“You’re under arrest, scumbag!” A woman’s voice, coming from a direction other than the bed with the decoy or the door. Didn’t see her. Teleporter, perhaps, or really good Infiltrator. My equipment was pretty good, but it was far from infallible.
A spike in my battery alerted me that someone tried, and hopefully failed, to use a power on me. <We need a game plan.> “Would you believe me if I said I’m one of the good guys?” I kept my hands away from my sides, and slowly turned toward the woman. A shell that no human eye could have seen formed over the window, causing just a small amount of the reflection from the glass to fade. Forcefield, no doubt. Perhaps the same trick they tried on me.
<Game plan?> Doctor Patil’s voice squeaked like he’d just discovered puberty. Good god. This is why the military has absolutely no respect for civilian contractors. I was sure the man was a fine scientist, or whatever it was he did, but he wasn’t a soldier; he didn’t know how to approach a battlefield.
“Stay where you are! Do not turn around! I will shoot!” This woman, on the other hand, knew exactly what she was doing. She hesitated on the threat to shoot me, but that meant little. There were so many ways she might be lying, such as someone else shooting, or a power based attack that wasn’t ‘shooting’ but might still kill me.
“Okay, staying where I am. We can talk.” I remained rigid, but calm, attempting to assert authority despite not having any. <Game plan. What are my orders and the parameters of my mission?>
“Is that how your power works? No, don’t answer.” Her voice carried experience, and the threatening command they train you for as a soldier or police officer. “You will remain quiet. As per Infiltrator protocols, any attempt to speak will be met with force.”
Holy shit, she really does know her stuff. My boss was still doing his best impression of a deer in headlights. <I can allow myself to be arrested. It would be the safest, most peaceful, solution, but I’m sure there’s plenty of headaches getting me out. Or I can attempt to escape captivity. Lethal retaliation is not an option; I won’t be trying to kill a hero.> If Patil were military, I never would have said that last part, but if he were military, I wouldn’t have been waiting for orders.
Patil stammered something, but Professor Abernathy cut him off. <Run. We can still salvage something from this mission, but not if you’re in a cell. If things go bad, we can still get you out.>
There’s an answer I can work with. I was tempted to smile, but for all I knew they had some way to watch my face. <Okay, so which features am I allowed to show off? Anything you want me to hold back?>
<Keep it to mundane equipment and the Tank features, if at all possible. Hide the space warp and forcefield technologies unless it’s do or die. They are the most distinctive parts of the equipment.>
<Yes ma’am.> I needed the forcefield for one minor trick. I felt bad about it, but whoever the decoy was, she was part of the trap. They wouldn’t risk a normal person in what might turn into an Imbued firefight. Perhaps she had powers of her own, or perhaps she was mundane law enforcement, but she signed up knowing there were risks.
The use of the forcefield was one of those things I was least accustomed to; its automated functions were simple, but manual control was like like trying to flex my fifth hand. As such, it took a few seconds of fumbling around before two gas grenades went off in my jacket. At least I was smart enough to use a company issued jacket instead of my own, because nothing short of burning the thing was getting that smell out.
My internal battery tracker climbed as I forced my way through the shield, then the glass. That is one powerful forcefield generator.
<I’m out. Find me an evac route. Fast.> I had GPS as a feature of the computer network, but I’d not yet learned to use it. In fact, it seemed to be the most difficult of all the features I’d attempted to use.
I remember reading once about certain women and animals who could see four colors instead of the three that most humans saw. It was essentially the exact opposite of being color blind; there wasn’t a special, invisible color that we couldn’t see, it was just that we couldn’t distinguish it from other colors.
My vision was similar, except now I had four extra colors to work with. Strange, to be certain, but still familiar enough to use. The GPS sense was different; the only thing I had to describe it was the one time in high school that I tried acid. It was an alien perception, at once an out of body experience and trying to see through warped glass.
“Shit! He has super strength! Durability, too, unless he’s insane and can fly!” The woman shouted as I fell from the hospital room. She must have some protection from tear gas. I could also hear coughing and a struggle to open the door to the room. “He had tear gas, I think. This isn’t some amateur, assume he’s armed.” And she thinks fast on her feet. Fuck.
I twisted in the air, adjusting myself for my landing. I counted myself lucky I hit grass rather than concrete. The armor system reduced my impact force by almost sixty percent. I hit with the force of falling one story rather than four, nothing I wasn’t trained for in the military. I was running before all the shattered glass hit the lawn around me.
“Understood. Suspect is a Brawler-Tank and assumed armed and dangerous.” It didn’t take superhuman hearing to tell the male voice who answered was only there via radio. “Any idea how he broke into the hospital without setting off alarms?”
“Don’t know. You find out, I’m in pursuit.”
Correction: she is a quick thinker, a professional, and has combat powers. She would have done well for herself in the special forces, which was the worst thing I could imagine facing under the circumstances. A glance behind and above showed the woman leaping from the building straight toward me. I stand corrected twice in as many seconds.
<Left! Through the alley!> Somehow, I knew Professor Abernathy shouted in her haste to find me a route. I suppose I should be glad the communications relay isn’t as bad as the GPS.
Despite my instincts telling me you don’t run into a narrow corridor any time you could help it, I followed instructions. She was the one with eyes in the proverbial sky, she had the tools to make better decisions than I did. This time, I reached out and smacked the drug dealer upside the head on my way through, hoping a minor case of assault might prompt the hero into stopping to check on the ‘civilian’ rather than continuing pursuit. Besides, it felt good.
<Turn right after you get to the other side. There’s a subdivision.>
I didn’t have time to argue, so I followed instructions. Need a way to avoid people, not find more. It was the wrong time in the morning to expect to hide in a subdivision.
I switched my attention to my internal battery. I had twenty seven minutes at current rates. Christ, super-strength mode eat so much juice. I needed it, however; it meant the difference between 40 kph and 70 kph foot speed.
I reacted to a proximity alert before my conscious mind realized I got one, and even then I barely avoided a solid black sword to the face. “Gotta hand it to you, jackass, you’re good.”
The woman who’d been chasing me had to have come through the wall, there was no other explanation. Black mist swirled around her, clinging to her like like black paint. My scanner identified some cloth below, civilian material rather than police or costume wear. I had to assume she relied on her power to protect her from injury, instead of armor.
What bits of skin were visible around her face revealed a copper skin tone and youthful features. If she’s older than twenty five, she had a power that makes her look younger.
Her sword looked like steel, but the way Imbued worked that meant nothing. She launched forward, her body and weapon becoming solid black yet again. I moved back, unable to spot an opening in her defense.
“You sound like my ex.” I avoided a couple more expertly timed swipes. She’s not pressing the attack, just trying to keep me off balanced. I wasn’t sure if she could get through my defenses, but I wasn’t ready to test it the hard way. Let’s see. Superhuman speed, teleports or walks through walls, has a longsword and knows how to use it. Isn’t Canada supposed to have stricter laws about weapons than the ‘states?
“Please tell me you’re going to keep resisting arrest.” She smiled, but much like her confidence, it was forced. “Tell me, mister Tank, which of your organs can I carve out without a manslaughter charge? Those get so tiresome.” She didn’t bother waiting for an answer, and I had to avoid another handful of slashes calculated to get me as far away from cover as possible.
<Her name’s Lynx. Pretty typical Assassin package. Plays the edgy antihero role like it’s still the 90’s, but her record’s clean She’s never been charged for misconduct.>
I hated Assassin packages; they were everything I was trained to be, only better because they had powers instead of human ability. Lynx seemed to have both on her side.
She’s buying time. She isn’t sure she can kill me and doesn’t want to even if she can. She’s stalling until backup arrives. It was standard protocol when dealing with unknown Imbued to talk and buy time.
Now I just have to figure out how she got so close without setting of my sensors. “Better question. Is costume changing part of your power?”
“Why?” Her heartbeat jumped by a large margin, especially notable since running after me didn’t seem to make her tired at all.
“Oh, just wondering.” My scanners had gotten all the info they could off of her now; if there was some special detail, it would be up to the people back at base to puzzle out. “If your costume’s part of your power, will it turn off after I beat you?”
“Hah!” She tried to hide her relief with bravado, but it was obvious enough that an alert mundane could have recognized it. There’s a story behind that outfit. I readied myself for her to keep talking. “I think we’ll be too concerned about the flying pigs to- hey! Get back here!”
I didn’t turn to look back at her, instead trusting mechanical sensors to track her while I advanced in the opposite direction as fast as my legs could carry me. It galled me to retreat, but there was no way I could fight her for long without running out of battery power. I suspected I could beat her in a fight, but I couldn’t do it without taking the kid gloves off. My goal was to escape, not risk killing the good guys.
She blipped off the tracking scanners, stayed gone for a few seconds, then appeared much closer. Whatever power she was using, it was too slow for teleportation and too fast for me to escape. Well, here goes like half of my remaining power. I kicked on the lensing tech, increasing my speed by the equivalent of fifty percent on top of what the enhanced strength mode was already doing.
The subdivision was more or less what I’d expect of such a place at this time in the morning, which left me dodging through soccer mom foot traffic and shouts of surprise from people. The fact that it was the weekend at least kept me from upsetting too many people on their way to work or school.
<One more turn. There’s a cul-de-sac coming up on your right. Go down it. You’ll find a manhole cover.>
<Anything that gets me out of here.> I need to talk to the bosses about cooking up a portable teleportation device. With all the Gadgeteers on the base, surely one of them can make a metal box.
Contrary to certain movies, it took actual tools to open manholes, which left me both glad and surprised that it was part of the default settings for my lockpicking module. I’m going to have to tell Patil that whoever made my equipment deserves a raise. I dropped into the sewer with a splash. Unlike the tear gas, sewage still smelled about as awful as one would expect for a normal person. <Okay, where do I need to go next?>
<Go straight past the first tunnel, then left at the next. You’ll see a metal door.> Whomever designed whatever it was that let her find this thing also deserved a raise.
Black tendrils oozed through the ceiling of the tunnel, forming into the shape of a woman with a sword standing right in my path. “And where do you think you’re going?”
This day just keeps getting better.