He turned, and spoke, and his voice was sibilant. "Who are you?"
We looked at each other and back to the creature. "I'm Hyperdrive. This is Phoenix. What're you?"
"You can call me... Chameleon. Why are you in this place?"
"We heard an explosion and came to find out what was going on. What happened?"
"My friends... attacked me. So I killed them. And now I must finish the job."
"But the innocent people caught in the crossfire?" Even as I said it, I knew that wasn't something he would care about.
"There are no innocent people."
He waited for a moment as Adam and I spoke quickly and silently to try to find a way to stop the major destruction this being could cause - but the amount of quantum floating around warned us we would be no match for him if it came to a fight and we were out of depth when it came to talking him round. He shrugged his shoulders forward as though trying to massage a knot, and large draconic wings erupted from his back, shredding what remained of his shirt. I grabbed Adam and Alastair and flew after him, and it was hard work to keep up. I could hear the other two calling in to the Hub for help to come quickly.
It soon became clear his target was the Metropolitan Police headquarters: he was destroying the lower levels of the building as we got close enough to intervene. I dropped the other two, trusting them to be safe, and flew closer to try and catch the building as it began to fall. To my surprise, the building paused in its descent. I could hear the groan of fatigued metal and saw all the lampposts leaning towards the building, saw cars twitching on the ground as though they wanted to join in. I glanced back and saw the sweat on Adam's face as he concentrated on holding the building together by the metal cables and reinforcement that ran through it. Alastair had vanished: he was teleporting through all nearby buildings, evacuating as many people as he could as Chameleon stepped up his threat.
With Adam carefully lowering the headquarters, Chameleon turned his rage on the flats opposite. Again, I raced to catch it and again Adam was a little quicker, but the strain was starting to tell. Loose metal around him - drain covers, bench frames, street lights, even a car door - were now leaning towards him or already covering him like a strange, cumbersome armour.
I changed tactics and turned on Chameleon, punching him with all the strength and speed I could muster. He returned the favour and I knew I was outmatched - all I could do was keep hitting and hope help arrived before I couldn't continue. Hoping to keep him at a distance, I grabbed a street light and used it as a spear. It shattered as it hit him. His arm flowed like mercury, becoming a sword which he swung at me, severing my left arm. I punched him again, less worried by my arm than Adam was - the Initiative doctors and scientists could no doubt build me something better (as it happened, it turned out not to be necessary: my arm grew back over several agonising weeks. In some ways, the constant itch and ache of the regrowth was worse than the initial shock of the loss).
Seeing that I could take more punishment than I think he'd expected, Chameleon turned on Adam and I reckon if that is he hadn't been so cacooned in metal we may have lost him. As it was, he wasn't looking much better than my mangled arm by the time help arrived in the form of Remy and his team, closely followed by our guys and then Pax with Team Tomorrow. Jean and one of Remy's people grabbed Adam and I to one side and held us still as they tried to heal us, or at least fix us up a bit. I struggled against them, keen to return to the fight that I could see wasn't going well even now.
And the air shifted as someone new arrived - the man from the Null Manifesto video. He walked calmly over to Chameleon and threw a single punch. As he connected, there was a flash of light and he teleported away again, to leave splattered remains of the most dangerous nova I've yet faced.
Although Adam and I aren't entirely convinced there were enough remains. Maybe it's residual anxiety from the fight, but part of us thinks there weren't enough remains and someone that powerful could surely have teleported out enough of Chameleon to rebuild him - particularly given how quickly we recovered.
We recuperated. Whilst my arm regrew, Adam researched Chameleon. Despite his alien appearance, he was a nova, a former policeman with a wife and daughter. Once he'd erupted, he'd been given more and more dangerous missions. These left him increasingly anxious and irrational, but rather than treating him for PTSD or offering counselling, they increased the frequency of his missions until he became too dangerous for them to handle. At this point, it was decided to do away with him - with the outcome we witnessed.
When Stef went back to this research later, to try to find more about his family, this had all been wiped from the record so utterly that even she could find no trace of it.
It was interesting to note that the press never showed who, ultimately, took care of Chameleon. There was a lot of anti-nova feeling, so perhaps the idea was to try to contain that the nova calling for novas to be dealt with under nova law was the only one who could control the situation - but I'd be naive to believe that. The press (or whoever pulls their strings) didn't want it known that novas could deal with other novas, and that novas who spoke for separating nova rights would contain a threat to the baseline populace. It certainly made me feel more comfortable with Terragen, but increased my fear of reprisals by baselines on the baselines I care about.
And Terragen released the footage, pouring petrol on the flames. I think they were right to do so, but should have done so sooner. I imagine they were giving the benefit of the doubt, waiting for it to be commented on by others, but the timing caused more friction.
Alastair summoned us - reassured us the still-absent Rachel was ok and suggested we all took some time off and laid low. Everyone agreed, making various mutterings about seeing family and heading away on extended holidays. Alastair promised an eye would be kept on my baseline friends, and I went home to see if I could convince Steve to come away with me.
He was surprisingly amenable: Holly, all of 15, had recently sat the last of her A-levels and was already looking to see what other courses she could do. He wasn't cross for the influence Alastair, Stef and I had had on her - she's smart by herself and has thrived under our tutoring - but did feel she needed a break. A trip to New Zealand was booked to leave the following week. Not knowing exactly how long we'd be away meant I missed New Year at the Styx, but Bill had decided not to host one anyway... I'm really worried about him, but not sure what to do.
New Zealand was amazing - as beautiful as I remembered, although the bungee jumping and white water rafting rather loses something when you've flown to space. Holly and Steve enjoyed it - more than they expected!
Alastair had asked that Adam and I keep mental communication to an absolute necessary only, leaving my head feeling a little empty. Similarly, all phone calls to be made on burner phones and as infrequently as possible - something had him really worried. I wasn't entirely surprised when he contacted me to say he'd be arranging a meeting soon and added that he thought I might be being followed (if I was, they were very good - even on high alert I saw no signs) and that he hadn't told the others yet but was concerned the security of the Hub had been breached.
We were in New Zealand for 6 weeks before we flew back (by aeroplane - slow and boring, but more subtle) so that I could head to a secret location in Scotland. The team arrived by different entrances to be greeted by Alastair and Jen.