“Are they alive?” I asked as we ran upward.
She glanced back at me, “Yes.”
We turned the corner on the stairwell, our steps echoing, and came across the bodies. Hers were easy to tell from mine. Mine didn’t move, but they stared as we stepped over them, some caught mid-frown or mid-smile. Hers were pale and breathing slowly as they lay there in their black uniforms, bulging where armor protected them.
On a whim, I checked if they had codpieces. They did.
Anyway, more than that, hers looked drained. I wondered if that’s how I’d looked after I’d stabbed myself with her spear. I didn’t regret the donation, but she’d absorbed bits of my soul. That sounded more intimate than… well, a lot of things.
“They’re really okay?” I said into my comm.
Her reply was almost a sigh, “Yes, but bad news, we didn’t get all of them. The rest ran over there.”
She pointed toward the door and into the main area of the floor. I didn’t see people there. My main impression as I looked through the doorway was of white marble walls (real or fake), a shattered statue of an unknown subject, chandeliers, and more paintings on the ceiling.
“I guess they know we’re coming, then,” I said, and we started running again.
“That’s the only reason they’re here. They were sent to find you. The vampire that survived the fight outside told them you were coming.” She barely moved her lips, keeping her voice low.
She had to have absorbed that information along with their soul or whatever her magic had absorbed.
Taking a few more steps, I said, “You got that out of their heads? I thought you needed the spear to do that.”
“It’s a new trick. I worked it out with help from Red Hex and the other Bloodmaidens. And no, Red Hex didn’t like it, but she still helped.”
Then she held up her hand and we stopped, “There’s a mech on the next floor up. They were supposed to find you. It’s supposed to get you.”
I thought about it, “Maybe I go first and you hit it with your spear while we’re fighting? I mean, the last two I fought were piloted by vampires, so you might want to check that first.”
She frowned, but then said, “Thanks for the warning, but I’m so sick of everyone worrying about it. It’s on my mind without help.”
“Got it,” I said. ”I’ll try not to. Did you get anything out of them about exactly where the mech will be?”
She closed her eyes, muttering, “What’s left of them is already fading… I think the mech will be on the other side of the doorway on the landing, watching for you there.”
“Probably waiting for me to come up the stairway, though,” I checked the repair status. The suit wasn’t at 100%, but the leg rockets could get fuel.
Looking upward, I decided I could weave between the sides of the stairwell. “Follow me up, but maybe wait a second.”
I gave the rockets fuel, took off, shooting upward over the other side of the stairway, and then back over to my original side—which meant overshooting the next floor a little.
That meant I landed and jumped down a few steps which could not have been what the guy was expecting. I knew this because I could see his eyes widen through the mech’s faceplate as I appeared, landed, and jumped.
He swung his gun arm away from the side I’d have walked up and started firing even as I ran at him, hitting the railing, causing at least one bullet to ricochet, others to shatter the window behind me, and make holes in the stairway.
In the background of my mind, I’d half-expected to find that the man was in powered armor as opposed to being what I thought of as a mech, but I was wrong. Even though it wasn’t much taller than a normal human, it was wider and longer—a kind of tank mech with treads instead of legs.
I wasn’t sure how it got up stairways, but I didn’t have time to think that through as I ran at it, pushing the gun arm to the side and punching it, watching as the first punch smashed into the side. Whoever had designed it had an interesting approach. The armor wasn’t metal. It was some kind of ceramic that imploded inward with my punch but didn’t fall apart, staying together enough to keep the machinery and man inside alive.
At the same time, he didn’t think much of this development. He appeared to be shouting something. The armor blocked most of it, but what I did hear sounded like, “No, no, no!”
More than that, he appeared to be leaning away from me inside the pilot’s capsule, not with the mech—so, total panic on his part, making me think he shouldn’t have been piloting it in the first place.
He did manage to release an explosive, though. Don’t ask me from where. Using explosives that blow up on your mech seemed like a questionable choice. At the same time, it didn’t seem to do any more damage to the mech than I’d already done and it did knock me sideways into the wall and off of it.
So, maybe it wasn’t a bad design for fighting supers, especially when you considered that it gave the operator time to turn the gun arm to face me—which he did with eyes still wide and his jaw dropped in an expression that left me thinking he expected to die at any second.
He wasn’t all wrong, but not in the way he assumed.
That’s when Amy’s spear phased through the armor, hitting him in the side. He slumped and the gun arm turned toward me, passing without ever firing a shot.
Amy flew over moments later, pulling the spear out.
Past experience told me that Amy hadn’t killed him. As she took the spear back, she shook her head. “Do you think you can fly the rest of the way up? They’re about to send down Nanosecond and that dragon wizard to take out Blue Mask and the hamster–permanently.”