It wasn’t all bad news though, because even if Izzy was out, Jaclyn wasn’t. In a blur, she ran out from behind a group of crates, grabbed Izzy, and disappeared before the True could do anything. White light hit the spot where they’d been.
For all the True’s ability to predict people’s moves, they couldn’t necessarily move quickly enough for it to matter.
Of course, I wasn’t standing there thinking it through. I’d been thinking of getting Izzy out of there somehow, but Jaclyn freed me of the necessity. Instead, I jumped sideways into an opening between two rows of crates, making it to “safety” moments after Jaclyn and Izzy had disappeared into a similar opening on the other side.
Unlike Jaclyn, I got hit multiple times, burning away protective layers all over the suit. I was now at less than 50% of normal protection. Over the comm as I moved, Jaclyn said, “Cap, watch out!”
Surprising no one, Cassie came through anyway, but not stupidly. Her own gun’s white beam came through the hole first, spraying everywhere, starting the wooden crates on fire where the wood didn’t turn into cinders on contact.
Beams from the gun also hit the True’s suits, not damaging them unless maybe Cassie hit the joints or the faceplates—and she might have. From all the burning, she seemed to have set the gun on wide beam. Plus, some of them might not have stasis plates on their armor.
She didn’t stop there either. She blew a hole in the ceiling too, throwing smoking, reddish, chunks of concrete into the room. In the face of all that, the True backed up, concluding something that made that make more sense than rushing us. Like maybe Cassie’s gun had more of an effect than we realized.
This brought up the real problem. We had to get everyone up before the whole place collapsed. We didn’t need to take them all out. We only needed to block them from getting to us for a little while. As an idea struck me, Jaclyn talked over the comm, “Push the crates. We’ll box them in.”
She didn’t need to persuade me. We’d had the same idea. She just had it first.
I reached out, crates inward from the middle of the row, feeling them hit the row ahead of them plus the row ahead of that and the row ahead of that… At the same time, I heard not only their scraping but also the scraping of the crates Jaclyn was pushing.
The True saw it, of course, and one of them tried to run through, getting smashed by the leading crates from both Jaclyn and I. Plus, it wasn’t as if we were only thinking of that one row. We’d pushed one line of crates in and moved over to push in more to fill in the gaps.
It wasn’t going to stop them for long. I could hear them smash crates and try to push them away. I pushed back when I saw crates moving back my way, even throwing crates up over the top to make it hard to crawl over the pile, sometimes even being rewarded with a crashing noise as one of the crates hit flew far enough to hit someone.
Jaclyn did the exact same thing except she did it several times faster.
I’d be lying if I told anyone that I was the main player in keeping us alive at that moment, but whatever. It gave Daniel and Yoselin time to bring their captives (and for Daniel to grab Izzy) and float them up to the next floor.
We stopped the second they were through the hole and heard the impromptu barricade fall apart through a combination of smashing things and burning them, flames licking up through the hole we’d made.
Even then, though, I knew that something had changed. As I landed on the next floor up, screams began to reach us from the floor we’d left. Along with the screams, I also heard roaring—not the sound of a lion, but more of a bellow. Almost human. I’d heard it on video streams. That was Ape Nasty.
At about the same time, I also heard hissing and saw rainbow-colored gas billowing through the room below. It must have been a heavy gas because it didn’t come up, but I recognized the look of it. The original League had fought Dr. Madness many times. We’d fought Mr. Madness, his grandson. Mistress Madness used the Madness Gas just like they had. I didn’t know their relationship, but they almost had to have one.
I wasn’t sure that gas would make it through their suits, but in all the fighting some of them might have leaks.
The Atoner’s voice came over the comm, “Go! We’re in and attacking from the back. Get out, we’ll hold them off.”
“Got it,” I said, “I should warn you that the whole tower could fall in at any time.”
“I know,” The Atoner began, and then came a sizzling noise.
“You okay?” I asked.
The purring voice of Dr. Transylvania answered, “He’s fine, but busy. They’re a challenging group, aren’t they? That’s all the more reason for you to hurry out so that we don’t have to face them for too long.”
A long, high-pitched scream followed his comment.
“Run along,” Dr. Transylvania added.