Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, Brent Atherton, one of Mayor Raymond’s top financial backers, was just leaving the master bathroom of his luxury apartment overlooking Central Park. He and his wife had the entire floor to themselves, shouting to ask here where she wanted to go for lunch was pointless. Instead, he made his way across their bedroom to retrieve his palmtop so as to call her.
He had just picked up the device when the glass wall and sliding door to the balcony shattered inward ahead of a whirling mass of black and golden-hued spiked chains. The intruding implements shredded everything they came into contact with: the curtains, carpet, wainscoting and even the bed before finding solid matter to anchor in.
Atherton dropped the palmtop, unable to even scream. Fight or flight kicked in and he bolted for the bathroom only to find a black ceramic chain wrapping his waist and holding him fast. A violent tug lifted him off his feet and brought him around to face the sundered window.
The anchored chains pulled taunt and lifted a man into the room by an intricate harness he wore. In addition to the leather harness, the man was dressed like a classic biker: worn black jeans with chaps, heavy boots, leather jacket and fingerless gloves. His face was hidden behind a luchador-style mask styled with a skull face whose jaw was wired shut by silver chains.
“Atherton.” Manriki growled. “Just the man I wanted to see.”
The bedroom door opened and Mrs. Atherton stumbled in, eyes wide in panic. “Brent? What—“ She cut off in a shriek as a chain detached from where it had thrust through the wall to wrap and lift her just like her husband.
“And a hostage.” Manriki leered under his mask. “Nice. Now if the two of you don’t want to see how tight my chains can squeeze: you’ll tell me where your safe is.”
The Sword and Glaive Pub in Queens was a notorious meeting place for the criminal gang known as the Corbins. French in origin, the group was, at best described as something between an illegal business and a terrorist organization. They dealt in prostitution, designer drugs, and illegal weapons, but they defended their turf with bombs and arson instead of the traditional bullets and beatings. Big and showy was the Corbin way, so much so that NYPD raids on them were carried out by the Powered Armor division rather than SWAT.
While the other gangs sometimes called truces or did business with one another, no one worked with the Corbins and any lack of active hostilities had more to do with no one wanting to be on the other end of their retribution than an actual lack of hostility.
Sometimes, however, the risk was worth the reward. Johnny Qin had let it be known through his people that a meeting would be going down at the Sword and Glaive between the top three subfamilies of the Corbins. He’d also coincidentally just opened up a new weapons supplier to the Tongs: one Eduardo Vorran of Mayfield.
So while Mayor Raymond speechified over her new robot police officer and Brent Atherton suffered a home invasion, several van-loads of Hip Sing Tong members converged on the Sword and Glaive, swaddled in advanced body armor and armed with low recoil, man-portable pulse cannons, high-yield PSM emitters, and heavy plasma lances.
None of them knew about the call to the Sword hours earlier telling them to expect company—or of the Corbins’ existing relationship with Eduardo Vorran.
Alerts flashed up on Brother Wright’s holographic display, superimposed over live footage from Mayor Raymond’s presentation. His face split into a grin and he read the first aloud into his team’s comms. “Silent alarm triggered at the home of Mr. And Mrs. Brent Atherton – tower security responding, NYPD responding…” He couldn’t help but sound smug as he added, “And Infinity responding. Raymond’s flying deus ex machina is off the table.”
He moved on to the second alert. “Reported: shots fired and explosions in Queens: the Sword and Glaive Pub. NYPD Powered Armor Division responding… all hands on deck. And thanks to my connections at Ironclad Security, assorted fire and burglary alarms are having a ‘solar flare related false alarm event’ as we speak. That ought to get the attention of this city’s prelate infestation. The way is clear gentlemen and lady.”
Steepling his fingers, he took a moment to relish his own brilliant plan. “Go.”
“People of the great city of New York,” Mayor Raymond declared, raising her arms dramatically, “I give you the future of law enforcement and the dawn of a new era for our sense of safety and peace of mind. It is my most sincere honor to present to you: Adamantine.”
The coverings were whipped away from the container where the robot stood, revealing her in all her formidable glory to the crowd.
As expected, there were gasps of awe and dozens of pictures being snapped before the crush of questions from the assembled reporters. But that crush was suddenly interrupted by a surge in the crowd as dozens of people started to push forward, rushing the stage.
In the crowd, Tink was craning her neck to see the mechanical marvel when the commotion started. “What the heck? Warrick, what’s going…” When she looked, however, she found a distinct lack of boyfriend. Instead, she was met by a woman in a parka shoving her aside hard enough to almost knock her down.
“Hey!” She protested. By the time she regained her balance, it became clear just how lucky she was to have done so: people were stampeding forward in a mindless shamble that would have easily trampled her. Other people were exclaiming and being shoved all around her, the crowd becoming a mosh pit.
“This isn’t the stereotypical New Yorker rudeness.” she muttered, dodging a glassy-eyed man in a business suit. The pushing was all in one direction: toward the stage. Craning her neck again, she saw the leading edge of the charge tussling with security, who were being swiftly overwhelmed. She also caught a glimpse of Warrick just as the young man roughly shouldered his way past a reporter.
Mind control, puppeteer parasites, voodoo zombism—there were too many possibilities for her to consider in a short amount of time. Sorting the ‘what’ and ‘how’ were going to have to come later. Now was time for action and the nearest cover she could see in which to change into the Renaissance costume was more than fifty yards away, through the crowd.
She bolted for it while flicking through commands on her palmtop until she found the secure comm frequency the Whitecoat had provided Warrick with.
“Go.” The Whitecoat’s voice replied in seconds, muffled by wind.
“Something’s happening here, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the robot.” The words tumbled breathlessly out of Tink’s mouth. “Whatever it is, it’s got Al…” Her brain caught up with her lips just before she said Warrick’s codename, recalling that she was still in civvies and in public. “Uh… there’s a reason I’m the one calling, understand.”
There was a thudding impact on the other end of the line and the wind stopped. “Something’s got him? Is he okay?”
“I don’t know.” Tink admitted, trying to weave through the confused throng plus the on-duty cops that were trying to wade in and restore order. “He’s… a bunch of people here are rushing the stage. It’s like they’re brainwashed or something.”
When the Whitecoat didn’t reply, she said: “Look, there’s a couple dozen of you guys in New York, right? One of you has to be able to help. I can stop people, but I can’t make them snap out of it.”
“I…” Whitecoat started, then hesitated. “On my way.”
The comm went silent and Tink cursed, breaking into a run to the corner of the building she’d set her sights on earlier. “Right. ‘Hold down the fort.”
She took one last look at the stage, finding that some of the crowd had managed to make it up on stage. Whatever those people (and Warrick) were being forced to do, it was going to happen very soon. Her hand closed on the necklace that concealed her d-icon, the command words coming to her lips.
“What is this? Some kind of protest?” Mayor Raymond demanded of her aide.
The first half of that question and finding and answer to it also occupied Adamantine’s mind. With her powerful, multitasking-oriented software kicked in, taking in everything unfolding before her and breaking each element down for analysis.
Facial recognition software compared faces in the crowd against criminal databases, the city’s employee identification archive, and her own reading of the past five years worth of the major local news sites and cross-referenced them for commonalities. Every action was matched against behavioral study data and her own past observations. Logical strings attempted to parse all the extrapolated data into workable hypotheses.
“This isn’t a protest.” she reported over her shoulder. “While several known activists are down there, there isn’t a common cause between them. There are also reporters and city employees that are generally friendly toward you mixed in.”
Mayor Raymond scowled, watching people trying to climb up on stage, only to get pulled back down by security. “Then what the hell’s going on?”
“I don’t know yet. But I don’t think these people are in control of themselves. The security officers are using OC spray. The assailants are showing typical symptoms and yet at not reacting to the irritation and blindness. I suspect they’re being controlled against their will.”
The mayor huffed. “Of course. Some powered freak thinks they can show me up?” She turned to her aide. “Tell my security detail to bring the car up, then send Harding after them.”
Her aide, a smartly dressed man a few years her senior frowned down at his tablet. “I’m sorry, Your Honor, but Infinity isn’t available. There was a silent alarm at a… high sensitivity location.” He tapped the screen a few times. “And the powered armor division is also occupied.”
Adamantine glanced back at him, then accessed the police dispatch logs. “There have been two-hundred and twenty-three automated emergency calls all in the last fifteen minutes. That can’t be a coincidence: Someone’s trying to tie up emergency response—to funnel all support away from here.”
Understanding briefly preceded panic in both the mayor and her security detail. One bodyguard, the same one who attended the mayor on her last visit to Lab 2700, took Mayor Raymond by the arm. “It…she’s right, Your Honor. We need to get off this stage.”
For once, the mayor didn’t argue and let herself be guided toward the stairs off the back of the stage. Just as they were about to descend, however, Adamantine took the mayor’s other arm. “No.”
“What do you mean, ‘No, you stupid AI? We need to get away!”
Adamantine stared her down. “You need to get away, yes, but your bodyguard is following standard operating procedure. Whoever planned this would know this.” Rather than explain further, she wrenched the mayor out of her bodyguard’s grasp and wrapped an arm around the woman’s waist.
Mayor Raymond squawked at the rough handling. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Servos whirred and Adamantine’s free arm, from the inner wrist to the elbow, extended down and away from the rest of the appendage, revealing a grapnel launcher. Without looking (as she’d already surveyed the surrounding area), she fired the grapnel and its trailing line up to the third floor of city hall.
“No.” Mayor Raymond said, realizing immediately what was about to happen. “You’re not getting me on camera getting swung to safety like someone those prelates pulled out of a fire. Do you have any idea what a field day the papers will have?”
“Less of one than if they were putting your obituary online.” replied Adamantine.
The grapnel buried itself into the concrete just to the right of a window and stuck fast. As soon as it was secure, the line began to retract, pulling Adamantine and her charge into the air and over the heads of the crowd. Anyone who was still paying attention could hear Mayor Raymond screaming something below the dignity of her office.
Adamantine turned herself and the mayor just as they approached the window on the second floor she’d been aiming for, letting her artificial body take the impact as well as shield her charge from the resulting flying glass. They landed in a carpeted hallway, Adamantine’s internal gyros allowing her to keep her footing even after the jarring impact.
“I will decommission you!” the mayor was shouting. “I will have Atan take you apart piece by piece and melt you down into ‘I Love NY’ paperweights!”
“You can then inform the taxpayers that you spent millions on a project that you then destroyed for working as advertised.” said Adamantine, setting the mayor down on her feet out of line of sight of the window. “I did exactly as I was supposed to: protecting the people of New York. Removing you from the area should serve to defuse the situation on the ground. Now, we need to get you somewhere secure.”
No sooner did she say that than a set of bolas on the end of a cable flew through the broken window and wrapped around her neck. Without delay or ceremony, the robotic policewoman was yanked out of the hall and down two stories to slam into the sidewalk hard enough to crack it.
Automatically, she rolled with the fall and caught hold of the bola’s snapping the cable around her neck as she rose up on one knee. Her eyes tracked the line as it was reeled back into its source.
Ten yards away, a man—or what looked like a man, stood with his right hand folded forward and down to reveal a mechanism that was working to retract the broken cable. Adamantine’s facial recognition software didn’t recognize him, but her catalog of Lab 2700’s projects did: One of the previous models in her design history.
“The L-2700 model W-X32 non-intrusive humanoid combat mechanoid.” She said aloud, starting to rise to her full height.
The other robot stared at her dully. “The L-2700 model M7 dual-mode civil enforcer/ infiltration mechanoid, ‘Adamantine’. My objective is to capture you with minimum damage and deliver you to base. It is in the best interest of both yourself and the public you are assigned to protect that you comply with minimal resistance.”
Adamantine paused. “I’m the target?”
Her proximity alert warned her took late as another assailant seemed to materialize behind her and slam her across the shoulder blades with something hard enough to make her rock forward on her feet. A second blow to the back of her knee sent her crashing to the ground again.
“Yeah.” Said the new attacker. “And you better listen to Leo here, because this isn’t a fight you’re gonna win.”
“Is that so?” Faster than a human’s body would allow, Adamantine swept her leg out behind her, sending her unseen foe to the ground. In the next instant, she was on her feet again. Her hand came up to her rib cage, where a panel slid open to deliver an oversized, high tech pistol to her waiting grasp.
The weapon powered up with an ominous hum and she trained it on the man she’s knocked to the ground. At the same time, she kept Leo in her line of sight. “Surrender. Now.”
Leo’s arm finished winding his damaged cable back in and his hand resumed its normal position. He instantly fell into a kung fu stance. “Nothing in my instructions requires that I protect the Legion of One. Threatening him will not hinder me.”
From the ground, Legion smirked up at her. “And besides…” His form blurred and seemed to take on the appearance of mist being blown away. Adamantine fired, but the taser round struck only the sidewalk.
“Good luck even hitting me.” Legion appeared behind her and to her right, lashing out with his baton again. This time, Adamantine sensed him in time and blocked the strike with her gun arm. Her counter missed as Legion teleported again, but her software had already observed the visual effect of his teleportation and predicted where he would appear next. She met him with a snap kick to the side that sent him flying three feet.
A consummate martial artist, Legion rolled with the blow and assumed a steadying stance. “You’re good, I’ll admit that. But pay a little attention, Pinocchi-ette, and you’ll see that you’re out-numbered.”
Indeed, Adamantine observed, the dozens of dull-eyes people who had rushed the stage earlier were starting to notice the fight—and her in particular. Like a horde of well-preserved zombies, they zeroed in on her and surged toward her.
Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.
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