I didn’t need to explain the toxic waste comment, Daniel caught the gist of it from my head.
Got it, he said, but then I felt a pulse of worry from him. One more thing… They’ve got mental shields built into their suits, so I can’t get a read on what they’re thinking, but I did learn something. One of them jumped up and tried to grab me. I knew it was coming before he did, but still, I only barely got away. As he got close though, I got a flash of Rook talking about the armor. I heard one word, ‘stasis.’
In that moment, it came together. Rook might not have been able to come up with that on his own, but I’d heard him talk with Victor about an Abominator site on Mars—something Master Martian more or less confirmed was at least true in his universe. In the intervening year, Rook could have flown to Mars and ransacked the base.
The only problem with the idea was that I’d managed to damage one of the suits. If the suits’ materials were stuck in time, I couldn’t have hurt them. On the other hand, I’d hurt the faceplate and one of the joints—not one of the big plates.
Mulling this over in my head, I found the doorway and the elevator entrance, stepped into the stairwell, and began running up the stairs.
Still thinking about it, I stopped on the next floor up, pointed my head through the doorway, and saw another floor of tanks full of colored liquid with shelved suit parts in the process of being created.
I didn’t see Ana or any of the True’s mechs, however. Checking my HUD to confirm my assumption, I saw that Yoselin’s suit was above me. The concrete floors didn’t make it easy to tell exactly how far, but it was enough, I ran up the stairs to find them.
As I did that, another thought struck me. Of course, I’d managed to damage the joint and the faceplate. If you could stop time, it seems like it’d be a lot harder to do it on moving parts because then they wouldn’t move. As for the faceplate, it seemed likely that freezing the faceplate in time would result in not seeing anything through it.
It seemed like you might be able to mitigate that by having the stasis field flicker multiple times in a second, but if turning the field on and off cost a lot of power, you might not be able to do that.
Following the stairway upward as it turned around, I heard Daniel in my mind again, We’re on the floor below you. The True are following, but they can’t fly.
Cool, I thought back and made it to the door of the next floor and felt the hum of a huge machine through the floor. Checking my HUD, I saw that Yoselin was probably on the other side of the gray, metal door in front of me.
A quick check with my sensors gave me the expected picture of fuzzy shapes on the other side of the door. Connecting to Yoselin’s implant, I thought, What’s the situation? I think I’ve found you.
She responded with, A lot of True in mechs. They’re having an issue getting the teleporter powered up.
Talking over her, the Atoner’s voice came over the official comm channel that maybe we should have been using, “We’re in the basement. Where are you?”
I said, “Go down and you’ll get to a point where you can see into the basement. On the left is a kind of tower. Get to the top floor and go down or better, if you see a floor with a lot of people, that’s the one you hit. It’s probably the seventh. Also, they’re wearing powered armor. It’s tough. Faceplates and joints are weaker. If you’ve got something that can shatter stasis fields, use it. They’ve got them.”
Dr. Transylvania’s icon flickered and he asked, “Have any of you tried magic?”
“None of us can do it,” I readied myself to open the door, wondering if I should go through or wait for everyone else.
“A pity. I’d think that you’d pick it up if only for the flexibility,” he said, his voice ending the phrase in a rasp that left me wondering how differently undead lungs handled speech.
I was about to reply that some of us did use magic, but just not the group here today when I heard the same commanding voice that I’d heard before I entered the tower.
The Amethyst Archer, or whatever she called herself now, spoke with a voice that I could hear through the door, “Get it working now. I don’t care what you have to do.”
I didn’t have time to wait. I had to go through now and since the Rocket suit wasn’t great for stealth, I went with surprise. Smashing through the door, I heard the metal screech and saw it crumple as I went through. Throwing the door to the side, I stepped inside, finding myself in a room that seemed to be half-filled with grey metal boxes and thick cables that ran from the boxes to a square metal platform that might have been forty feet across either way.
People in Rook suits stood on either side of the platform, but none of them stood on it.
Ana’s mech, a red and black model, stood next to a dark-haired woman in a black suit who happened to be carrying a longbow—an odd combination made odder by the quiver on her back.
The Rook suited people nearest me turned in my direction, beginning to run toward me. As my heart beat more quickly, I wondered how I was going to handle these people. I’d survived fighting five or so downstairs, but there were more than 20 here.
Activating the rockets with the idea of flying over them, another thought struck me. Kee could manipulate time. I couldn’t use it as she could, but I might be able to disrupt Rook’s stasis field. It was just a question of how.