So we had a plan. Now all we had to do was successfully execute it.
Until Jenny and I had the ability to move, however, we couldn’t do anything but wait and listen.
I heard the voice I remembered from the video talking to Raptor again.
“How are you doing, Raptor? Busy night? I can see that. I’ve got something for you. Something that you might want… Oh, you’d guessed? Good. Here’s what we want: ten million dollars. We know the Defenders have it. It’ll pay for what your kids damaged plus a little profit to compensate for our pain and suffering.”
“If you don’t pay, we’ll have to find something more interesting to do with them. As you can see from the pictures, it’s not a question if we’ve got them.”
They continued only a little longer than that. When they hung up, the man said, “He said he’d have to talk to people, but he won’t. They’re going to come after us. It’s just a question of how long before they find us. Everyone’s ready, right? We’re going to have to make it obvious that it’s not worth it. Get ready to fight, and Gardner, come here. We’re going to find a new place for the hostages.”
We lay there for a few minutes more, listening to whispered conversations, orders, and occasional shouting. I became aware of how uncomfortable it felt to have my left arm between my stomach and the floor. I wished I could move.
At the same time, I felt good — really good, optimistic. I felt sure our plan would work and that we’d somehow get out of this before they figured out the best way to move us.
I moved my left hand. It was under me anyway.
Brooke thought at me, You can move?
Me: Seems like it. How’d you know?
Brooke: The sudden optimism. People generally feel good when Alex goes at them.
Me: Oh. Hey Jenny? Are you still listening?
Jenny: I’m listening, and just had my very own artificial high. Is everyone ready?
Brooke: Jenny, are you ready?
Jenny: I’m as ready as you are. Nick?
Me: Doesn’t sound like I’ve got much of a choice.
Brooke: You don’t. Let’s move on “three.”
She counted and on three Jenny generated ten Jennys who jumped up to stand in a circle around us. Almost as quickly, Jenny and I pulled ourselves up from the floor and I handed her my guitar and utility belt. More Jennys appeared, all of them wearing guitars.
A voice shouted, “They’re standing. Take them down!”
In one simultaneous motion, all the Jennys clicked the button that caused the guitar to generate blinding light. My helmet blocked most of it.
Then one of the Jennys pressed the buttons that activated the self-destruct sequence. Grabbing the guitar by the neck, she smashed it against the bookcase next to her (knocking a plant off the top).
Then she pointed its base toward the wall with the windows. It burst into flame and then exploded.
All the windows shattered and a ten foot in diameter hole appeared in the wall.
Brooke grabbed Carlos as Alex appeared from the other side of the room. A quick glance back toward the direction he’d come from found five men lying on the floor.
He grabbed Brooke’s, Jenny’s and his utility belts off the desk in the front of the room and handed them back to their owners.
We walked toward the hole, Jennys closing behind us in a wedge, and handing each of us a copy of one of my grappling hooks.
“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I’ll just fly.”
All the Jennys said, “See?”
Meanwhile the voice that had been talking to Raptor started giving orders. I followed the noise. Looking him over, he looked like I might have imagined him — thirtyish, and wearing a black suit jacket, and a silk, blue, button down shirt without a tie.
Syndicate L really was run by evil Yuppies.
“Can anyone see? Shoot them if you have to!”
No one did.
He dug in his suit coat, and pulled out what might have been a cell phone, or, might have been a walkie-talkie. It was hard to be sure. “They’re escaping!”
“No,” he said, “I don’t know where they’re going. They fucking blinded me!”
Meanwhile everyone else had leaned out the window, stuck their grappling hooks to the wall outside and started descending.
One of the Jennys said, “Earth to Rocket, everyone else is gone.”
I turned around, started my jets and flew out the hole. The Jennys followed me out, sliding toward the ground.
Flying at night in Los Angeles is pretty cool, but wasn’t just at that moment. Syndicate L’s building stood four stories tall, a grey, concrete, 1960’s office building stuck in the middle of a block of buildings just as interesting.
I didn’t know Los Angeles well enough to recognize exactly where we were, but I thought we might be close to downtown.
Lack of architectural variety wasn’t the main reason why flying in L.A. wasn’t cool on that particular night, though. Flying gave me a great view of the forces Syndicate L had put into place to fight the Defenders when they showed up.
I’d shot upward when I left the building and found myself flying just a little higher than the flat roof. It was occupied by at least twenty people. Ten of them wore powered armor like the people I’d shot in the basement. Several more wore costumes. The rest manned two big guns. By big, I mean big enough that you don’t carry them. You sit in them.
If that wasn’t enough, I realized that they had gunmen on top of the shops across the street and a mech in the alley next to the building. Stylistically, it reminded me of the powered armor except that it was twenty feet tall. It was grey instead of black, but guns hung under the arms, and I suspected it would move the same way. It probably had the same designer.
I dove for the street, half hoping Brooke would be able to teleport out of here, and, half hoping I’d get a chance to take control of the giant robot.