The lumbering giant pursued the woman in the black dress , whose hands ripped apart the world, and the woman on the armor pointed its missile cluster towards her, as the rack of small explosives ignited and painted the sky in grey ash and fire.
The woman was clearly experienced, moving through even explosions and aimed attacks, and leaving major gashes in the colossus' armor, and still it walked toward her undeterred, swinging fists bigger than her torso.
It was a modern David versus Goliath, and we had been its collateral damage.
It was awe-inspiring, an height of Tinkering that made someone like me, who had just realized she had powers, jealous. And also filled me with unending, raging, boiling disdain over the author of such a misguided, unappealing monstrosity.
It was barely holding itself together, I could now clearly see what Grace had meant when she said it was all one guy lugging it around, seeing how it was a glorified weapons platform hanging off the shoulders of a big man wearing it, someone clearly violating the rules of physics.
It was just ugly . I knew I could design something much better, that could take this lumbering beast on and win , something that wouldn't have such a clear point of failure like a Parahuman driving it or even someone within it. Yes, something like a compact, weaponized unmanned craft, with weaponry… she could modify the principles behind the air bomb into essentially an extremely ramped up mass driver, and deliver heavy—
"Taylor? You okay?" Grace asked, a steel-encased arm coming to rest on one of my shoulders.
I nodded "Just… overwhelmed." I breathed out, trying to distance myself from the intrusive thoughts of unmanned weaponry and human-machine interfaces that rose as I thought about her arm.
“... I don’t think we’ll have a clear shot from here.” she grumbled, and I chuckled.
“Wind would fuck it up if you did a parabolic shot.” I added, and my eyes moved around the half-destroyed buildings around us, until… “Mm. A water tower. It should be tall enough if you want to lug your charge at its midsection.”
Grace blinked, a half-grin forming on her face as she turned to me.
“Didn’t know you knew much about ballistics, owl-eyes.” she said, a curious glint in her eyes.
I huffed “I might not be a genius, but I have my hidden depths.”
We will not speak of my forays with archery at Nature Camp. Nope.
“Good to know you’ve got some cheer back.” she said, relief flashing through her face, before her manic expression returned “How about you help me bomb some road-trip ruining cunts, then?”
I clenched my fists, grime of the road and dust from the chaos and destruction sticking to my skin uncomfortably and exhaled, forcing a smile “I thought you’d never ask.”
"Grace, I'm suddenly not too sure about this!" I found myself shouting not soon after, gripping steel and praying to all the gods I could think of that my running shoes could keep their friction against the rail-thin ladder, and looking up to my girlfriend's (admittedly shapely, not that I was jealous or anything) buttocks.
"Codenames, owl-eyes! Codenames!" She howled back, pulling herself atop the water tower, the whole structure swaying.
"What codenames!?" I could just shout back as I turned my head a bit, flushing, just in time to see another charge of the giant armor demolish a building to catch up to the white-haired cape, who was visibly flagging by now.
"Uuuh… I'll be… Megaton!" she mumbled, fiddling with her bomb, a grey lump of gunmetal that looked like the offspring of a pomegranate and boiler "Hey, you said the servos in the brace could do baseball-star tier, right?"
My eyes widened, and I hurried up the heart-poundingly dangerous ladder "If you want to dislocate your shoulder and fry them, yeah!"
"Well, if I break something you’ll fix it, right?” she grumbled, fiddling with a long, thick wire she had connected to a staff of metal (a piece of rebar?) in a makeshift slingshot, and started pushing and twisting it enough that I could hear the gears scavenged from an RC car I’d found in that basement.
“I could barely hold your arm together enough to let you work with the stuff I had!” I’d found myself shouting, starting to get mad. Being mad was all fine and dandy, but risking her health permanently was too far “Don’t get hurt too much! You hear me!?”
She looked at me, then sighed “Fine! But you’ll need to help me, so come up here!”
I huffed, pushing against the ladder, and rising a few more steps upward until a thought came to me.
“Did you name yourself Megaton because we’re fighting a shitty facsimile of a giant robot?” I glared at her, puffing as I dragged my scrawny frame and all its aches over the top of the platform, still clearly not made to hold people.
She flushed, before clicking her tongue “Not my fault that I’m sure Shockwave is taken…”
"You did!" I huffed, climbing over, barely managing to sit beside her, as she rose to her feet and handed me one length of rope "What's this for?"
She looked at me weirdly "So I don't fall. Or if I fall, you can pull me back up?"
I blinked. "Me?" leaving aside how my everything hurt, how tired I was and how she certainly weighed more than me, I had seen noodles bigger than my arms.
"Yeah, you. Who else d'you see, owl-eyes?" she sighed clutching the bomb and then letting it hang from the cable attached to it "I'll hammer-throw it. Did once at school. Can't be too hard, right?"
The notion almost sent me reeling. The top of the platform over the water tower was about six meters across: it was extremely tight, and I occupied some of it.
"...Are you sure?" I asked, sure enough myself that by now there was no talking her out of this.
She smirked, her sapphire-like eyes shining with mischief "Hell yeah."
I did the only thing I could: I grabbed the rope and gulped "Do it then. Let's see some fireworks!"
Positive reinforcement. It should be a good thing, I thought. Was nice when I got some: didn't happen very often these days…
And so, as I held for dear life as she lifted the bomb and begun spinning in her heels and the sheer absurdity of the last three hours of my life was laid bare, I looked upon the silver cloud-clad sky, and underneath it I saw death and destruction, until, with an huff and a puff, the woman I loved made a wind so big it cast down the towering armor.
It was accompanied by a crack greater than thunder, and gusts enough to make the fragile constructions we were in oscillate like a pendulum, creaking of its shoddy materials heard even above the echoing shocks of displaced air that were being sent everywhere, and yet I could not worry for any of those details.
For I saw with the corner of my eyes that Grace had stumbled, caught by the wind pressure differential, her feet shuffling.
She was going to fall. There was no way I could save her if she fell here: hell, it was likely I would have died too, pulled down four floors worth of height into the badly-trimmed undergrowth beneath the tower. I had one chance to do something, and my brain raced to find the right choice, the one action that would have cleared this situation, and saved us better.
Instead of my brain, that was racing at a thousand miles per hour on a circular circuit, it was my body that answered, as I instinctively pulled the rope towards me and Grace with it.
With an "hoop!" the woman swayed and fell into my lap, knocking the breath out of me, but neither of us were in danger of falling to our deaths anymore.
"Grace…" I rattled, my voice barely recovered, "That wasn't exactly among your best ideas."
She snickered "Yeah. I'd rate it just about above the handmade napalm I tried for my Middle School science fair." she said, smiling almost softly and I felt my brows furrow.
Unwilling to let this go, I went for the one surefire way I found to let her listen to me, a method I inherited from my mother: I pinched one of her ears between two fingers and spoke, mustering all the authority I could find within me: "Grace. All of this was a mess."
She winced, before pouting "But we fell a giant armor! It was so cool!"
… Deep down, beneath her cool, crazed demeanor of hers, there was the real core of Grace Wang: a woman who never really had a childhood, and tended to go overboard with her emotions when she had the luxury to express them without being punished for it.
"Next time, maybe we can find… an actual… launcher…" I felt the words trail from my mouth as I watched in horror as the giant armor shuddered and fell apart, a much smaller version of it, missing the missile launchers and the railguns, emerging from i's back.
And then it turned towards us.
"We… should probably go." Grace half-cackled "They're probably very mad at us."
Understatement of the century, I thought.
And then pulled her off me and started sprinting down the ladder.