Chapter 33:

The Strongest (Puck versus Mammoth)


Puck followed the signs and skated towards the Data Centre. Bookmark here


Puck nodded. ‘Right.’Bookmark here

Fenris ran away.Bookmark here

Ahead, a hundred servicemen were about to breach the door to the Data Centre tower block. SWAT police, soldiers, marines, and a dozen other outfits Puck didn’t recognise were armed to the teeth and out for blood. It was like the end of The Blues Sisters. Bookmark here

‘Could you hosers get out of the way please?' she said. 'I’d kill you, but I’m kind of in a rush right now.’Bookmark here

They all turned their guns on her.Bookmark here

One of them held a hand up to stop the others. It was a Texas Ranger wearing a cowboy hat, a gas mask, and a duster coat. ‘Wait. Ain’t you that Blue Nastie that licked Pigskin? One of the Big Five?’Bookmark here

Puck smiled broadly. ‘That’s me!’Bookmark here

‘I thought I recognised you. Duck, right?’Bookmark here

She gave him a death stare. ‘Puck.’Bookmark here

‘Right, right. Say, we don’t usually work with slashers, but we’re racing against the Doomsday Clock here. Since you’re such a badass an’ all, how’s about you take point?’Bookmark here

She grinned. Finally, some respect! ‘Sure! I’ll take you boys under my wing!’ Bookmark here

She got in position in front of the entrance. The Texas Ranger placed a C-4 plastic explosive on the door. The explosion blew the door off its hinges. Sam skated inside. The Data Centre was a maze of ceiling-high computers.Bookmark here

‘Stay frosty, y’all,’ said the Texas Ranger. ‘We have no idea what we’re up against.’Bookmark here

Puck led the servicemen through the computer maze. She expected Patriots to ambush her at every turn, but none appeared. Eventually, she picked up the sound of munching coming from around a corner. She held a hand up to the servicemen to stop them and peeked around the corner.Bookmark here

Mammoth was hunched over eating a pile of Patriots.Bookmark here

‘Holy hell!’ said Puck. ‘Contact! Mow him down!’Bookmark here

The servicemen turned the corner and opened fire. Bookmark here

The bullets bounced off Mammoth’s skeletal armour. He lunged forwards and cut a dozen servicemen in half with his giant spear. Bookmark here

‘Zone Technique: Frost Bite!’ Puck slashed at him repeatedly with her icy bladed hockey stick.Bookmark here

Mammoth whacked her into a computer with the flat of his spear. Her ice skin cracked, something in her spine snapped, and a stabbing pain shot through her back. She tried to get up, but the pain kept her down.Bookmark here

The servicemen kept firing until their guns click-click-clicked empty.Bookmark here

Mammoth rose to his full towering height, blood streaming from his mouth. ‘Your efforts are futile! There is no one on this weak planet that can defeat me! I've defeated Pigskin, and I've defeated Shark Man! The only reason I didn’t ascend to the Big Five was because I didn’t want slashers getting too scared to fight me! Once Colonel Ripper has cleansed this world in fire, I’ll defeat him and the King in Yellow too! Then I’ll move on to the rest of the Multiverse and find a real challenge!’Bookmark here

The Texas Ranger took out a combat knife. ‘If bull were music, you’d have a brass band! Come on, y’all! I’m sure he’s got a weak spot someplace!’Bookmark here

The servicemen all took out their combat knives and dogpiled Mammoth. Bookmark here

A blur of motion, Mammoth ripped them to pieces with his tusks. Bookmark here

He spat out the Texas Ranger’s cowboy hat. ‘The weak should fear the strong.’Bookmark here

Fighting through the pain, Puck got up and launched a combination attack at Mammoth. ‘Zone Technique: Frost Bite! Zone Technique: Blizzard! Zone Technique: Avalanche!’ Bookmark here

Her attacks did nothing.Bookmark here

He swatted her aside with the back of his hand. She felt like she’d been hit by a car. She crashed to the floor.Bookmark here

‘I expected a meal from you by now, runt,’ said Mammoth, ‘but I suppose I’ll have to make do with a snack.’ He bared his bloody teeth.Bookmark here

Nope!Bookmark here

Puck skated away through the computer maze. Mammoth stampeded after her.Bookmark here

How is this happening?! I was supposed to have gotten stronger!Bookmark here

Memories flashed through her mind. Bookmark here

Winning the Canadian Women’s Hockey Championships. Bookmark here

Signing up with the Montreal Canucks in the men’s Hockey Championships. Bookmark here

Getting nicknamed Puck by the team for being so small.Bookmark here

Getting thrashed in the tryouts due to the sheer difference in strength. Bookmark here

Her mother beating with a wooden spoon for embarrassing her. Bookmark here

Ambushing the Montreal Canucks in the locker room and slashing them to death with a hockey stick ending in an ice skate blade. Bookmark here

It had always been like this. No matter how good she was, there was always someone better. Most of her life had been one long, unhappy competition. Bookmark here

Yet strangely, the two months she’d spent with the Blue Nasties getting her bum kicked had been the time of her life. Bookmark here

What was the point in striving to be number one all the time if it just made her unhappy? Wouldn’t she rather do something that she enjoyed like she had when she started playing hockey? Wasn’t the fun she’d had worth more than the trophies?Bookmark here

Puck turned around. ‘You win.’Bookmark here

Mammoth crashed against a computer to stop himself. ‘Say again?!’Bookmark here

‘You win. I’m not competing to be the Number One Slasher anymore.’Bookmark here

‘So, you’ve finally realised I’m the strongest!’Bookmark here

‘Sure, you’re the strongest, but it isn’t worth it.’Bookmark here

‘What?!’Bookmark here

‘I mean look at where this obsession with becoming the strongest has got you, Mammoth. You’re the last of your tribe, you eat your allies, and you want to commit genocide because no one is as strong as you. If you’re what winning looks like, then I don’t want to win.’Bookmark here

Mammoth pointed his giant spear at her. ‘Bold words for someone within slashing range!’Bookmark here

‘No, I’m running away. You’re stronger than me, but you're not faster. I can tell you’re not interested in finding the nukes anyway.’ She turned around and skated away.Bookmark here

‘Weak,’ said Mammoth, ‘like your father.’Bookmark here

Puck stopped. She glared at him over her shoulder. Her voice was cold. ‘What did you just say?’Bookmark here

‘I said you’re weak like your father. Yeah, I made the connection the first time I saw that snub nose of yours. You’re the daughter of Tiger Gretzky, “the Greatest Ice Hockey Brawler of All Time”.’ He laughed darkly. ‘I remember his final match. Took on the Toronto Trees and cracked his head on the ice. Funny stuff.’Bookmark here

Puck turned around. She was an angry woman; she got it from her mum and dad, but never before had she hated anyone quite like this. It wasn’t hot rage that consumed her. It was a cold lucidity. The man in front of her had belittled the death of her father; her father had taught her to skate at the Snowman Centre ice rink when she was five; the life of the man in front of her had come to an end.Bookmark here

Puck whispered. ‘Mammoth. Help me turn this place into a hockey rink. I promise I’ll kill you.’Bookmark here

Mammoth smiled. ‘Daddy’s girl, eh?' Bookmark here

He set about pushing the ceiling-high computers around them away until he’d created an arena roughly the shape of an hockey rink.Bookmark here

Puck pressed the buttons on the sides of her roller skates, and they turned into ice skates. ‘I was going to save this for when Jack fought the King in Yellow, but I guess he’ll just have to do without. Zone Technique: Frozen Floor.’ Ice spread out from her feet until it covered the ground. ‘Zone Technique: Ice Queen.’ Her ice skin became ice armour, and a crown of ice horns grew out of her head. ‘Zone Technique: Cold Iron.’ The ice skate blade on the end of her hockey stick started steaming with liquid nitrogen. Bookmark here

Mammoth yawned. ‘Is that it? A runt on ice is still a runt.’Bookmark here

‘You’re an idiot. The cavemen were runts to the woolie mammoths’—Puck widened her eyes and smiled—‘and they drove them to extinction!’Bookmark here

She sped around Mammoth and started ricocheting on the computers. She dashed in and slashed his lower leg. He struck out at her, cracking the ice as he did, but she was too fast and got away. She dashed in again and slashed his right forearm. This time, he tripped when he tried to counterattack. The wound on his lower leg had frozen.Bookmark here

Puck grinned. Welcome to Hell.Bookmark here

She dashed in and slashed him again and again and again. Every time Mammoth got hit, a different body part froze, quickly restricting his movements. Soon, he gave up trying to counterattack at all and just started flailing around breaking the ice, which reassembled itself instantly.Bookmark here

A memory of Puck outmanoeuvring a girl in a hockey match while her parents clapped flashed through her mind.Bookmark here

She laughed. This is fun!Bookmark here

Puck slashed one of Mammoth’s eyes.Bookmark here

He stopped the bleeding with a hand. ‘Enough of this child’s play! Zone Special: Woolie Warrior!’Bookmark here

He grew in size until he filled the room. He slashed wildly in every direction, destroying computer after computer after computer until he was cutting through the walls. A glancing strike cut Puck’s right arm off. The tower block started to fall apart around them. Computers from the upper floors fell through the ceiling. Bookmark here

Okay! I know when I’ve touched the Sun! Bookmark here

Puck skated through the falling rubble and exited the door she’d come through.Bookmark here

Mammoth tried to stampede after her, but the falling rubble, his size, and his frozen body parts made it impossible. ‘Where are you going?! You didn’t win! You didn’t win! I’m still the strongest!’Bookmark here

Puck shrugged. ‘The cavemen didn’t win through their own strength either. They drove the woolie mammoths off cliffs.’ The tower block began to fall. She waved. ‘Bye, hoser.’ Bookmark here

The tower block collapsed on Mammoth.Bookmark here

It probably wouldn’t kill him, but it would give him enough of a headache to keep him from interfering with the other Blue Nasties.Bookmark here

Puck looked at her missing right arm and smiled. She’d finally met her match.Bookmark here

She felt free.Bookmark here

She collapsed.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.