She looked up just in time to see Vandrad get slammed with lightning and sent soaring so far across the waters that he actually landed on the ship. It seemed the serpent was capable of doing much more than summoning a storm; it could actually spit certain elements of a storm from its mouth. It got her thinking. Mercury had really only just recently learned that the magic she’d received from Jadus was slayer magic, like Gangting’s, which meant that she could eat most iterations of her elements. It was a tactic she’d yet to try, but one she understood could help her regain some strength.
Vandrad’s voice came in over her radio, informing her that they were going to have to find a way to jam a load of energy down the snake’s throat if they were going to do any significant kind of damage to it. He had a trick that might work, he told her, but he was going to need some time to charge it up, which meant she was going to have to step up to the plate, no matter how weary she already was. By the time he got to where she was hovering, Mercury was already pushing herself unsteadily onto her feet, her eyes burning on the incoming serpent with stubborn rage and determination that bordered on crazed amusement.
“Yeah. I got this.”
It was like something dangerous had snapped inside of her. Mercury had faced death so many times, and each time she became less and less afraid of her dance with it. By this point in her life, she was entirely desensitized to the idea. Thus, she wasted no time in getting the thing’s attention. Zipping down toward the beast, she pulled out Mercy and hovered along the side of the serpent’s face where Vandrad had actually managed to draw some blood and inflict an actual wound. It wasn’t enough damage to do anything more than piss the creature off, but since that was exactly what she wanted, it was perfect for her needs.
Taking the time to aim her shot carefully, her internal sensors factoring for the wind and the rain, she released a single grenade from the pistol that hit the snake right on the open wound. The blast radius of the attack was at full capacity, for the first time showing the actual range her grenades had and revealing that even in her prior fight to the death with Vandrad, she had indeed still been holding back. Where in Desierto the explosion had reached out for a fifty meter stretch, the size of this explosion was roughly three times that, easily enough to agitate the open wound and cause the serpent to screech in rage.
“WHAT’S THE MATTER?” she yelled at the beast over the roar of the storm around them. “DIDN’T LIKE THAT VERY MUCH? WHY DON’T YOU HAVE ANOTHER?” Mercury launched a second grenade, and then continued to do so until the serpent was so angry with her that it seemed to have completely forgotten about the ship and Vandrad, fixing a fully enraged eye on her where she hovered.
Mercury could see the muscles of its throat twitch as it prepared another blast, could sense the delicious power building deep in its belly that would be a welcome meal for her own. Slipping Mercy back in its holster so she wouldn’t drop it, the woman spread her arms open wide, bracing herself for the incoming attack. “Yeah, that’s right,” she whispered, a comment that would have otherwise gone unheard by Vandrad if it weren’t for the earbuds. “Give me everything you got.”
The creature opened its mouth and blasted a monsterous level of blue white lightning right at her, which Mercury made no effort to avoid. It nailed her with a direct hit, coating her with so much of the electrical charge that she completely disappeared inside a veritable sphere of lightning that clung to and jumped around her body like she’d been holding a conductive rod to draw it in with.
And then, the sphere quickly began to shrink as she sucked the electricity down, filling herself with it until the magic was completely gone. Her own depleted pools had been fully restored. In fact, they had been more than refilled. She was overflowing with power the likes of which she’d never felt before, fully rejuvenated and far beyond her normal capacities. With a feral cry, that power exploded from her and she began to glow with an eerie, black-purple light. Jet black lightning danced around her form, and her body appeared to have been fully encased in ebony colored steel.
If she hadn’t had the creature’s attention before, Mercury certainly did now. It could sense her overwhelming magic, its predatory eyes drawn to the dark, shimmering light that surrounded her body like a corrupted star. Acting out of sheer instinct, she swung out her arms with a grunt. Dark runes formed from each of her palms and from them two colossal sized robotic arms manifested, each one large enough that a single fist was almost as big as the serpent’s entire face. Each limb glowed with the same dark sunlight that clung to her own body, rippling with black lightning that somehow managed to spark equally dark flames that coated the arms.
With a defiant cry, she reached back one of her arms and threw it in a punch. The synthetic limb mirrored her movements, its massive fist slamming into the snake’s face with a solid sucker punch right to the jaw. Before it could recover, she did the same with the opposing arm, and then continued to wail on the creature without let up until it finally fell backward into the ocean. There was only a brief couple second of reprieve before it burst back out of the waters, roaring its unbridled fury, and Mercury took that time to take hold of its face with her mecha fists, one hand on either side of its mouth to keep its jaw pried open.
It fought her wildly, trying to pull back from her grip to no avail. It tightened its mouth around the magical hands, attempting to clamp it shut with its powerful maw, only to find Mercury’s own strength greater from her determination. “Open wide, you overgrown son of a bitch!” she growled at it, her voice strained from the tense effort of giving Vandrad a wide open shot down its esophagus.
In her focus, she had forgotten about its tail. She found herself unprepared for being whacked from the side, her hovercraft instantly shattering into pieces. Refusing to let her concentration be broken, Mercury continued to keep her magic flowing for as long as possible, continuing to pry its mouth open even as she plummeted toward the sea until she was once more almost completely drained of power.
She hit the surface of the ocean with such force that it took her breath away, only for her to immediately start choking when she made the mistake of instinctively trying to breathe in beneath the surface of the water. The salty liquid rammed its way violently down her throat, causing her to choke aggressively. Mercury needed to get to the surface, but she had been turned around so many times that she didn’t know which way was up. It was too dark under the water for her to differentiate the night sky from the dark abyss of the ocean depths.
And as she flailed, a sinking realization shrieked at the back of her mind: She didn’t know how to swim. Even if she had, she had expended nearly every last ounce of her energy making sure Vandrad had enough time and opportunity to either kill the thing, or hurt it so badly that it decided this miniscule snack just wasn’t worth the effort.
Terror washed over her as she realized she was actually going to die, and not from being eaten by an insanely sized monster, but from horrific, agonizing suffocation. The last thing she remembered, as her vision started to cloud and her consciousness began to fade, was using the last shreds of her energy to make her body glow once more, hoping that by shedding enough light she would be able to find the surface and make it up in time to save her own life.
And then she passed out.