Hawk and James soared through the city, jumping across rooftops and darting through alleyways. While James had become much more skilled at traversing the urban terrain, Hawk was clearly a master.
After traveling throughout the city, they came to rest atop the tallest building in sector C. From this vantage point, they could look around for miles in all directions and could easily spot trouble.
As they took in the city from on high, James asked, "Now what?"
With his gaze unbroken, Hawk replied, "Now we keep an eye out and see if anything catches our attention."
James looked on at Hawk with unspoken awe. His appearance was that of a bird of prey and his mannerisms matched the look. His golden eyes were slitted like a bird, and most of his costume was outfitted with avian-based decorations. A necklace hung down to his chest with a razor-sharp beak at the end. Feathers jutted out from parts of his suit and gave it a sleek and predatorial aura.
"So," James broke the silence. "Are you and Falcon brothers?"
Hawk looked over at him and chuckled. "Not by blood, but in a manner of speaking yes, we are brothers."
James nodded his head and turned away, trying not to seem too invasive.
Hawk could tell James was curious and decided to throw him a bone. "We grew up together, went to the same foster home, and when we lost our foster parents we both ended up on the streets. That's when we made a pact to look out for each other and help each other survive."
That was not the backstory James was expecting. Hawk and Falcon always seemed more like frat boys, not parentless orphans. "So how did you work your way into the guild?"
"Falcon and I used our powers to rob people, eventually we got involved with some mob types and got into major trouble with the law. The guild heard about it and offered us a deal, use our power for good, or rot in jail."
James' gaze shot back at Hawk who was now drifting off into thought. His eyes began to get misty so he turned his head away in embarrassment.
"So how about you?" Hawk asked, hoping to draw attention off himself. "You got any siblings?"
The question hit him hard. James didn't like to talk about it. "Just one, an older brother. Our relationship is, complicated.
Hawk nodded. "I get it, family can be a tricky situation sometimes. Sometimes I want to smack Falcon upside the head and other times I can't imagine my life without him. That's family I suppose."
James let out a laugh. "You can say that again."
Now feeling melancholy, they went back to patrolling the city in silence.
Not too much time had passed before Hawk detected a disturbance. Tilting his head, he strained to locate the source.
James watched on as Hawk angled his head from one side to the other. He was a bit entertained by his bird-like behavior. "What is it?" He asked, unable to detect something amiss.
"Listen," Hawk instructed. "Don't you hear that?"
Faintly, he was able to pick up the sound of crashing, smashing, and screaming, rising from the streets. "I hear it now, lets go!"
Both of them jumped out over the edge and while James fell like a brick, Hawk soared out overhead, his arms now turned into powerful wings. With the power to morph into a hawk at will, he could soar throughout the sky unimpeded by gravity.
James admired his awesome form as he plummeted to the ground, hoping that someday he could fly as masterfully as Hawk.
Before he met the floor, a massive pair of talons gripped him and carried him along in flight. James looked up to see Hawk in full bird form, flapping his massive wings as he let out a deafening screech.
"You see him?" Hawk asked James through the deafening roar of the air.
He scanned the ground below until he located the source of the commotion. "Yup, I see it."
"Alright, I'm gonna send you right at him," Hawk remarked as he shot up further into the sky. The force of the climb was causing James' stomach to sink, like when an airplane is taking off.
Now far above the ground, Hawk stopped climbing, instead bringing his wings to his side and allowing them both to fall back down. With a sonic boom, they dove downward, forcing James' face to flap and contort with the wind.
Then, with incredible precision, Hawk released James from his grip, sending him flying at bullet-like speed directly into the monster.
The initial impact sent out a shockwave, shattering all the glass on the nearby cars and buildings. Once through the street level, they kept smashing past layer after layer of the city's infrastructure, first the street, then the sewers, then the sub-level, until they broke through into the bedrock, sending cracks into the solid earth.
The moment they stopped descending the monster sent a kick into James' stomach, forcing the air out of his lungs and sending a rippling shock through his body. The force of the blow sent him flying back up through the hole they had created and nearly into Hawk who was circling above.
Swooping in, he caught him before he went up to far and dropped him off back on the ground.
"You okay brother?" He asked James as he morphed back into a human.
He coughed and caught his breath. "Yeah, I'll be ok, thanks."
With a howl, Steel Skin jumped up to the surface and began to sprint at them, claws outstretched.
Hawk didn't wait for him to close the gap. He darted forwards, sending blow after blow against the monster's infamous steel pelt, with little effect. The beast let out a garbled laugh as Hawks strikes failed to do it any harm. With one swift flick of its arm, it sent Hawk flying through an apartment building.
James rushed in with a flurry of fast kicks, giving off the sound of machine gunfire into the streets. Steel Skin absorbed everything and attempted the same strike on James that it gave to Hawk. James was able to narrowly avoid its attack, however, he was now overextended and an easy target for the monster.
Hawk flew back onto the scene in bird form and let out a massive gust of wind from his wings, sending Steel Skin tumbling backward. James took the opportunity to pick up a busted fire hydrant off the ground and use it as a giant club. Swing after swing, he smacked it into the monster, sending it crashing through street lights, stop signs, and whoever's car was unlucky enough to be in the way. While the force of the blows was enough to irk the beast, it was still not causing any real damage and before long the club was reduced to a jagged, bent metal pole.
Hawk could see they needed a new tactic so, grabbing the monster in his talons, he lifted it skyward. The beast wriggled but was unable to break free of Hawks razor-sharp claws. He got Steel Skin up thousands of feet, then let him drop. A moment later, he began an aerial dive and closed in on his target.
He dashed and slashed into the monster repeatedly, sending it jerking back and forth through the sky. It was unclear if it was having any effect until the monster came crashing to the floor covered in gouges.
Hawk was able to pierce its armored skin but most of the cuts were superficial and served only to make the beast mad.
Now on the offensive, it sent a flurry of clawed strikes against James who was able to deflect and absorb most of the blows. Countering one of the creature's swings, he smacked it back into the air where Hawk was waiting, ready to send another wave of talon attacks into the monster's robust skin.
One Hawk was finished dashing it once more, he sent the creature rocketing down to the earth along with a volley of razor-sharp feathers he let loose from his wings. The feathers turned into deadly darts, pelting the ground as well as the beast.
Now in a full-on, adrenaline-fueled rampage, the monster came running out on all fours, taking James completely by surprise.
A full-force punch to his head sent James flying out, forcing him to bounce off a street light and out into a bus. The monster jumped on top of him and began to claw at him manically. James guarded his head with his arms and hands, letting his torso take most of the damage.
"Kazav," James cried out. "Can't we do something?"
"Hang on kid," He shouted back. "I think we might be well enough along in our bond to show this freak what you and I can really do."
James suddenly felt flush with power. The air around him began to glow a dark, dangerous aura. James stopped the monster's assault mid-blow. His hand began to cook the creature's skin, sending black burns climbing up its arms.
With a swift crack of his fist, he forced the monster back. The flesh was sizzling and seared where his hand made contact, like a steak on a grill.
James looked down at his hands. They shimmered as dark, plasma-like energy flowed across his skin. "What's happening Kazav?"
Through an insane laugh, Kazav shouted "The next level kid, that's what's happening."
"The next level?" James asked as the monster writhed on the floor in pain. "I like the sound of that!"
With immense force, James jumped forward, extending his leg out for a devastating kick. The monster managed to avoid him, but not before being burnt once again by the heat radiating off of his leg.
"This is awesome!" James cried out, as the ground beneath his foot turned into a scorched pile of cinders.
Kazav cackled with excitement. "Agreed kid, agreed!"
The monster was regaining its composer and shot back out toward James. With his new ability in tow, he took a solid stance and charged up his fist. Hawk attempted to swoop in and halt the monster's advance, but he was too far away.
James pulled back his fist and, once the monster was in range, let out a strike that sent molten flames shooting through its body. Awash is a sea of burning plasma, the monster flew backward and came to rest in the remains of a building that had been vaporized from the heat.
Hawk turned back into human form and stood behind James. "Wow," He remarked. "I've never seen anything like that before."
James stood there motionless, still in shock from the power of his attack. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Me neither."
They made sure the monster was dispatched, then brought it back to the guildhall so Bella could perform some tests. James returned to his room and played around with his new ability. After showing it off to Sparrow and the rest of the team, he incorporated it into his daily training sessions.
After accidentally melting a hole through the ceiling of the gym, James smiled a cocky grin. With his new power and the support of the guild, there was no threat he feared to face.
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