“No,” I said, straightening my hand and then thrusting it like a spear through the top of the device, smashing its internal computer and separating the power from the main mechanism.
Lines of electricity surrounded my arm, but I didn’t feel it. The suit’s systems for handling massive amounts of electricity had been in advance of anyone else as far back as the 1950s and had only improved in the versions created since then.
In this case, it wasn’t a booby trap or even targeting me. The device needed a lot of energy to start an earthquake and while severing the connection between that energy and the rest of it, my suit briefly became the connection.
As I pulled my hand out and the glare went away, Jaclyn asked, “Are you okay?”
Even the four-hander straightened and stared at me before hanging limp as Jaclyn held him in the air.
“I think so. I didn’t feel anything and suit isn’t throwing any errors.” I rechecked my HUD as I said to make sure that was still true, noticing the amount of power that had passed across the suit’s skin—a lot. It was enough to kill me hundreds of times over.
The suit wasn’t throwing errors, which was a relief. I’d managed to keep that aspect of the suit despite filling it with nanotech.
I didn’t get to wallow in the glow of technical accomplishment for long. The cavern shook again and this time something big fell over inside the cavern. It reminded me somehow of the sound of cereal—the kind that snaps, crackles, and pops—except deeper in tone and much louder. If the destruction of the cavern were a cereal, the slogan would be “cracks, smashes, and thuds.”
I’m not sure who would buy it either as the market for cereal made of shattered rocks has to be small.
Jaclyn and I stared at each other. She said, “The cavern’s coming down. Go. We should catch up to the colonists.”
She put down the four-hander. It ran away as soon as its lower set of hands touched the ground. She let out a breath, “Unless you think you can stop it, he’s got the right idea.”
“Then go.” She kicked the Ascendancy soldier she’d taken out and he groaned. “The cavern’s falling in. Run or die.”
It began to pull itself to its feet and she turned away from it, jogging out the door. I followed her out. She began to gather speed once she hit the street. I activated the rockets and took the air, noticing the source of the noise.
A building along the edge of the cavern had fallen in on itself and into the street in front of it. It hadn’t reached all the way to the top of the cavern, giving it less support to weather the earthquakes. I wondered what had been in it. There had to be a reason that they’d choose to make it one of the few exceptions to the rule with regards to its design.
I didn’t have time to think it all through then. The cavern was large, but not that large. It only took me a few seconds to reach Tunnel Nine. Since I didn’t see Jaclyn, I checked my HUD, saw that she was the only person in our group online and opened a connection.
“Are you alright?”
Her voice came over my helmet’s speakers. “I’m in the tunnels. Where are you?”
I replied, “At the entrance to Tunnel Nine,” but before I reached the end of the sentence, her status button winked out.
It didn’t surprise me. The HUD didn’t show anyone but me online anymore. Stone caverns and tunnels weren’t ideal spots for radio contact. Still, I felt alone and a little worried about her even though I knew that the person I should be worried about was me—I was alone at the edge of a cavern that was in the process of collapsing.
I took one last look at the cavern’s glowing streets and blocky skyline, hoping that no one I cared about was still out there somehow. It didn’t seem likely, but with the implants shut off to prevent Kamia from hacking them, it was possible we’d lost track of somebody.
Ignoring the worry, I stepped inside the tunnel and began to run. According to the implant’s map, there were too many turns in the near future for it to be worth it for me to fly.
I ran all out, heart pumping, legs taking ten feet or more with each step, reaching forty, fifty, sixty miles per hour. Even with the suit’s assistance, I could feel that it wasn’t just the suit doing the work. That wasn’t the first thing on my mind though. The first thing on my mind was that I planned to start flying as soon as I had a tunnel straight enough to make it worth the bother.
At the very least, I didn’t want to get caught alone in a collapsing cavern. Jaclyn might survive that. I doubted that I would.
As if on cue a rumble came from behind me and the earth shook again—not as much as when I was inside the main cavern, but the noise was louder. And besides, it wasn’t just noise and tremors. This time, a cloud of dust blew forward behind me, dispersing before it caught me.
I didn’t know if that meant that that cavern had fallen or only part of it, but I didn’t plan to go back and check.
I kept on running and checking my HUD, failing to see signs of anyone. I was still alone in the dark.