Firing off several goobots, I saw them race around my teammates and explode into a gooey mess that hit the older man with the Swiss Army knife along with two women in suits, a short blond woman in her 20s and a freckled woman in her 40s.
The strands reached into the crowd, hitting a few more people I couldn’t see as well along with the ceiling and the floor. I’d designed the bots to spread out and hit something that wouldn’t move.
It worked. Even though hitting the drop ceiling tiles didn’t help at all, the floor wasn’t going anywhere. The metal of the drop ceiling strained but didn’t fall, the gooey strands covering the front line of our attackers stopping them from moving. A few of the people behind them, pulled and strained at the lines of goo attached to them, only becoming more entangled.
On either side of the stuck people, a few people in the back were going to either side of the group, eyeing us with narrowed eyes and scowls on their faces.
Behind me came the sound of something heavy moving and I glanced around my helmet’s 360 view screen to find it. Given the size of the floor, it could have taken a long time, but it didn’t. When Izzy scanned the building, she’d noticed a number of spots where she couldn’t see what was inside. Maybe ten by ten feet, they didn’t take up much room, but on an open floor plan, they stood out.
Much like the big, black rectangle that held the elevators and stairwell, there was a black pillar standing behind me and to the right. I’d assumed it was a bathroom, but thinking back to Izzy’s map of the floor, I realized it was one of the unreadable spots.
Except now, I knew exactly what was inside. The noise we’d heard was the motors moving the door up into the wall above it. Tamping down a temptation to check out the mech’s details, I aimed armor-piercing, explosive boombots at the mech. They sunk into the armor, exploding and throwing pieces of the mech’s chest and control systems across the room.
No one was inside it. That wouldn’t be true on the lower floors.
As I turned around, I saw that I’d damaged more than just the robot. The walls of the pillar the mech had been inside had blown out, sparks and some flame along with them. The nearest desk had been thrown a good ten feet along with papers, books, a computer, and the office phone. Not all of them were thrown ahead of the desk. Some of the papers were still behind it and the office phone had been crushed under it.
Also, the fire alarm went off and the building’s sprinkler system turned on, the water hitting my suit and dripping down my helmet.
I didn’t feel guilty, but on a day where we’d already done property damage in D.C., doing more wasn’t going to help. On the other hand, if the Nine was now releasing the mechs, we’d have property damage whether or not we were careful.
Turning my attention back to the stairwell, I saw that Cassie had thrown a goo grenade, imprisoning the rest of them in goo. To judge from the closed eyes and slumped bodies, Daniel had gone into their heads and put them to sleep.
All of them were held upright by the goo and didn’t seem to be at risk of drowning. I shook my head. Maybe I was being too paranoid.
I checked their future. They’re not at any more risk of dying than most people if we leave them here, Daniel thought at me.
Good enough, I thought back and ran around the group, following everyone down the stairwell. Painted gray everywhere except for the edge of the steps which were all painted yellow, it didn’t feel like we were in the same building as the office above us.
Yoselin went first in her black and orange striped Heroes’ League suit. Using her comm, she asked, “Do you want to check each floor or sprint for the basement?”
We had been planning to check in on Ana and at least see if anything on the other floors mattered, but knowing about the mechs and that civilians had been ordered to kill us…
“Sprint,” Daniel, Cassie, and I said at almost the same time.
“Assuming they let us,” Daniel added.
Sometimes Daniel says stuff that has to be because he unintentionally sensed the future. At any rate, it would be incredibly messed up if he’d known what was coming next and only said that.
Below us, the door to the third floor opened and a flood of people filled the stairwell, all of them running up the stairs at us. In the brief moment of time I had, I checked their faces to see if any of them were Ana and failed to find her.
Before I had time to let myself feel any relief over that, I saw that a big guy wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans was running up the stairs toward Yoselin. I didn’t doubt that she could handle him—she’d customized the suit to include her own tech—but I didn’t know how lethal it would be.
She raised her arm as he ran toward her, but she never got the chance to fire. Before she even had a chance to aim, a thunderous boom sounded as the concrete wall next to the man shattered. Hit by more than the wall, his chest exploded, blood, bone and internal organs splattered across the wall to the right.
The bullets (big ones) that had done the damage stuck in the wall with his blood.
The curly-haired, 40 something woman behind him had been hit by concrete and was bleeding through her white blouse.
This had to stop. I hammered the concrete wall to my left with a series of punches, hoping no one was nearby, and then slammed into it with my shoulder, crashing through.