As the Enforcer emerged from the ground, Ivan drew the gun and fired two shots into its face. Given the recoil he felt even with both hands steadying the gun, he expected substantial stopping power, but the first shot only dented the metal grille fixed across its mouth like a muzzle. The second took it in the right eye, but it took the hit unflinchingly, striding inexorably forwards. There was something unnerving about seeing something so close to human react in such an inhuman manner, and the cracks radiating from its eye only drove the point home further.
He’d never heard of anyone being able to take down an Enforcer, and it looked like he wouldn’t be the first. As it neared him, he somersaulted backwards, flipping off the building’s edge to land on the neighboring building’s rooftop garden. He rolled with the impact and rose smoothly to his feet, startling an assortment of office workers on their lunch hour, their gasps of surprise turning to screams of panic as the sound of warping metal came from above.
The roof beneath the Enforcer bent, steel reinforcing bars punching through the structure and slamming into the building below to form a bridge. The Enforcer slid along the steel, its metal-shod feet throwing up sparks. As it neared the garden, it hissed loudly, a cloud of grayish gas billowing from its muzzled maw to roll over the rooftop. In its wake, panic stilled to calmness, and the office crowd returned to their business, barely seeming to notice the Enforcer or indeed that anything was out of the ordinary.
Ivan felt lassitude and tranquility seeping in like slow poison, coaxing his heart rate back to normal, and held his breath, running as fast as he could in the other direction. In the reflection of a mirror-steel sculpture, he could see office workers moving nonchalantly around the Enforcer as it crashed towards him, making a grasping gesture in his direction.
The reflection warped, and a forest of steel tentacles burst from the sculpture, lashing out to ensnare him. He threw himself into a headlong roll, springing forwards as a dozen razor-tipped tendrils struck the ground behind him hard enough to crack it. If he made it out of this, he’d have some anecdotes to add to the laundry list of things Enforcers could apparently do. But making it out was sounding more and more impossible by the moment. He’d banked on being able to evade the Enforcer with freerunning, but if it could weaponize the city itself against him and follow him across rooftops, it was time for a backup plan.
His backup plan wasn’t so much a plan as it was improvisation under pressure, but he’d prepared for something like this. Hell, he was even excited about trying this in Halcyon for the first time. He clicked the metal anklets that he wore around his legs together, feeling them thrum with power as they engaged. Before they fully activated, he pulled himself over the chest-high railing that ran around the rooftop’s perimeter, which began to bend and writhe as the Enforcer approached.
Then he jumped.
Black glass rushed past him as he fell. The building’s facade sloped outward slightly, its profile resembling a blunt wedge with its narrower side facing upwards. Twisting as he fell, he felt the anklets pulse as they activated fully. Under his soles, hardlight blades sprang into being, gleaming and iridescent as they flashed through the air. The anklets projected the blades, as well as the additional support around his feet and legs that allowed him to maneuver them properly, turning his running shoes into a pair of skates.
He landed on the building’s sloped side with the outer edge of his left blade, holding his body with a bladedancer’s poise. Gravity pulled him down, but the filament-thin edge of the hardlight blade caught the black glass of the building’s facade, and he turned that force into sideways motion, gliding across the expanse of glass on one foot, his other leg extended behind him for balance.
The foundation of bladedancing was using momentum and inertia to overcome gravity. A dancer used their body to generate and control that momentum, with the blades enabling them to access a different realm of biomechanics, as well as acting as a force multiplier. Ivan had learnt all this in the underground rinks of Nocturnov, the exercises and forms drilled into him by his coach. He’d hated it at the time, thinking of it as pointless pomp, but he’d later come to appreciate its beauty as an artform.
Of course, he’d also appreciated its utility in traversing an urban environment, especially if the authorities were on your tail. Freerunning would always be useful, but his greatest escapes had been achieved with bladedancing. With the right forms and the right pair of blades, you could turn a city into your personal skate park.
Gliding across the glass, he moved through a series of turns, shifting between the inner and outer edge of the blade, tracing clean figures across the surface of the glass. These were basic moves he’d practiced a thousand times over, bladedancing forms designed to help the dancer gain control of their momentum. At this height, with gravity trying to drag him forty stories down to his doom, he needed all the help he could get. He wrestled against its insistent pull, clawing control back from it one move at a time.
As he gained speed, he could feel gravity’s hold on him weakening. When you were in the groove, you got a sense that if you moved fast enough, gracefully enough, you were a force unto yourself, beyond the grasp of the universe. The illusion of power was exhilarating, intoxicating, and ultimately self-destructive - stumble just once, and you were dead meat.
He glanced upwards, to check whether the Enforcer was following him. A wave of black glass roiled above, a familiar form emerging from its crest. The Enforcer liquefied the facade around it somehow, riding and directing the wave. Glass curved overhead, coming down on him in a crashing wave as the Enforcer brought a fist down, attempting to engulf him whole. He felt the glass beneath his blades warp - rather than melting, it bent smoothly, turning the slight incline he’d been skating down into a steep downward slope.
He almost fell over, teetering forwards dangerously, but managed to get his right foot down in time, catching the glass and finding traction. Swerving, he reversed direction so that he was skating upwards, into the wave. It curved up and over him, and he moved with it, using the momentum he’d built to skate along its arc.
Claws of steel burst through the glass, but he easily dodged them, skating to the side and continuing his ascent. He was almost at the apex of the wave, almost upside-down relative to the ground far below, and there was nowhere to go from here. Except out.
As the Enforcer came round for another grab at him, he let it draw closer, making a half-turn on his left blade. The Enforcer punched through the glass behind and beneath him, its torso shattering the crest of the wave as he switched blades, his right tracing a blazing line on the Enforcer’s chest whilst his left came down on its face, the toe pick at the tip of the blade digging into the concrete and finding purchase. He kicked down, using his leg as leverage to transfer his momentum upwards as he drew the rest of his body into a tight spin.
The Enforcer’s arms closed on nothing as he spun into the air.