Four of them came through the door. They wore black, powered armor and helmets with wide, transparent facemasks. The armor made me think of police riot gear except riot gear generally included padding. This armor appeared be hard from top to bottom.
An automatic rifle hung under the right arm. Another weapon hung under the left. It reminded me of the Executioner’s paralysis gun.
In design, the armor didn’t obviously descend from either of the Rocket suit or Man-machine’s armor. Grandpa had designed the Rocket suit to fit closely over the wearer’s body and amplify the person’s strength. With the exception of the rocketpack’s fuel, he’d avoided external power sources, preferring batteries that recharged off of the user’s movement. Man-machine’s armor tended to be big enough to sit in and powered by massive batteries.
This armor appeared to be close fitting, but the large hump on the back seemed likely to be a power source. I wondered who had designed it.
Whoever it was was mass producing it and selling it to organized crime. Was it just Syndicate L or did they sell it more generally?
Whichever it was, I found myself wishing I had the full Rocket suit on.
Near me, Brooke said, “Everybody, plan B.” She still sounded tired.
Alex gave her a look.
Several Jennys began firing at the armored men with Defenders stun pistols. Beam after beam hit, but none of the men went down.
One of the men aimed his left arm, the one with the paralysis ray at the line of Jennys. They fell over and then instantly disappeared. More appeared next to the Jennys that were still standing.
This time though, instead of using guns, ten foot long streams of bluish-white flame extended from Jenny’s hands.
I didn’t know if they were actually vulnerable to fire, but the men in the powered armor backed up. Dangerous or not, flame is intimidating.
At least, I was intimidated — more so when I noticed that the carpet in front of Syndicate L’s men had caught on fire.
As they backed towards the door, I moved my hand down the neck of the guitar to the most powerful pulse laser setting, pushed the button and started firing at the ceiling above them.
It worked as planned.
Chunks of concrete fell down from the ceiling on top of them. I kept on firing, flicking the lever much faster than I normally could. Actually, my aim was better too. Not that my aim was ever that bad, but it felt like I couldn’t miss.
Within seconds, I’d made a hole in the ceiling and covered them in rubble.
Light fell through from the room above — which was good because the blasts had taken out the lights of the room we were in.
“That was freaking cool,” Alex said. “I want one.”
“My dad could make one,” Carlos said.
“Rocket,” Brooke said, “We need another hole. Now.”
She sounded an awful lot like her father, but she had a point. The pile of armored thugs and concrete rubble had blocked the door.
“Right,” I said, and aimed the guitar’s neck at a piece of wall just a bit down from the door and opened up on it, blowing out a ragged hole ten feet wide. It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a neat hole, but it was wide enough for the five of us.
We ran through, hearing pieces of concrete settle and fall as we stepped into the hall.
I worried for a moment that I’d managed to take out a load bearing wall, but then it occurred to me that it was probably the guys in armor beginning to dig themselves out.
Not that that was exactly good news.
Unlike the room, the hall’s lights still worked. Like the room, the hall appeared to be a bunker decorated in the style of an office building — concrete walls painted beige and dark, brown, carpeted floors.
The fire alarm went on and water started spraying down at us from the ceiling.
“Now which direction do we go?” Jenny asked. More Jennys came out of hole in the wall after us.
I opened up a pouch on my utility belt, then pulled the roachbot controller from the spot next to it. Activating the bots, I sent them down the hall in both directions.
They swarmed out of the pouch, flying next to the ceiling to avoid being hit by the water.
Carlos watched me with a level of fascination that only kids manage to achieve — completely unselfconsciously walking up to me and almost blocking my view of the controller with his head.
“Can I hold it? I can do… a lot of different things with it.”
I gave it to him. I had a feeling I’d need both hands free for a while anyway.
“Hey,” Carlos said, “They found some stairs, but look at all those people…”
In the controller’s screen I could see a blurry picture of a stairwell filled with people wearing bulletproof vests and carrying automatic rifles.
“Is there another stairway?” Brooke leaned over Carlos head to view the controller.
“No,” Carlos said. “The swarm that went in the other direction hasn’t found anything.”
Alex took a step forward. “C’mon. Let’s go. Better to fight those guys than wait around for the armored dudes to get out from under the concrete.”
The thumping and crashing of falling concrete came from inside the room. A voice said, “Watch it, Dave. Half that shit fell on me.”
More crashing came from inside and then the clang of metal boots hitting the floor.
“What the fuck, man? Don’t you listen?”
We all looked at each other.
Brooke said, “Jenny, can some of you take the rear and hold them off and then send some of you ahead? The rest of us will follow them to the stairs.”
“I’ll go in front.” Alex said.
Brooke grabbed Carlos’ left hand, “You’re coming with me, and Rocket and Flame Legion take the rear.”
We started to run — Jenny’s duplicates both ahead and behind us.
“Too much more of this,” Jenny said, “and even with Alex giving off that healing field around himself, I’m still going to be too tired to do anything.”
“I know,” I said. “If those armored guys catch up to us again, I’m going to have to choose between knocking out the ceiling, or directing the laser at them and killing them outright.”