Jaclyn and Izzy stepped into the warehouse as the red beams of lasers appeared in the smoke. Izzy grabbed a missile out of the air, crushed it, and threw the pieces to the ground before smashing through one of the building’s undamaged bits of wall.
I’d have fired off the anti-personnel lasers to give them cover, but between the explosions, smoke, fire, and moving figures inside, I wouldn’t be doing them any favors.
Instead, I disconnected my implant from the control systems and said, “Hal, bring us in close to the office building. You have permission to support us, but not to take human lives unless there’s no realistic way to prevent someone from killing us or a civilian. Also, be ready to pick us up on the way out.”
Hal’s creators didn’t trust AIs and so I had to give him specific instructions when I left him directions. Despite his creators’ paranoia, he hadn’t yet tried to organize the world’s AIs to destroy all intelligent life. So, I didn’t feel the need to make his instructions airtight.
As Hal brought us in toward the office building, I watched out the windows toward the warehouse, seeing a podjet exactly like the ones that the various Defenders units used. White and egg-shaped except for the wings, it made me wonder if the Probationers received funding from the Defenders.
I didn’t have time to think about that as the door opened people jumped out—though the word people might be arguable in a couple of cases. The Atoner jumped out first, his red and white costume matched by the red hang glider he flew down. Ape Nasty followed him down on an identical, but larger, hang glider, sized to match the fact that he was a twelve-foot-tall gorilla.
Jumping out on the other side, I saw the familiar sight of the Eagle suit, metal wings outstretched, diving downward. The write-up I’d seen on her when she worked for Rook claimed that her codename was Harpy. I didn’t expect that she’d have a different attitude as Lone Eagle, but whatever. At least she was on our side this time.
Behind her in all black armor, Dr. Transylvania flew down with no visible wings, jets, or any other way to stay in the air. Dimly glowing symbols ran down his arms and legs. A few spread out across the center of his armor’s chest. The only vampire that seemingly hadn’t visited Detroit last summer, he was known for designing devices that worked with a combination of science and magic.
How they kept him in the Probationers, I had no idea. Like Ape Nasty, he was a tier one supervillain. Of course, I hadn’t heard about either of them in the last five years or more. Some Defenders unit must have taken them down without much noise.
Even weirder, he was carrying someone. A woman in a silver costume, flecked with a rainbow of colors if she moved, hung below the vampire’s armor, held in place by a harness. She held a large gun connected to her matching silver backpack by a hose.
I’d seen this costume before on Mister Madness back when we’d fought Evil Beatnik and a collection supervillains’ grandchildren. Did he have a sister or a cousin? Either way, it made me wonder about his family dynamics.
I didn’t have time to dwell on that line of thought because Hal had stopped the jet, hovering above the office building. Cassie jumped out before I had time to react, followed by Daniel and Yoselin. I jumped out after them with the door shutting behind me, hearing the hum of the gravitics as the jet floated away.
Landing on the gravel-covered roof next to the rest of the group, I pointed toward one of the bubble-shaped skylights, “That one’s next to the stairway.”
Going down from the top would give us at least a glimpse of what was going on on each floor. I began to walk toward the skylight, expecting to have to smash it or at least rip it off the roof, but Cassie pulled out her sword before I got there and cut it away with two quick strokes.
Sheathing her sword, she jumped through the hole, pulling out her gun as she landed. Daniel and Yoselin followed and I jumped after them.
Landing, I noticed that my surroundings differed little from any other office in the US. Between the carpeted floors, cubicles with desks, cabinets, and docked laptops with monitors, we could have been anywhere as opposed to an office owned by the Nine.
Given the number of offices I’d broken into while fighting supervillains, I probably shouldn’t underestimate the number of criminal decisions made in your average cubicle farm.
With this being the top floor, the place of the most powerful cubicle dwellers, the cubicles and desks were larger than average and were placed next to meeting spaces with whiteboards, TV screens, tables, and chairs. Between the green of the potted plants and the wooden tables, the place almost felt nice.
The sirens didn’t help that impression.
Even though my helmet blocked most of it, lowering the noise to a bearable volume, I could still feel it through the suit. Haley had been willing to come, but I found myself relieved she hadn’t. The costume I designed for her blocked loud noises too, but her hearing might have been good enough to defeat my best efforts.
Cassie pointed her gun toward a thick, rectangular block of dark, gray wall standing in the middle of the room. At first glance, it wasn’t obvious why it even existed, but a moment later I noticed that the two elevators and the stairs ended inside.
“Over here,” Cassie began walking toward the stairs.
At the same time, the sirens stopped and a man’s voice echoed through the building, “We’re being attacked by the Heroes’ League! Kill the intruders!”
In any normal situation, I doubted that even trained security guards would bother to fight us, but I had little doubt that the few people left on this floor would. As the man had begun to speak, the anti-voice tech in my suit began to buzz.
Though most people must have left when the sirens began to ring, around ten were still in the room, all of them standing near the door to the stairwell. A mix of men and women in suits, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, they turned around when the voice spoke and began to run at us.
A gray haired man with a green suit jacket pulled out a Swiss Army knife and charged us, shouting, “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
I wondered if I had enough goobots for the entire building.