They were in front of the building but beginning to run down the street. I landed next to them.
I ran around a couple Jennys to join the core of the group.
“This is bad,” I said. “They’ve got snipers and supers on the shops over there and a giant robot hiding off to the side of the Syndicate L’s building. Can you teleport yet?”
Brooke shook her head. “We’ve got to get farther away.”
“Do you think they’ll let us get farther away?”
Alex said, “Don’t walk, let’s run. If it’s the way you say it is, we don’t have time to talk.”
As we ran, Jenny handed me back my utility belt and guitar. Another Jenny handed her a guitar and belt and disappeared.
“Wow,” I said, “I didn’t know that your equipment could continue to exist after the copy that it came with disappeared.”
She grinned at me. “That’s how we replace the equipment we lose when we’re out.”
“That’s funny. Do they ever check serial numbers?”
“I hope not –”
A voice came over a loudspeaker and cut her off.
A burning beam of light hit the ground ahead of us. Chunks of the street flew into the air. Irrationally, I held up my arm to shield my head from flying gravel.
“Stop running or we blow you away.”
We stopped. We weren’t following orders as much as shocked by the sudden blast of light.
“Can we take out that gun?” Alex asked.
“If I still had juice in my guitar, I might have a chance.” I looked over toward the building. We hadn’t gone all that far. We’d made it to the next building, a square two story labeled “Morgan Smith Title Company.”
As I watched, figures began to drop off the roof of Syndicate L’s building — the people in powered armor — landing on the street, shattering the ground below and pulling themselves out of the hole they’d created.
They started running toward us. I tried to think of anything we had that might take them down.
The Jennys (about thirty of them) brought up their copies of my guitar just as I concluded that it was our only real chance. They pulled the guitars off their backs at exactly the same time in exactly the same way. It reminded me of synchronized swimming except that there were more explosions and no water.
And that, I guess, made it completely unlike synchronized swimming.
The ends of of the guitars exploded at exactly the same moment, some of them aimed at the people running toward us, others aimed at the people who had just landed in front of the building, and still others aimed at people still dropping.
This strikes me as a good moment to mention the fact that I’d cheated a little when creating the guitar. I’d originally intended to have the bottom explode, but then I realized that the blast would cause the guitar to push (with equal and opposite force) in the direction of the person holding it. So, I reluctantly designed it to fire the bottom piece of the guitar off in the direction the holder pointed it, and then explode within a certain distance of the target, making the explosion that blew up the top half of the guitar a purely aesthetic gesture.
I mention this only to explain why the guitars’ blasts did not at all disperse over the distance between us and them.
The men in powered armor who were running at us disappeared briefly as the explosions knocked them backward, slamming them into their friends on the ground.
One hit a parking meter, leaving it lying on the sidewalk.
The blasts aimed at the armored people standing in front of the lower level knocked them backwards into the walls, blasting huge holes in the concrete, and throwing both wall and thugs into the lobby.
As the lower sections of the wall in front buckled, the slabs of concrete just above them fell as well, landing on the sidewalk.
That would have been the end of it except that all the people in powered armor had jumped off from the same general area of the roof. The Jennys’ blasts went straight up the side of the building in a line. Thanks to whatever Alex’ did to bring everyone around him to their physical peak, she never missed and each shot knocked a big hole through the wall, blasting the person into the concrete. In some cases, they smacked into the cubicles inside the building. In others, falling concrete carried them down.
But that wasn’t the end of it either.
With as many holes as the guitars made in the wall all at once, the area around each hole fell as well. Chunks of concrete hit the sidewalk in a massive pile, some pieces bouncing into the street.
Finally, half of the building’s front lay on the sidewalk or the street and clouds of dust floated underneath the streetlights.
We could see a cross section of each floor just like I remembered seeing them in picture books when I was a little kid.
Jenny stared up at the building. “I didn’t mean to do all that.”
Alex grabbed her arm. “We don’t have time. Got to run now.”
Brooke grabbed Carlos and started to run down the street, aiming for the next block which seemed (in the dark at least) to be a bunch of old brick houses with fenced lots and wide porches.
She had the right idea. The farther away we got, the more likely she’d be able to open up a portal to someplace safer.
We followed her, but I looked behind, curious to find out what they were doing. I couldn’t see any movement on top the strip mall and despite their implied threat they weren’t firing the big guns at us. I supposed they might be worried about the stability of Syndicate L’s building.
One thing did bother me though.
The mech had come out of the alley and begun to lumber down the road after us.