Breaking & Entering: Part 5

You notice the weirdest things in moments like that. For example, I noticed that (at least in the helmet’s sonar) the heavy duty version of Rook’s armor didn’t actually have a straight beak like a rook might. Its curved beak reminded me more of an eagle’s.

Not that this was the kind of moment best used for criticizing Rook’s grasp of bird anatomy.

I fired off more roachbots—the exploding kind this time. They zipped around the corner almost instantly.

With any luck, I could try an EMP from the inside if they made a crack.

The explosion gave off waves of sound that made the dome ring like a bell, and gave Izzy a great picture of everything going on, but my helmet didn’t do as well.

It wasn’t much better than viewing an explosion with my eyes. The helmet filtered the light, but even if I hadn’t been around the corner, I wouldn’t have seen much.

As the light and sound both dispersed, I could tell the suit had fallen backward.

Sonar wasn’t as good at details as I wanted, but the armor appeared to be smooth, and in one piece.

All I’d managed to do was knock it on its butt, and it was pulling itself up.

I decided to give myself the best possible chance, and ran around the corner, pointed the sonics at it, choosing the selection of frequencies that often destroyed computer parts and other electronics.

The armor didn’t show any signs of computer problems as it stood, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Sometimes they took time to show up.

The best thing I could do would be continue to stand there, and let the suit continue to try new and related frequencies based on an algorithm Grandpa had created.

The Rook suit raised an arm toward me, and I dove sideways—allowing the corner to shield me.

It didn’t do a very good job.

Bullets ripped through the wall, leaving a collection of holes.

Big holes.

I wondered how Jaclyn or Izzy would stand up to them, and simultaneously wished they were with me. That sort of hit was exactly the sort of thing that could break the Rocket suit’s seals.

I thought about turning on the rocket pack and flying down another spoke somewhere else in the dome. It was a good idea, but I was only facing one person here, and what if there were more suits of armor like this one in other spots?

I went with another option.

“Hey,” I said, “we could talk about this.”

I wasn’t sure what I planned to say after that, but it was worth a shot.

A woman’s voice, amplified by the suit, filled the hall. “We can talk about your surrender.”

“That’s not what I had in mind. I was thinking. Are you a mercenary, one of Rook’s followers, or uh… his girlfriend?”

She started laughing, and it was real, unforced laughter.

When she was done, she said, “Let’s go with mercenary. I don’t date clients, thank God.”

From around the corner, I heard a footstep. She was still moving, if not very quickly.

“OK. What would it take to hire you?”

She took another small footstep, and said calmly. “You couldn’t afford it.”

I wondered if she knew Lee at all, but didn’t spend long on that. She was going to come around the corner, and then she’d probably damage the suit enough that nerve gas could get through.

I went with the obvious even though I didn’t want to use them up—the goobots—all of them.

I didn’t wait for her to come around the corner. I let them fly.

The series of popping noises made me think of popcorn. As late as it was and as long as it had been since supper, my stomach felt empty.

Stifling the distractions in my head, I started the rocket pack, and launched myself into the air, taking a wide turn around her.

She didn’t even try to fire.

Thin lines of goo covered the suit, covering the ends of the gun barrels that hung underneath her forearms. She swayed, but the powered armor barely moved, the motors making strained noises.

Part of me wanted to call people on the comm, and let them know that the goobots were the best thing I’d done with roachbot tech in a long while. Another part of me mourned the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to take a look inside Rook’s lab—at least not the one for creating suits.

Cassie wasn’t there, and neither was her sword.

I landed at the far end of the lab, and the start of another room that seemed to have a lot of equipment. It deserved a better look than I’d be able to give it while flying.

Skidding a little as my feet hit the floor, I spent the first few seconds trying not to fall. Then I realized that this new lab had people in it—lots of them, all in Rook suits. Some stared at screens. Others stood at attention.

One of them pointed through the plexiglass windows at me.

I’d found the control room.

18 thoughts on “Breaking & Entering: Part 5”

  1. Another part of me mourned the fact that (needs I or possibly it here) wasn’t going to be able to take a look inside Rook’s lab—at least not the one for creating suits.

    JN

  2. “it was pulling himself up” mixes it and he.

    Interesting that the suit was a mercenary. Is Rook supplementing his ranks temporarily? Had loyalty problems? Either way, it suggests that he’s got money (well, I suppose having nuclear weapons and other WMD’s would already tell you that).

  3. @ Um
    Villainy generally pays better than heroism, otherwise only the crazy or the stupid would do it.

    The Eagle armored lady sounds interesting. I love her attitude. I hope we learn more about her, and that she becomes a recurring character. (Cart before horse powers, ACTIVATE!) ^_^

  4. heroes are stupid and yet not quite as stupid or crazy as villains. it is a better of two evils sort of deal. or worse in psycho gecko’s case.

  5. To be a Hero you have to be a little stupid, and a little suicidal. To be a Bad Guy, you need to be batshit insane. To be a true Villain, you need to be all too sane.

  6. NOt in real life. In real life many thieves simply state that this is their profession.
    Well, perhaps the EMPS will work better against the rook suits in the control room. With the added bonus that a fight in this place will reduce the defenses of the complex.

  7. To quote Spaceballs, “Evil will always triumph, because good is stupid!”

    I’m not completely sure how captain mystic’s meaning that about me. But then, I’m busy on these acid shuriken. Not burning through things acid. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds acid. Might better try darts instead. It just occured to me the other day, when I was thinking about a weaponized bong (now that’s a useful smokescreen) that most heroes would be totally unprepared for somebody slapping a bunch of tabs of it on them. Or what if, instead of a Scarecrow-style gas, you shoot some cocaine into their face.

    The question is, do you hire addicts to be your minions? I mean, it’s like a good old fashioned Holy Bolt. Fire it at enemies to hurt them, and at allies to help them. On the one hand, they work cheap, they can and will do stupid or suicidal things in a fight, and you can hide your base in plain site as a drug den, and there’s no way the heroes are going to offer them more drugs to switch sides. On the other hand, the base will still attract police attention, someone might use up all your ammo, they’re completely unreliable for errands or grocery shopping, and there’s the knowledge that you’re crushing another’s soul completely under chemical addiction as they seek an escape to the pain, the responsibilities, the “oh god, why am I here? Why do I have this life? I just want to forget it all,” that all doesn’t quite sit well with me.

    Ah, the wonders of organization. First, we have the potheads handle the grocery shopping. Lots of food, enough for everyone. Plus they’re pretty much normal people unless high. Then they’re like a sleepy hungry person.

    The people on LSD we have design a few rooms as traps. Heroes step into one room, they’re assaulted by the worst conglomeration of banana yellow, brick red, and hot pink ever unleashed on mankind. Glue some limes to the wall to further disorient enemies. In the next, the bottom half of the room is taken up by extremely tall carpet, and there’s a tank full of spiders on the ceiling. On yet another, they floor is a void with small lights in places. They have to walk along a beam of light to keep from falling into space, reaching a prism in the nothingness. The beam splits into a rainbow and only one of the colors leads to the right place.

    Crackheads and speedfreaks get to be the guards. 24/7 surveillance, no lunch breaks. Meth gets you promoted to cannon fodder, PCP to cannon fodder with a knife. You know what, no guards, just sounds stupid, just an endless maze of LSD rooms. Then, when the heroes are busy trying to figure out what evil plot you’ve got going on that uses drug minions and a base like that, you then appear to attempt to kidnap the President at the United Nations with the aid of an army of giant robo spiders, all the while actually hiring a group of mercenaries to steal the nuclear football from nearby while everyone’s focused on the drugs, giant robo spiders, and President.

    Then, you post the entire thing online so that no hero will think you’d seriously consider doing a thing like that…or perhaps to fool any heroes wise to you into focusing on that while you do something else…or trick up heroes who think you’re doing something else while fooling people into thinking you’d do that and actually doing it…or maybe you’d fake tricking them into that foolishness, or even pretend to fake trick the fools. But your secret plan might instead be to give them a really bad headache by writing all that out so they can get confused trying to figure it out. Mwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  8. The goo bots are an awesome addition to his non-lethal arsenal. but would it stop a shape changer? That would require slightly different tactics. Like using a wall as giant fly paper and knocking the shifter into it. Also, Nick really needs to consider adding more high damage attacks to the mix. With her high strength and invulnerability, the goo probably wouldn’t stop Blue (Dixie) for long and he’s already seen the future results of not doing so.

  9. I wonder.

    How often does Dixie Supergirl have to breathe and how fast can she go? If she only has to breathe the usual 20 times/minute however fast she’s going or fighting, she could throw a couple of punches, fly out into clean air, then get back in.

    And if she can consistently move at Mach 2 or more, air friction alone would produce enough heat to burn up any organic-based nerve gas even as she’s breathing in the air.

  10. @Belial
    Be careful with assumptions about Izzy’s speed. She may be a brick, but there have been implications that it’s not from ‘simple’ toughness and strength like Accelerando’s. She’s warping physics in some way, so you can’t count on physics to save or protect her.

    As to my earlier comment about villainy, there are 3 types, generally. The stupid, the crazy, and the ammoral opportunists. That last set could pick either side, but are usually swayed to villainy because of the pay. I’m betting our Eagle-Armored-Merc falls under that category. The euro-speedster might be too, but I’m betting on blackmail for him.

    As for heros, they have their share of Crazy and Stupid, too, but they generally have more moral fiber. The whole ‘It’s not a job, it’s a calling’ attitude, not unlike firemen, paramedics, and schoolteachers. The pay sucks, the work is hard, but you get to make a difference.

  11. @Luke:

    Yo’ve obviously never had the pleasure of living through a strike on the part of the policemen or the firemen. Not nearly as bad as the trash collectors going on strike, but it’s bad enough; you get to have a woefully understrength National-Guard-equivalent patrolling the streets and failing to keep a lid on crime. We also get a fair number of people joining the army or the police because of either an Eric Cartman style power trip (RESPECT MY AUTHORITY!!!) or planning a life of crime: after going through the academy or basic training, they retire at the first opportunity and become especially well-trained goons. It’s sad, really, but in real life, idealists are far more rare than we’d like.

  12. Idealism not always survives the first contact with the enemy.
    In teaching it is somehow easier to be idealistic, perhaps because any sadistic compunction that you might feel you can just drop in your tests and still be considered a good teacher.
    Oh the pleasure of looking at their faces when you ask what is the speed of the cats tail (really I wrote a test with this question).
    Seriously it is more difficult in police since there you see too much of humans bad side. Teachers and medics have it psychologically easier.

  13. Don’t forget that crime can be more fun. After all, it’s not legal to parachute into an army base, steal a tank, and joyride it around the midwest while speaking Russian and pretending to be hunting down a group of guerillas called The Wolverines.

    And nah, idealism often conflicts with reality. Like when you realize that the person you hate has loved ones and a family and all the same hassles as you. Ah, but what decides our loyalties, if they may be called such? One a hero, one a villain, yet both so similar?

    You know, when villains are in it for money, they need it at first. You have no cash, but a certain useful set of skills. Or someone in your family needs an operation. Or a friend needs to keep their house. Or you owe more than $70,000 in student loans and have trouble finding a job. And there’s that money. Just sitting in the bank, doing nothing. You know, one of those much-maligned government entitlements is federal insurance of any money anyone puts in the bank up to a certain amount. It was $250,000 for a long time, though recently this one political party extended it to $500,000. But then, one side does favor the wealthy more. So up to $500,000 of every person’s money is just sitting there, insured by the U.S. government. Now, most of it’s just a number on a computer screen, but there’s still plenty of cash, and you’d be surprised what you can carry out in a big enough duffel bag.

    Soon enough, that’s your thing. It’s easier than trying to find a nonexistent job, you have experience in it, and you’re making a lot. Enough to finance a few new habits, maybe a new costume or set of armor, and some cool new gear. Except now you’re broke again, so it’s time to hit something, and maybe even bigger because you’re better equipped.

    Soon enough, people die, and you can either submit to your conscience, in which you must ultimately try to slog it out in the orderly world. Go to jail, or retire and stuff all that power and potential illicit monetary gain into a work shirt and stand behind a gas station cash register somewhere, looked down on by someone who got lucky when his college was deciding roommates. Who can stand to go from the top of the world as a villain to the bottom of the barrel on the right side of the law?

    No, so you justify it. You find some reason to keep doing it, and money’s always a valid one to claim.

    But secretly, you cling to it because you can’t stand to face what you really are.

    In my case, it’s fun, and I don’t much care for society anyway. Call me crazy all you want, but my idea of going to work in the morning doesn’t involve tying a brightly colored noose around my neck and claiming it’s the only thing that shows someone is a professional. It also doesn’t involve the morning, actually, so close those curtains, I’m trying to sleep over here.

  14. You know, on the topic of the conversation on the last page, I thought I’d bring up one biological object that we haven’t even come close to being able to emulate mechanically or in any other way yet. Truly, an elegant creation, it’s able to filter solids from liquids from gasses and allow some to pass but not all, to compact what remains for better storage, it’s just capable of so much. Yes, I’m talking about the anus. No other filter ever made has even come close, the best we can do for a ruined anus is to give you a permanent colostomy bag. Well, we can manage remote controlled internally stored colostomy bags, so you can sit on the toilet and “empty” it when you want, but we really haven’t even come close to what people normally have naturally.

  15. What is it with the Rockets flirting with their enemies? Nick is almost as bad as his grandpa! Well, not quite, so far he hasn’t married any of his enemies.

  16. I just had an idea for another type of non-lethal bot for Nick. I call it the wire-weld bot.

    The idea is that it burns itself out by welding its carapace to nearby metal. Doing so inside the joints of armor could be really inconvenient. If it accessed them, it could create all sorts of short-circuits in electronics.

    It would also be a great way of starting fires. With the potential to cause hideous scaring if used against unarmored foes.

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