Moving through the water in his armor and equipment was like pushing through maple syrup. Fred could do it for a while, but it would sap his strength. He had done some amount of training both in the armor and out of it. All the training in the world wouldn't make up for the resistance it put up. Thankfully it looked like even though the woman he fought had some mechanical assistance, she also had to deal with the massive, billowing cloak. It formed an effective net around them.
Still casting out mental requests for help from John, he focused on controlling his breathing and making sure he wasn't struggling or panicking. He shifted his grip on her arm, trying to grab a hand or put an arm bar on her. Joint locks were the way to go when it came to fighting in these conditions.
He found the base of her hand and applied pressure on it, pushing it back against itself. Unable to hear any sounds she made, he assumed his leverage and strength were overcoming the suit's compensators, based on her body language.
Her legs wrapped around him and squeezed. She was probably trying to force air out.
The cold and exertion were already doing a good job. Surprised at the amount of pressure she exerted, a few bubbles escaped him. To exercise tit for tat, he pushed harder against her hand. Muscles tensed under his ministrations, until suddenly there wasn't any more resistance.
The legs around him went slack.
He let go of her arm and moved to grip her helmet.
She went from slack to moving like an eel. Her other arm whipped out.
A deep pain slashed across his ribs. His eyes darted to the source of pain, and he saw a gleam and an arc of light. A blade must be one of the hidden gems in her armor and it was energized. He couldn't tell if she'd actually gotten through the armor, but the pain he still felt made it a good bet.
Her arm moved again, but this time he was able to deflect it. Now he could see that the object was less blade and more something like an arc welder. He couldn't let her get inside his guard again. His lungs started to burn. He didn't have much juice in the tank.
"I'm coming." John's voice sounded in his head. "I ran into some unexpected resistance."
"Good." Was all Fred had the concentration to send back.
His opponent did move faster than he did, but she had less skill. Their fight was, as a result, somewhat even. He really had damaged her right hand, but she fought well enough with her left.
After a few heartbeats, the temptation to breathe grew strong. His will was strong enough to fight, but not for much longer.
An incredible pressure clamped down on them both. Massive jaws closed around them an pinioned them, cape and all. Fred saw a flash of silver scale. Movement to the surface was quick, as a fish Jonah would have gaped at breached the surface.
Dynamo swooped down and grabbed hammer from the mouth of the fish. The metal man's chest plate was scorched and smoke came from the seam near his right shoulder. "You missed out on some fun." The deadpan statement still managed to convey sarcasm.
Fred spit out water. "I would have traded you."
White light flared, as Nimbus grabbed the armored woman's form with her telekinesis. "I've got this one. The ship got away, as did the other mechsuits."
"At least we got one of them." Fred winced as being carried pulled now sore muscles. "Let's get back to base."
The group congregated on shore, John now dripping water, though not as much as one might expect. "We should be glad we ran into that ship above water. It has some interesting capabilities and is adapted more to underwater defense."
"Adapted?" Dynamo gripped their sole prisoner.
John nodded. "That thing was grown as much as it was built." He slumped, something the usually vital man rarely did. HIs skin had taken on a sick color. "Grab me."
Fred had him before he hit the ground. "Poison?"
John's head lolled a little. "Yeah. I absorbed some of it and still have a little swimming around in my blood."
Nimbus touched those she could and soon they were back at Dusk's castle in the sky.
Arms grabbed John and took him to the nearest couch where Dusk began looking him over.
Doc Neutron fussed over his creation. "What did you let them do to you?"
"You may examine me once I get her secured." Dynamo carried his burden to a pedestal near the fireplace. Once on it, a field of green energy snapped up around the armor suit and kept her upright.
Fred walked over to Bearcat once she'd finished helping lay John down. "Can I borrow your pen and paper?"
The detective produced a pad from her jacket. "What's up?"
He scrawled the symbol on a blank sheet. "This looks familiar but I can't place it?"
A low whistle left her lips. "Thule Society. I tangled with them in the war. You wouldn't have seen them in your action, though you may have seen this on paperwork. They were deep underground. Responsible for a lot of tehcnomagic and other dark business."
"Technomagic?" Bearcat had his full attention.
Bearcat smirked. "That's the best term Dusk and I could come up with. Merging the two is next to impossible. It gives Neutron fits. Dusk too." She took back the pad. "You saw this out there?"
Fred nodded. "They had something John will fill us in on. The submersible wasn't a ship, not really. It was biological somehow. They also had advanced mechsuits with ray weapons I haven't seen before."
"Well if the Thule Society is still around and cranking out their brand of evil, we're in for an interesting time."
Fred took off his helmet and lay it on a nearby table. "How so?"
"The last thing they were working on sounded a lot like this submersible. A way to grow machines. It would allow them to infuse more magic into their creations. Wouldn't surprise me if their armor was living in some fashion."
Nimbus joined them. "What she says is true. They're the reason I'm like this." She gestured down at her flowing garment. "The accident that killed General Freedom and Lucy Liberty created me. And it’s their fault."
Next - Interrogation