Thanks to having fallen face down in the stairwell, I could only listen to what happened next.
A voice, the same voice that had been in the video conversation with Raptor, said, “Surrender. We’ve captured all your friends.”
Alex must have, because the next thing I knew, people were picking me up and carrying me to an elevator.
When they put me down, I found myself lying next to Brooke, Carlos, and Jenny in an office. By office, I don’t mean a room large enough for a desk and a little more. I mean a room large enough for a desk plus table, chairs, and a bar in the corner.
My head lay facing the table. The bar lay on the other side.
I heard people opening a refrigerator and grabbing something off its shelves after they brought us in. It looked like bottled water. Presumably Syndicate L was organized crime as it would be if run by evil Yuppies.
I heard them pull Jenny and Brooke’s weapons off their belts. They pulled the guitar off my shoulder, but then they discovered the cable that led from the guitar to my helmet.
A big, curly-haired thug yanked on it. It didn’t come out, but he did manage to yank my head backward. The armor didn’t allow it to hurt me, but it still didn’t feel good.
Then he put his hands on my helmet and started feeling under my jaw for the release. He found it, but he’d never been instructed in the correct way to use it. The moment he moved the release the wrong way current traveled through his hand.
“The fucking helmet’s booby trapped!”
Then he followed the cable to where it connected to the back of the helmet, trying to unscrew it. That hurt him for exactly the same reason.
He kicked me in the head, but the stealth suit stiffened, holding the helmet in place. So, when he kicked me, the helmet didn’t move at all, and I, of course, didn’t feel it. For him, it probably felt like kicking a rock.
“Hey,” Alex said, “stop it!”
Another voice said, “Don’t get any closer, kid. Besides, your friend’s not the one getting hurt.”
The guy who’d kicked me cursed for a while after that, but he stopped trying to remove the helmet.
I heard him say, “This kid’s one freaking trap after another. I can’t get the guitar off him. Can’t take off the helmet. What do you want me to do?”
Another voice said, “He’ll be paralyzed for another half hour anyway, just like the rest of them. Don’t worry about it.”
It was a bit of a relief. If he’d kept on trying, he’d have activated the next level of defense.
They left us alone while they discussed something off to side of the room. I heard words like “camera,” “money,” and “payoff.”
I stared at the table, hoping the paralysis would wear off sooner than they thought it would. My mind kept on going back to the fight. What could I have done to take the guys in power armor completely out of the fight? Cutting their legs off rather than simply cutting through them would have done it, but it sounded too disturbing for me to want to try it.
One can’t be prepared for everything, but, something like the Executioner’s paralysis ray would be nice. I wondered who made them and if it was the same person who made the powered armor.
Then I felt something touch my side and suddenly felt Brooke’s mind in my head.
Me: You’re faking it?
Brooke: Or you’re imagining this.
Brooke: Alex was the only one standing and I only had stun pistols. I thought it’d be better if we could take them by surprise.
Me: Hope you’re right. How’s Jenny?
Jenny: Still paralyzed.
Jenny: I think they put him next to me.
Me: So what are we going to do?
Brooke: I managed to brush Alex when they were carrying me up the stairs. I told him to heal you two of the paralysis if he could. After that I’m out of ideas besides the obvious. If Jenny starts multiplying and starting things on fire, maybe she could grab a weapon while she’s at it.
Me: Worth a shot, but I’ve still got my weapons. They gave up after nearly getting electrocuted. They didn’t even try for my utility belt. As for weapons, if you had my guitar, could you multiply it?
Jenny: Is it under twenty pounds?
Jenny: I can take out a wall with it?
Me: Well, yeah, but not right now.
Me: The lasers use a lot of power and I’ve already used them a lot. You could use the light or sound to blind or deafen them or something. That being said if you really needed to take out a wall, there’s always the self-destruct. It’s on a different power source.
Brooke: Why would you want to blow up your guitar?
Me: I never really intended to use it. It’s more of a concept weapon. So you know all those bands that smash their guitars or start them on fire? Well, with this you hit the guitar against something, it starts on fire, explodes, and annihilates everything in its path.
Me: Well, a tank for sure. In the original design, I made the bomb nuclear just for fun, but there were practical problems.
Jenny: Like surviving a nuclear explosion at ground zero?
Me: Yeah. That was one. Also, getting a hold of a breeder reactor sounded like such a hassle.
Brooke: It’s not nuclear now, is it?
Me: No, just a boring old shaped charge, but the way I did it seriously multiplies the generated force, believe me.
I found myself bathed in Jenny and Brooke’s mental relief.
Brooke: So here’s the plan: Jenny multiplies around us, blocking them from firing at us. You hand her the guitar and then she absorbs the first wave, generates a new armed wave, blinds everybody and we make for the stairway.
Me: No, she takes my utility belt too. It’s got a two grappling hooks. We’ll go down the side of the building and won’t have to worry about ambushes.
Jenny: Two grappling hooks, Nick? You can fly.
Me: Technically they’re not really grappling hooks. They’re gauss guns that fire reusable missiles with adhesive tips and attached lines, but basically, yeah, they’re grappling hooks.
Me: It’s in case I ever need to do the Spider-man thing.