.
“We should go back to the lab. They’ll know how to put me back!” They set out back to the lab.
“I’m sorry, we can’t change her back.”
“What? Nikola, dad, there has to be a way.”
“We’re busy with the repairs of the facility. Dmitri, I promise we’ll look into it – it shouldn’t be too hard, honestly – but right now, we need all hands on deck with the repairs.”
He put the jar on a desk. “What about the Burnmaster situation?”
“You told me you could handle it. His kind of fire…it’s unique. No need for fuel, just his mind. It’s astounding.”
“Amy didn’t find it as astounding.” He said, anger rising in his throat.
Nikola put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Dmitri. The scientist in me rambles. Do you need help?”
“No, I can handle it myself.”
He couldn’t handle it by himself. He laid on his bed, turning the question in his head, looking frantically for an answer.
How do you defeat a man who can burn you to a crisp with his mind?
The Burnmaster looked out a window at the city. Its buildings, its people. In his mind’s eye, the buildings were little more than smoldering ashes. But even as the destruction unfolded in his mind, there was room for memories. Caught in the flow, he gave in…
Edward Allen was but a boy of nine when he stood in the backyard. His arms crossed, his face in a scowl. He looked at the house, and the people inside. His mother vacuumed the carpet on the floor. It was mother who had done this. Denied him dessert and sent him out when he had thrown a tantrum. He looked at her, and his frown grew. Something inside his head kicked in, and suddenly the house was on fire. He jumped, taken aback by the flames. It quickly burned, and he saw as his mother banged on the window before burning rubble fell on her, her screams silenced. He could only watch as the fire ravaged the house; who was he to stop an unstoppable force, after all? He screamed and kept screaming after the house was little more than smoldering ashes. When the neighbors arrived, he was crying. He was taken into an orphanage, and grew a quiet, little boy who never complained, or raised his boy. He kept the beast inside.
But who was he to stop an unstoppable force?
Edward is now 22, and things are not going for well him. He’s stuck in a dead end job, his degree in science mattering little now. He suspects his girlfriend only stays with him because she pities him, and he’d be right. He’s at his wit’s end.
He walked into his apartment. The lady sat on the couch, looking at the black screen of the TV.. She turns to him, eyes shooting daggers.
“You forgot to pay the bills.”
“O-oh. I’m sorry, honey, it’s been a hard day at work, and…”
“I don’t care! I told you, again, and again, or are you just that dumb, Ed?”
She rants away at him, listing his failures. He feels miserable, and then something in his brain kicks in. Her ranting turns into background noise. He lets the beast out.
What were rants turn into screams as her flesh burns, but even that is noise to Edward. He feels release, he likes it. She flails her arms, screaming for help, and then she collapses on the carpet, her skin charred.
The next day at work, he focuses his mind’s fire on his boss. And his co-workers. He walks out as the building went up in flames, people still inside. Edward Allen had never felt better in years, and sadistic pleasure came to him when he realized. Why stop now? This is what society had made him. It was time to pay them back.
He grabbed a respirator and put it on. Even in his madness, he remained calm.
He was the Burnmaster. Even in the flames, he remained calm.
The one who was Edward Allen snaps awake from his memories as he hears a voice.
“Burnmaster.” Ardea repeats. “Are you ready?”
A smile invisible to her appears behind his respirator. “I am. Let’s go.”
How do you defeat a man who can burn you to a crisp with his mind? Dmitri turned this question on his mind, laying on his bed. Amy-In-A-Jar sat on a desk next to him.
“Got anything yet?”
“No. But I can’t dwell on it much. Now that he’s out, it can’t be long before they attack.”
“But, going without a plan will get you killed!”
“And not going gets other people killed.”
“Try talking to your dad. He’s smart! He’ll know!”
He got out of bed and walked down the hallway. Nikola watched two men in hard hats repairing a slide door.
“What is it, Dmitri?”
“What can you tell me about the Burnmaster?”
“We don’t know much about him. One day he appeared and burned half a town. We’re not sure where his fire comes from, either. It’s a shot in the dark, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s some kind of mental pyrokinesis. Did you notice anything when you fought him?”
He recalled how he focused his gaze on Amy. The thought of her melting jumped to his mind’s eye, and he shook his head.
“I’ll have to give it some thought. Thanks, Dad.”
He walked back to his room and laid on his bed once more. He turned off the lights as thoughts ran through his head.
How do you defeat a man who can burn you to a crisp with his mind?
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
It’s a shot in the dark.
It’s a shot in the dark.
“It’s a shot in the dark.” He said, absentmindedly. He bolt up on his bed and rushed to his feet.
“Amy, I’m going out into the city.”
The face floating in the goo opened her eyes. “Huh? What time is it?”
“Two in the morning, I don’t know. But I think I know how to deal with the Burnmaster!” He ran out of his room.
“Dmitri, wait!” She shouted to the empty room. “…Please, be careful.”
When Dmitri reached the city, he gasped for breath. He bent over, hands on his knees, and as he looked the pavement he ran his plan through his head. He recovered and looked back up. He made his way up a fire escape and started combing through the city, jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Hours later, he stumbled upon an abandoned, windowless three story building.
He walked in, a heavy layer of dust on the floor. Desks laid scattered around the first floor, long dead lamps hanging above them. The second floor was empty, and the third was filled with crates. When he was done exploring, he made his way back into the lab. His dad always worked odd hours, but now he had a reason.
“Dad, I need you to build something for me.”
“What are we waiting for?” Ardea asked the Burnmaster the next morning.
“For the sun to fall.”
“Flames burn brighter in the dark.”
Dmitri didn’t wait. He looked around the city since sunrise, tense. He waited as the sun set over the horizon. When night had fallen, they set out of their hideout and it all started. Dmitri sat on a rooftop when it happened. Mere blocks away from him, an apartment complex went up like a roman candle. And like a candle in the dark, it was easy to follow. He hurried over and stopped as he heard the screams from inside the complex. Hesitating for a moment, he rushed in, jumping in through an open window. He charged a shot as he saw a woman trapped under a burning pillar. He released it and cut it in half, grabbed the woman and jumped out. He put her down gently and jumped in again, hearing the cry of a baby. Running down the falling stairs, he coughed from the smoke. He kicked open a door and saw Ignis, towering over a baby girl. Ignis looked at him for a moment, and then the connected black dots formed below his eyes. Ignoring the baby, Ignis pounced at Dmitri. He rolled under him and grabbed the baby, jumping out the window and landing on the sidewalk. Ignis looked down at him.
The boy dashed away from the building as an ambulance rolled up to the sidewalk. He handed over the baby. Burnmaster and Ardea looked at him, Ignis joining them briefly.
“He survived after all. Perhaps he is tougher than I expected.”
“He won’t stand a chance against all of us.”
“A worthy first victim. Alright. After him.”
Dmitri turned his head in time to spot the incoming trio. He ran away from the ambulance, dodging fireballs. The three story building was right up ahead. When he reached it, he saw a fireball coming his way, and braced for the impact. It hit him in the back, knocking him on the floor. He limped towards the building and made his way inside.
They stopped in front of it.
“He’s trapped. Let’s torch the building.”
“No.” The Burnmaster said. “I want to flame him myself, watch as the light from his eyes fade, the realization that he cannot beat me.”
“Fine. Let’s go inside.”
The building was pitch black inside. Dmitri hung from a lamp on the first floor. He took out a pair of goggles Nikola had built him and strapped them on. He blinked as the night-vision kicked in, and then he saw them walk in.
“Spread out.” He heard Burnmaster say. “I’ll check the third floor. Ardea, you stay here.” Ardea nodded and Ignis rushed up the stairs, followed by the Burnmaster.
Walk into my parlor, said the spider to the fly. thought Dmitri.
Ardea hated the dark. Not what was inside the dark, but darkness itself. She saw darkness as the opposite of fire, and abhorred it. She browsed the floor, igniting her hands to give her some light. It wasn’t enough to cut through the darkness, but she had no choice.
Dmitri watched as she slowly made her way. He jumped to another lamp and wrapped his legs around its cord, hanging head first behind her. He wrapped his arms around her torso and pulled himself up, smashing her head against the ceiling. He dropped her and jumped off, landing on her back. She raised her head and Dmitri swung his fist at it, hitting the back of her head. He flipped to his hands and handsprung to his feet. Climing up the stairs, he readied for the next challenge.
Ignis paced around the second floor, hearing Dmitri as he climbed the last step. It waited as the boy snuck up on it, and then swung its arm at him, throwing him back. He fell on his back and skidded before jumping to his feet. This time, there was no pause. Dmitri charged at Ignis, sliding under his legs and reaching the wall. He jumped up and kicked off the wall towards it, kicking it flat on the chest. Ignis was thrown backwards and charged at the boy.
Dmitri blocked one of its strikes and the next, leaving it open. He shot out a knee and grimaced as it hit Ignis’ metal body. He arched an arm around himself and ducked away from another slash. He weaved from side to side, gracefully avoiding fiery claws as energy glowed in his hand. He jumped out of the way and released his arm, the blast hitting Ignis’ arm and cutting it off. It fell to the floor with a clang, the green embers in his fingers dying out afterwards. Dmitri joined his hands and ran forward, smashing them into Ignis’ chest, sending it backwards.
Ignis stood there, grasping his chest, bent over. It looked at Dmitri and the black dots disappeared one by one, like a smile slowly dying. It fell to the floor, the green fire extinguishing.
Dmitri walked towards the stairs and climbed them. The Burnmaster awaited.
The Burnmaster was walking towards the stairs when he heard steps. He stopped in his tracks, unable to see the recent arrival but knowing.
“You weren’t really hurt, were you?”
“No.” Dmitri said.
“Clever. In the end it changes nothing. You are only the first of many.”
“You don’t get it.” Dmitri jumped on a crate, silently. “You talked about an unstoppable force and an immovable object. I’m sure you remember.” He jumped on a stack of crates and looked down at him.
“Amy wasn’t the immovable object.” He dropped down. “I am!” His knee connected with the Burnmaster’s face and knocked him down. He got on his feet quickly and a barrage of blows came upon him, striking his face, his ribs, his chest. In his mind’s eye he pictured Dmitri in front of him, and the air around him started to heat up. Dmitri vaulted over him, grabbing him from behind. The Burnmaster knocked the back of his head into him and turned around as the pressure lifted. He swung his leg and felt as it connected with Dmitri’s side.
“I told you.” He pictured the room around them, the wooden crates. “The unstoppable force conquers! I am that force, and this building will be your grave!” The crates around them caught fire and the room was flooded by light. The Burnmaster was blinded for a moment, and when he could see, he saw a green light coming toward him. He had no time to move. The green blast dug into his eyes and he threw his head back in pain, blood flowing from his sockets.
Dmitri dashed forward and hit him across the face. “A shot in the dark. You have to see something to burn it, don’t you?”
The Burnmaster, blinded twice – first physically, and now with rage – ran forward at Dmitri’s voice and tackled him down. He kicked him off, throwing the Burnmaster behind him.
He picture the room in his mind and turned up the heat. The room started to fall around them in burning rubble.
“IT CHANGES NOTHING! NOTHING! YOU’LL BURN HERE WITH ME!”
Dmitri rushed him. A large pillar fell between them and he jumped back. The roof followed the pillar and he saw no way in. He ran towards the stairs, hesitated, shooting a look over his shoulder…and then ran down. He grabbed Ignis’ and Ardea’s bodies and jumped out the door, landing on the sidewalk. Behind him, the building fell, still burning. He looked at the rubble, but there was no sign of the Burnmaster.
“They never found the body.” He said, holding an ice cream cone in his hand.
“Huh?” Amy said, licking her ice cream.
“The Burnmaster. They went through the rubble, but never found the body.” He looked down.
“Hey, cheer up! You saved the day! Nobody died! Well, except those scientists. But atleast Ignis and Ardea are back in their cells!”
“What I’m wondering is: if he’s alive, what will be his next step? He’ll want revenge.”
“Don’t worry! Next time, I’ll be there to back you up!”
“If there is a ‘next time.’” He walked out of the lab and looked at the city. He wondered how many lives he had saved, and felt a little better.
If there is a next time, I’ll be ready.