I tried to dive to the right, but I’d already lost control of my legs.
I crumpled, and fell to the roof of the building. I fell sideways, and then rolled halfway on to my back—”halfway” because I was mostly on my arm and right side of my back, and partly on my rocketpack. It wouldn’t let me roll all the way there.
The other guy—the only guy with an exoskeleton still standing—had pulled out a paralysis gun too.
I could tell because the helmet’s sonar gave me better peripheral vision. That let me see a flying person fall (Vaughn), and simultaneously see Cassie jump, drop to the roof, and let go of her staff.
I couldn’t see if it fell to the ground.
Not that it mattered. We couldn’t do anything anyway.
I didn’t see them get Marcus, but since they’d stopped fighting he had to be down too.
The man without the exoskeleton (the leader?) looked over the group. He turned to the other guy, “Check how badly our people are hurt. I’m calling it in. We’ve got the girl.”
Something about his voice sounded familiar.
The other guy said, “Think that means we’ll get a bonus? They were going to give one to Ridgeback.”
“Doubt it, but we deserve one.”
“No shit. After D.C.? We’re lucky we’re not dead.”
“Nah. They don’t kill people.”
“Yeah? I heard guys died.”
“Me too, but I think that was the frog-men.”
“Yeah. Check those guys, okay?”
The leader pulled a phone from his belt, and held it in front of his mouth. “Tell Sixer, we’ve got her plus some teammates.”
I couldn’t hear the response.
“Who? The guitar guy—we’re pretty sure he’s the Rocket—plus Storm King, and the shapeshifter.”
The leader went quiet for a while, listening to the person on the other end, or maybe waiting for a response.
Meanwhile I heard the heavy steps, and occasional hum of the man with an exoskeleton moving around, helping the guy who’d fallen over up, shaking the other guys back to consciousness.
A breeze blew across the roof. It sounded like it might be gaining strength.
That would be great. What’s worse than lying on roof paralyzed and unable to defend yourself? All of the above, but with darkness and rain.
If I were lucky, it wouldn’t just be rain, but I couldn’t count on that.
I tried to think of a way out of it, but no obvious plan came to mind. Unlike Daniel, all my plans required the ability to move.
My mind jumped around. I don’t like to think I was panicking, but if I was, I had an excuse. Doing my best to keep my mind on something possible, I tried to move my toe.
Strangely, I could. I could move all my toes—not my legs, hands or arms, but toes? Yes.
Not that it mattered. What was I going to do with my toes when I couldn’t move the rest of my legs?
Then I thought, why didn’t my anti-paralysis device work?
I thought about my toes, and I knew why.
My device worked against the kind of paralysis created by one of Man-Machine’s inventions, a paralysis gun that used sound to trigger paralysis throughout the body. It worked because we needed to be paralyzed to sleep.
The gun they had used some form of radiation to specifically block individual limbs from moving. I wasn’t sure how you’d manage to avoid paralyzing the heart, but since I wasn’t dead, it was obviously possible.
“Dead? Both of them?” The leader sounded matter of fact about it.
He pulled a gun out of its holster—an automatic pistol, not the paralysis gun.
“What’s your ETA?”
He hung the phone back on his belt. “Men,” he said, “they’ll be picking us up by helicopter in ten minutes. There will be a medic on the flight. Before then, we’ll need to get a couple things done. They want the Rocket and Captain Commando, but Storm King and the Shift are useless. They don’t want us to leave them alive.”
I felt sick.
I tried to wiggle my fingers. Even if couldn’t move my arms, I could do a lot if my fingers were free.
They wouldn’t move, and the leader’s voice still seemed strangely familiar to me.
The leader stepped forward as the wind kicked up a notch. “I’ll take Storm King and—”
Then lightning hit him, engulfing his entire body. He fell over.
I’d have closed my eyes if I could. Bright, white light filled my vision, followed by a thunderclap, both filtered to a bearable level by my helmet.
Vaughn didn’t need to move to act.
Around me, electricity hit the men in exoskeletons—the ones who’d gotten up anyway.
I’d have felt a lot better then, if it weren’t for the leader.
Even with his burned and smoking clothes, he’d begun to stand up.