Cables popped out as I pulled the panel away and threw it on the floor. The man inside was screaming and trying to untangle himself from the harness. Meanwhile, the mech’s arms drooped and the mech stopped moving.
It had taken more effort to knock it on its back than I would have expected. On the other hand, as mechs went, it was squat and had wide legs. The center of gravity might be low. I supposed that might be a plus if you were expecting to protect your base with barely trained, mind-controlled civilians.
Seeing as how the mech didn’t appear to be about to explode, I pointed my arm at him and activated the paralysis ray.
Slumping back into the harness, his face relaxed and he stopped fumbling with the straps, lying limp within them.
I hoped I’d done him a kindness. At any rate, I’d done myself one. It was one less person I’d have to fight. Even as that thought passed through my mind, I noticed in my HUD that a crowd of office workers was running around the corner of the black-painted rectangular block we’d jumped out of.
I didn’t want to hurt them, but I knew I wouldn’t have enough goo or juice for the paralysis rays to take everyone in the building down. Still, I wasn’t alone by then. Daniel, Cassie, and Yoselin had jumped out of the stairwell, all of them aiming the paralysis devices in their costumes at the office workers.
As they fell, Daniel flew in my direction as Yoselin and Cassie ran toward the corner, standing in front of the crowd as Yoselin pointed her own tech at the people, blowing wind out of both ends of the cylinders hanging under her arms.
The people in front of her didn’t fall, but they did stumble backward as Cassie picked them off with paralysis, people falling to the ground and not moving.
In my head, Daniel said, There are more coming up the stairwell. Too many. We could have fought them to a standstill, covered them with goo, or paralyzed them, but then they’d be falling down the stairwell… Plus, there’s a better chance of a good outcome if we go this way right now. Once we slow them down up here, Cassie’s going to chop a hole to the next floor.
Glancing over to Cassie and Yoselin, that wouldn’t be long. As I watched, Yoselin stopped blowing air at the crowd and threw a goo grenade at the group.
That left the ones in the front of the group either lying on the ground paralyzed or stuck together with goo. I fired off a few goobots that exploded among the ones further back, taking out a few more clusters of people.
Zooming in to look over the crowd with the Rocket suit’s amplified senses, I didn’t see Ana among either the ones on the ground, the people still streaming up from the stairwell, or the few standing in the hole I’d made. It was nice to see they had at least enough control over themselves to prevent them from making a ten-foot drop to the floor below.
Cassie and Yoselin turned to run away from the crowd even as more people arrived around the corner. Cassie took big steps, covering more than ten feet each time a foot left the floor. Yoselin took to the air after a short run, using the blowers on her arm and belt instead of the rocket pack on her back.
It was odd, but she probably knew her own equipment better.
Behind them, the growing crowd of additional office workers began to go around the fallen and stuck bodies of the first group. A few tried to thread their way between the bodies. Most of them got stuck in the goo.
By the time the first few got around the edge of the unconscious group, Cassie had reached us, taken her sword out of the sheath on her back, and cut a hole in the floor. Her first swipe was half a circle. The next was a straight swipe across the floor, making it look like a “D” or a cartoon mouse hole—though mouse holes were on the wall and not in the middle of a beige carpet.
Then she jumped through. I followed, hearing a boom along with Cassie’s voice over the comm saying, “Fuck! Mechs!”
Like the third floor, the second had a lot more cubicles than the fourth floor where we entered. Even though I couldn’t help but notice that, I didn’t pay attention to it in the moment. I was looking for the mechs and for Cassie.
I found Cassie first.
Our hole was directly above an endless line of cubicles and she wasn’t directly below it where I’d expected. She was two cubicles to my left. To my right were three more mechs and to my far left, trundling up the side of the rows of cubicles, were two more.
So, there were five of those suckers.