I got up anyway, putting my hand in a puddle of ketchup as I pushed off.
He drew his right hand back and took a step forward. “Don’t you listen?”
“He’s got a learning disability,” Cassie said.
She stood in the aisle between the freezers and the end of the shelving unit, sword in her right hand.
He turned toward her.
“The last Captain Commando didn’t have tits,” he said.
“But unlike you, he had pants.”
She swung the sword and cut, starting just above his belt and ending an inch below.
A hole gaped and I could see his underwear. Aside from a small nick just above his waist, Cassie’s cut went no deeper than the belt and his black jeans.
For the record, he wore briefs.
He looked down, eyes locked on the drips of blood. “Holy shit.”
“It can cut anything,” I said. “Anyway, we don’t have to fight. Surrender and I’m sure it’ll go a little better for you.”
“Fuck that — we’ve still got the hostages and if you come any closer, we’ll nuke ’em. Mackie?”
Something exploded and the shelving behind me ripped and cracked. Cans, both shattered and whole, hit me along with their contents. I stepped forward to steady myself and squashed a peach.
“You… Watch out or I’ll blow you up. And them. Right, Russ?”
I looked toward the source of the voice. Over on the left side of the store, across a vast sea of overpriced groceries and over the counter medicines, a thin man stood in front of the “Staff Only” doorway, the door shut behind him. He wore a button down shirt, a red tie, and, incongruously, big sunglasses. I pegged him as being in his early forties and wondered what his codename could be — the Accountant?
“You got it. Now you, girl, put down the sword and go out the front door.” Russ held his pants together with his left hand.
“You,” this was directed at me, “take off the jet pack.”
“You can’t control it without the suit,” I said.
“Take it off.” Russ pointed to the floor between us. “Do it or we’ll kill one of the hostages.”
“Fuck, no,” Cassie said.
“You’re not going to fit inside anyway,” I pointed out.
“Mackie, pull someone out. Let’s show these kids what brains look like.”
Mackie moved his left hand toward the doorknob, but he never made it.
Wood cracked and Haley’s claws came through the door behind him, grabbing him, and yanking him into the door. He flailed his arms wildly and explosions started all over.
Lights broke near the middle of the room, shattering and falling along with more tiles and metal from the drop ceiling. Glass refrigerator doors cracked and the milk, beer, pop and juice bottles broke open, spraying, bubbling, and dripping.
Shelves of food fell over. The windows in the front of the store shattered, the glass blasting outward into the parking lot.
Haley’s claws slid upward till she found his neck. I thought I saw the moment when the hidden claw pierced his throat.
Whether it was my imagination or not, he slumped down. When she let go of the body, he fell.
I can only assume that Cassie was looking at Haley too because I heard her grunt, turned to look at her, and realized that Russ had grabbed her sword hand.
I heard a cracking noise.
Her face whitened, but aside from the grunt, she didn’t say anything. She punched him in the face with her left hand.
He barely reacted, just pulled her hand away from the sword. It was a mangled mess with fingers pointing directions that they shouldn’t, and visible fragments of bone. Blood dripped from the sword’s hilt.
About the time it struck me that I should be doing something to stop this, he stepped back, giving the sword a practice slash in the air.
“Cuts anything?” He said. “How about armor?”
I snuck a look at Cassie. She held her broken hand against her stomach, smoothing it out with other hand. As horrible as it looked, it already looked better than it had a moment ago.
She caught my eye and we both backed up. If we’d learned anything from Lee, we’d learned not to stand too close to people who can cut you in half. She backed down the side aisle. I backed down the front aisle, trying to think what I could do now.
“That’s right,” he said, “run away.”
Cassie had gotten into the third aisle and started picking something off the floor.
He jumped up, leaping over me, and landing behind me. From the look on his face, his strength surprised him too.
It took him a moment to turn around. While he was doing it, I jumped away, landing next to the checkout counter and the body of the guy I’d punched. He was still unconscious and lying on the mat that operated the automatic door. The door began to shut, hummed again, and opened fully.
I turned around, getting into a martial arts stance without thinking about it. It wasn’t a useful reflex. Blocking Cassie’s sword with my arm would only result in amputation.
To my right, sitting on the checkout counter, the screen of the orange Michigan Lottery machine glowed.
I wondered what my chances of surviving the next few seconds were.
Sure, I could blast him with the sonics, but they worked better on objects that were basically one material. I had a better chance of breaking bones with them when they weren’t surrounded by skin and muscle. Hurting his ears with sound would work better if I had a good next step. It was, after all, basically a feint.
I had a few moves for disarming people, but none of them were guaranteed.
“He’s going down.” Cassie stood next to me with a mop in her left hand and some kind of cleaning liquid with a spray top in the other.
He walked toward us, holding the sword in front of him. “You’re my hostages now. Go with me out the back and I won’t kill anybody.”
He’d apparently decided to ignore the hole in his pants.
Pointing my arms toward his head, I hit him with the sonics.
While he cringed, Cassie stepped forward and sprayed him in the face.
The cleaning liquid smelled of citrus and ammonia.