Aiming for the Hardwick Industries lab building, I half-expected that what was left of Protection Force’s team would be waiting in the air or on the roof.
They weren’t. I couldn’t see them anywhere.
Had they left or had they gone inside? I didn’t have time to find out. It was enough that we had to get in there and destroy the birthing chambers.
The fact that Cassie, her gun, and I agreed on what needed to happen next made me wonder if I was doing the right thing as Cassie was much less cautious than I was and her gun was happy as long as it had something to burn.
Still, I couldn’t think of anything better. Despite guessing that similar thoughts had killed more people than could count, I steeled myself for whatever happened next and landed on the roof.
Before I could say anything or even hint what was needed, Cassie let go of me, pulled her sword from its scabbard and cut a hole in the roof.
“Done,” Cassie told me over the implant connection. “I left enough metal that it won’t fall in until you step on it.”
She had. The white painted metal held the triangle-shaped section up by a thread, or less metaphorically by three slivers of metal at the corners.
Knowing that there were times to enter carefully and times to blast through, I decided that this was time for the second kind of entrance. I stepped back and took two steps forward, turning my second step into a jump that was almost, but not quite, straight upward.
Between the height I got on my leap and the weight of the Rocket suit, I hit the precut spot with enough force that it came free with a short screech of metal tearing.
Though the lab building looked high enough for three or maybe four stories, it also had a high ceiling, so I hadn’t given the possibility that I’d hit a completely unknown level of the building much thought.
I should have because it was quite clear as I hit the floor that that was exactly what I’d found. Everywhere around me stood devices made of the bluish-green materials that the Abominators used. Of all sizes, the devices were a mix of elegant, rounded corners and gently swelling shapes combined with the jagged edges and torn open sides of devices that had been ripped out of wherever they’d been installed.
On my own, I couldn’t have named them without work, but with the Xiniti implant, I knew what they were. They weren’t the most exciting Abominator devices a person might find, but they were every bit as significant. Though the ability to alter humanity’s genetic code and in hours modify or create a person might be the highest priority, it wasn’t the only thing a colony of scientists needed.
They also needed life support. We (because Cassie jumped down after me) were looking at devices and systems used to keep buildings at the correct temperature, air mixture, pressure, and level of gravity that the Abominators needed. Along with them were devices to store, create, and modify food on an alien planet.
Along with them were spare parts and machines to make them. In short, boring stuff, but still vital if you wanted your scientists to survive while empowering an alien lifeform to subdue, enslave, and/or destroy your interstellar neighbors on your behalf.
None of this stuff was on the official list of objects that we were studying which meant that the government didn’t know we had it. That in turn meant that Higher Ground had acquired it privately. Bearing in mind that people were legally required to bring alien technology to government inspectors, I’d bet that none of these items officially existed.
If I’d prided myself on being some kind of expert on spying, it might have caused a small crisis of confidence. It was a big room to miss.
Cassie met my eye. “Are you ready or do you want to mess with the alien air conditioners?”
I barely got out, “Ready,” before she started slashing with her sword. Three slashes later, she stepped back.
I took a breath, deciding not to give myself time to think before going through. This time, I stomped on the middle of the triangle with my right foot and watched as it fell. Then I stepped into the hole, letting the Rocket suit slow my fall with the rockets.
They started firing on me as I fell through the hole, starting with bright, white beams of energy. My suit took the first two or three with minimal complaint—a few notifications about the repairs it was making.
The fourth shot hit a spot that had been hit a second before, causing a cascade of notifications about how it had passed the first layer of armor, damaging elements of the repair system that now had to be repaired.
I wasn’t hurt and nothing was in imminent danger of failing, but it wasn’t good news. If I gave the suit time, I’d be fine. Better than that, I gave the suit more fuel and shot down the room, barely below the ceiling.
This attracted a series of shots, one of which was tinged with purple.