It's weird, the way dreams shift. You don't really notice it until you're trying to explain the dream to someone; at the time, it all seems perfectly natural. But when you wake up and try to relate the dream to someone else, you suddenly hit a point where you have to say, "And then for some reason I was a female Buddhist warrior monk from a hidden monastery in Tibet that had existed outside of time for centuries, and I'd come to San Francisco to learn about the outside world after a dimensional convergence restored the monastery's connection with reality, and I got picked up with a bunch of other hostages in Chinatown but I knew that after my training with the monks, the manual labor the guards were making me do was easy and so I just bided my time with the infinite patience of someone who was totally connected to the universe and waited to find out what would happen next...um, and I didn't actually dream all that, I just sort of knew it."
In case it's not clear, that's what happened. Suddenly, in the dream, I was Shining Dragon Fist, and I'd been down there in the cells for weeks, and I just knew that. And they were taking us all out of the cells and lining us up, and the guards had guns trained on us. And there were people crying, and pleading, and talking in a whole bunch of languages (yeah, big shock, Lord Raptor turned out to be the kind of guy who decided anyone who wasn't a white male was only suited for manual labor.) And I just stared at them, totally calm. Totally controlled. But underneath it all, I could feel my...well, she calls it her qi, but I always think of it as the soul. I could feel it surging, ready to flow out of me in a fury of action. And then...
And then this guy came charging in, wearing this suit of armor that looked like it had been welded together out of spare parts. His hair was standing completely on end like he was too close to a generator...mainly because he had this weird freaking generator on his back, like the backpacks the Ghostbusters wore. You could actually see places where harsh, actinic light was leaking out where there wasn't enough shielding. And these hoses came out from the backpack and ran down the arms to nozzles just over the wrists. (He's refined the armor a lot since then, but my dream actually had a really clear, solid memory of Neutrino Man's first suit. Have I mentioned how much he scares me?)
Then he started shooting. Superheated steam blasted out, sending guards staggering backwards. Even through their armor, something conducted into their bodies and left them wobbly and dazed. (Again, something that he insists leaves no permanent side effects, and you can trust him because he's a nuclear physicist. One Word: Chernobyl.) The remaining guards shouted, "Shoot to stun! He's one of Lord Raptor's VIP prisoners!" Others who didn't have as much discipline were shouting questions about how he'd managed to build something like that while under guard, and a few medics had already started tending to the downed soldiers.
That was when I moved. It felt different in the dream. In real life, when I fight, it's like suddenly everyone else is moving in slow motion and I'm at normal speed. When I was dreaming I was Shu, it was like I was swimming, moving slowly but with ineffable grace and striking out at statues. Qi flowed from my fists, turning each punch into a blow that could shatter stone and each kick into a thundering assault that practically ignored the guards' armor. They didn't even know what hit them at first.
But there were a lot of them, and they had human shields. It didn't take long for them to get past the surprise and start threatening the hostages. "Stand down!" the leader shouted. "Stand down or we shoot them all!" For Shu, it wasn't even a contest. I gently put my hands on my head and slowly sank to my knees, making it clear that I wasn't a threat anymore.
"What about you, hero?" the guard captain said to Neutrino Man. "What do you say?"
Neutrino Man smiled. "I say five, four, three, two, one..."
And then all the lights went out at once.
TO BE CONTINUED...