A look down at the floor below us told me what I need to know, the human-sized tubes had cracked all over, shattering one entirely and the top half of the one next to it. The platform the tubes rested on had also cracked with electronics and wires falling out of it, some of them still smoking from when I hit them with my laser.
That was the good news.
The bad news was different but related. Jaclyn darted from somewhere in a blur, slowing to punch one of the Rook suits. The suit flew backward, hitting the concrete wall some 20 feet behind him. Cracks appeared in the wall, but the henchman stepped away from it as if nothing had happened. Checking over the wings, which I’d have expected to be damaged from the hit, I noted that they expanded and retracted without issue, probably to help with balance.
Worse, the guy aimed his gun at Jaclyn at the same time that several others did, seemingly by chance, but from all Tara had told me, they fought like the True. Lasers fired at Jaclyn who was standing between two clusters of cubicles and in front of a block of tall metal cabinets.
If it were anyone else, they’d have had nowhere to go, but even as the bright beams opened up on her, she moved, becoming little more than a purple blur as she whipped to the right, moving in front of one of the cubicle clusters and then turning left when she reached the wall. Running along the wall, she ran through the group of henchmen, hitting all of them at least once because they shot in all directions before pulling themselves off the floor, undamaged.
They aimed their lasers at where she’d been and then fired again at the purple blur. Maybe they hit her a few times, but not enough for her suit to notify me.
I stepped away from the window and toward Yoselin who only said, “She’s fast,” as we ran back toward the stairway, running through the now empty middle of the room.
It didn’t take long before we were running up to the next floor, one step after another under our booted feet. Even though we were in the middle of a life and death situation, it didn’t stop my brain from considering something new that I’d learned.
Whatever else might be true, Rook was winning if we were in a race to create a tough suit. I wasn’t sure that I’d do as well if Jaclyn punched me.
Unasked for, Daniel’s voice appeared in my brain, If I’m right, you’re about to find her or close to it. Don’t take too long or it will get harder.
I thought back in agreement, and paid attention to my surroundings. Yoselin and I stood near a grey painted, metal door with a small window near the top. Through the window, I could see another room like the one we’d left, but not all of it. About ten feet ahead of us stood a series of tall, red metal cabinets. They blocked our view of half of the room.
Over the comm I told Yoselin, “I guess I’ll go in.”
The door was locked, but I smashed through it. I might have been able to pick the lock, but it didn’t seem worth it.
When I punched it, the door tore out of its frame and fell over. I stepped through the doorway, expecting to be attacked, and discovered once I stood next to the metal cabinets that the room was bigger than I thought.
Looking to one side of the cabinets, I could see the part of the room that I expected to see—the part that faced into the larger basement. Much like the two levels below, it had machines for mass-producing parts, boxes to store materials for making those parts, cables, wires, and sheets of metal. There were no people inside.
Unlike the rooms below, that part of the room wasn’t all. Moving away from the section of wall containing the stairway and the elevator, I realized that it wasn’t a wall like the others. Much like the building upstairs, this had a rectangular block containing the stairs and elevator and the area was open on either side of the block.
Yoselin noticed too and even as I turned away from the expected part of the room, she’d moved to stand next to the corner. Not seeing anything that caused her to stop, she moved around the corner and walked down the side of the wall, disappearing from my view.
I followed her, moving around the corner and finding that she had flattened herself to the wall. More to the point, I saw into the room. It reminded me of Man-machine’s underground base. Full to the ceiling with mechs, powered armor, and the materials for building them, it held mechs and powered armor in various states of assembly. Many but not all had the crow-like features of Rook’s design. Others reminded me of Armory’s work.
Worse, there were people. On the far end, men and women work wore thin grey jumpsuits, but they weren’t normal people. To my first glance, they all looked like Tara and they were putting on armor.
Looking closer, there were more people behind the True. I couldn’t tell for sure, but one of them resembled Ana.