"Where the fuck is this guy?" said Jack as he tentatively moved past a thicket of trees. It was dark. As dark as it got. His ski-mask might have looked like a cheap Halloween dollar store piece of garbage, but it was not a shabby piece of tech.
It had night vision, infrared, and some low-level AC scanning inlaid within its white, ballistic duraplastic surface. A lower caliber bullet would bounce right off the thing.
Meanwhile, when Jack glanced at the Lasher and his normal leather gimp mask, he wondered if the guy could even see more than a few steps ahead.
Jack's suspicions were confirmed when the Lasher walked face first into a tree trunk. The Lasher stepped back, utterly unfazed, his expression unchanging.
"Your costume seriously has nothing special about it?" whispered Jack. "How the fuck are you not in a jail yet? Or better yet, a mental asylum? Ark Asylum up in Neo-York ought to have a nice spot for you."
"I do not need protection, for pain is a blessing. Pain is the only thing that is real in this world," said the Lasher.
"Alright, whatever." Jack checked his Eye-Phone, tracking his location via GPS mapping. "We've been walking for ten minutes now. The guy should be here. Sh*t, I better get paid for this if he bails on us, or if we have sh*t luck, a variant attacks us."
All of a sudden, Jack's phone screen crackled, the graphics distorting before shutting off. "Huh?"
Jack smacked his phone to try and get it to work. "The hell? Your phone working, Lasher? Wait, do you even have a phone?"
The Lasher took out an Eye-phone that looked entirely out of place with his getup. "My phone has lost its life."
"Something's wrong-," began Jack before he saw a massive, bright green flash barrel towards him through his night vision. "Sh*t! Get away!"
Jack stepped back as a massive, muscled arm smashed into the Lasher's side, launching him into a nearby tree with a solid, cracking impact.
"Who are you!?" said Jack as he manifested his power. His arms solidified into metal before shaping into two large, serrated blades in a shower of sparks. The sparks lit up a huge, ugly brute of a man. Or…was it a man?
The guy might have been ten feet tall (3 meters) with ugly tumors and growths all around his grey skinned face and bare upper body. Large tusks jutted out from his jaw as he stared down at Jack with beady white eyes.
Jack almost gagged as a disgusting rotting stench wafted out from the guy.
"The fuck…?" Jack felt pricks of pain all around his body that grew numb. Was he getting poisoned? No, he looked down at the bare skin of his shoulders. There were black, rotting patches.
The giant man growled like an animal and took a heavy step towards Jack.
"You better not mess with me, fucker," said Jack. "You don't know who I am. Who I'm associated with."
The giant ignored Jack and charged forwards, raising both his arms up in the air to hammer down on Jack's head.
Jack swerved to the side as the giant smashed dirt. He sliced his blade arms across the giant Alter's stomach, aiming to gut him. He felt flesh yield and cut, and he smiled under his mask. His favorite feeling in the world was flesh slicing and tearing.
However, the wide cut he made healed up in an instant.
Before he could register surprise, Jack reacted to a punch from the giant by crossing his blade arms in front of him in a guard.
Jack grunted as he was sent flying backwards, the punch cracking the dark grey metal of his knife arms. As soon as he hit the ground, he leaped back up, ready to fight. This fucker was strong.
At the very least, a D-ranked threat, same as Jack.
An Augmenter, probably, judging from his brawn and regenerative ability.
Jack was also an Augmenter, and in an Augmenter vs. Augmenter fight, the better technical fighter tended to win. In this case, Jack was outmatched physically, but with his blade arms and skill, he could make up the deficit.
Jack was not trained all fancy and intense like Supers or some of the better mercenaries and villains, but he had gotten into plenty of street scraps. He had learned from bloody experience, and he could tell this Alter was a total amateur.
The giant growled and punched at Jack's head. Jack ducked and stabbed into the giant's throat and then circled around to try and decapitate the giant while he was disabled trying to regenerate a throat torn to shreds.
The giant however, landed a solid punch on Jack's chest, launching him back into a tree.
Jack braced for impact, but even then, the giant Alter's strength was just too much. He almost snapped the tree he hit in half as the wind knocked out of him. He dropped to one knee and sucked in breath as he shakily looked up at the giant.
How the hell did this guy not react at all to his throat getting shredded? Yeah, he could regenerate, but even regenerating Alters got disabled until their vital organs healed up.
But this thing treated the hole in its throat as if it was just a minor bug bite.
Jack looked around to see where the Lasher was, but the man was gone. Had his body been taken?
"That's enough, troll chieftain." A voice came out of nowhere.
Jack froze, trying to locate the voice. He did not have to try long. The source of the voice jumped down from a treetop and landed in front of Jack. Seemed to be some ordinary dude - Jack's mask scanner registered him at 0 AC count. Really pale skin and white hair with green glowing eyes.
He was dressed in a black bodysuit with a strange purple orb embedded in his chest.
"Who-who the fuck are you?" wheezed out Jack.
"How rude. Is that how you talk to your clients?"
"Y-you?" Jack slumped back, sitting down and leaning against the tree he had hit. He breathed heavily, looking moments away from death. In reality, he was now nearly fully recovered. His knife arms might have only affected his arms, but his Alter Cell count was good enough that he had superhuman physicals.
Not enough to level a building with a single punch or anything like that, but still easily more than enough to rip a normal man, a normal man like this idiot with a 0 AC count according to his mask's scanner, in half.
"Yes. I'll have you and your friend assist me in a few experiments," said the man as he walked over to Jack.
When the man got close enough, Jack lunged suddenly like a wild cat, thrusting forwards with his blade arm, aiming to carve straight through this idiot from the shoulders up.
"Woah now." The man casually spoke as he held Jack's blade down between his palms. It felt like Jack's blade was stuck between a hydraulic press, just completely and utterly stuck.
"W-what the fuck?" Jack growled as he pushed forward, but this man, this guy with a 0 AC count, was much, much stronger than him. He noticed a strange green outline shining around the guy forming into a hexagonal pattern around his limbs, chest, legs - everywhere he exerted muscular energy, as if the pattern was reinforcing his power.
"So, [Negative Surge] lets me keep up quite easily with a D-rank villain. Good to know."
"Shut up!" Jack used his other free arm to swipe at the cocky fucker's head.
The man let go of Jack's blade arm and then rushed in close, too close for Jack's long blades to reach properly.
Jack felt…a sense of déjà vu. This exact sequence had happened before, the first time Jack had gone to jail. A Super known by the name of Diamond Fist had out-maneuvered Jack's wild slashes with this very same counter.
It showed Jack the massive difference between someone that knew how to use their powers with training and, well, someone like Jack who just used it wildly.
This guy…this guy was trained. Trained properly. Way beyond what a street thug like Jack could compete against.
In the next instant, Jack nearly vomited as the man launched a powerful elbow right into his gut, this time properly crushing the air out of him.
Jack collapsed to his knees, spit drooling from his gaping mouth as he trembled in pain and shock. All he could do was look up at the man weakly with shaky vision as he waited for a death blow. No such execution came, however.
Instead, the man looked off to the side. "Fler'Gan, I have your second sample here."
Jack felt slimy tendrils crawl up his neck and around his face, and in the next instant, his world went black.