Once I grabbed my luggage, we took the elevator downstairs and checked out of the hotel, talking and joking around like we’d known each other all of our lives. In the case of Cassie and Daniel, that was true, but over the last couple of days, we’d gotten to know Yoselin (or at least her persona) well enough to fake it.
She did add a certain energy to the group, laughing loudly, accompanying most of what she said with wide gestures. Plus, Cassie, who despite what she told everyone, spoke fluent Spanish or close enough that she could keep up with Yoselin, something that had to help with our cover.
We walked out the hotel’s front door to find our golf cart waiting by the curb along with several others parked next to it. It didn’t stand out at all, which was great since it wasn’t a golf cart. We put our luggage on the rack in the back and I drove down the street, avoiding pedestrians, other golf carts, and the occasional poorly placed palm tree or fountain.
From there we spent the rest of the day eating, attended a concert outside in the afternoon, and rolled out in front of the arena. The signs showed pictures of the bands playing tonight. People stood in lines that extended to the street. Young or old, they stood, talking to each other, staring at their phones, buying food from people pushing carts, and sometimes ditching the line to buy from ticket scalpers.
Daniel, Cassie, and Yoselin stepped off the cart, Yoselin wearing a ruffled, black dress with red, green, and orange stripes that would transform into powered armor. I’d meant to ask her more about it, but planning hadn’t given us much time to swap ideas. She winked at me, grinning, and saying, “I’ll see you inside.”
She walked away talking with Cassie in Spanish. Daniel walked alongside them, sending me, Good luck. We’ll wait for the explosions.
They walked directly to the arena. Our cover as rich kids with more money than sense meant that lines happened to other people.
A valet in a long white shirt and khaki pants walked up, asking, “Keys, sir?”
I waved him off, saying, “Sorry, no,” and drove away, heading for the corner. Once I turned and drove a block, I was heading toward the back of the arena, a small fenced-in parking lot with four loading docks, two semi-trucks, and three smaller trucks. I went two blocks past that, stopping next to a blue corrugated metal warehouse.
Despite the arena’s crowds, no one was near me.
I drove the golf cart into the warehouse’s asphalt parking lot, thinking back to Larry’s story about the earth elemental and how it had incorporated the road into itself. I parked and gave a command through my implant, watching as the rear of the golf cart sheered away from the rest, absorbing the luggage and changing into one of my suit’s resupply pods.
Then it floated upward, its coloring matching the twilight sky as it flew away to rendezvous with the jet somewhere above the island. I stepped forward into the remains of the golf cart, seeing it reform around me into a suit of powered armor. In one sense, you could call it the most recent variation on the Rocket suit, but it wasn’t. Inside, it was every bit that, the controls matching what I was used to, piping the HUD’s information into my implant, and doing the same with bots and weapon controls.
On the outside, it didn’t bear much resemblance to the classic Rocket suit. We’d known we might face Armory and if not him, people who remembered what happened when the island sank. We also knew the Rocket suit’s main use on this mission—attract attention away from Cassie and Daniel.
That’s why the new suit was green and bore a strong, but not exact resemblance to the suit Larry wore back then. I’d even had Man-machine and Larry critique it before we left.
Tonight, the Frog suit jumped again.
When the implant and I finished the checklist, I gave the rockets fuel and the suit shot into the air, taking me above the warehouse and then the arena, seeing the sun above the ocean, the arena’s three domes, and then beginning my descent toward the back of the building—the section with administrative offices, staging areas, dressing rooms, and in the basement levels, Armory’s operation.
I’d put the bots in place earlier in the day. As I dropped toward the roof, the bots exploded, creating ten-foot-wide holes in every floor from the roof all the way down to the basement room with Armory’s main workshop—not to be confused with his personal workshop. This was the big one. The room where his employees created mechs for the Nine, Syndicate L, and dictators around the world.
Concrete floors collapsed below me, creating clouds of dust, sparks, and gouts of flame. I’d made sure that the path was clear of people before starting the explosions off, but that didn’t mean the floors were empty—far from it. The alarms wailed while people screamed and ran away from the destruction.
The drop was a blur until I hit the pile of shattered concrete shards on the workshop’s floor. I’d landed in the corner of the room where they put the trash—two dumpsters full of mech parts that didn’t work.
I jumped out of the cloud of concrete dust and broken chunks to get a good view of the room. More than thirty feet high, the room held mechs in all stages of construction from metal frames to finished.
I don’t know how deep or wide the room went (it was big), but my implant counted 102 people, some in coveralls, others in shirts and slacks, all wearing hard hats. Some were running, others staring at the mess and at the Frog suit.
Finding that I’d come to a moment I’d been waiting for, I powered up the suit’s PA system and croaked out a thunderous, “Ribbit!”