“I need one of your gauntlets.” Renaissance explained to Whitecoat, “Or at least the electrostatic adhesion element.”
“Sounds like someone’s been telling tales out of school.” he said, turning one hand palm up. Up close, the glowing blue disk in his palm could bee seen to be held in place in at the center piece of the plastic gauntlet by a locking ring.
Renaissance leaned over to examine the device with interest. “He’s a big fan.”
“Don’t I know it.” he laughed, then got down to business. “The active elements pop out because they’re the things that need the most maintenance, but the battery is a little trickier…”
“I have a power source” she assured him. “I just need this.”
Whitecoat started to show her where the latches were on the ring, but strong hands grabbed the young woman from behind and snatched her away from him. “Look out!” shouted Adamantine.
No sooner was the warning given than Leo landed on the roof with them, wielding his polyurethane foam-encrusted arm like a club. He struck the roof instead of either of his intended targets, shattering the foam coating. Undaunted by his miss, he rose and turned to face Adamantine. “There is nothing you can do to stop this. Face reality and stop fighting.
Taking hold of the mechanoid’s shoulder, Whitecoat span him around to face him instead. Rearing back with a balled fist, he declared “Reality? The reality is that you are and android; I am—”
Leo caught the incoming punch and used the leverage to throw Whitecoat down on the roof with tooth-rattling force. “Irrelevant.” He observed.
His victory ended abruptly as Adamantine punched him in the back, sending him sprawling to the roof himself. Before he could move to stand again, she landed a sharp kick to is already dented ribs, punting him off the top of the bikeshare station and onto the asphalt beyond the brainwashed horde clamoring to find a way to scale the station. “And you’re obsolete.”
She stepped to the edge of the roof, preparing to leap down and engage her ‘ancestor’.
“No.” Whitecoat grunted as he got up from the body slam Leo applied to him. “You go down there and you’re going to get mobbed again, maybe taken—and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish. I’ve got him; don’t worry.”
“You need to be here to allow Renaissance the use of your gauntlets.” said Adamantine, clenching a fist and eying Leo down below.
In reply, Whitecoat undid the hidden latches on his gauntlet and pulled it off, offering it to Renaissance. “You can work with this, right?”
The young woman took it, wide-eyed. “Your entire gauntlet? Are you sure? That’s leaving you more or less one-handed.”
Whitecoat flexed his bare arm. “Let’s just say I’m made of sterner stuff then you might expect.” He looked down to find Leo sprinting toward the building, looking ready to try jumping up to the roof again. “And there’s really no time to go into specifics.”
With that, he threw himself off the roof in a fantastic leap that easily cleared the crowd below. Leo pushed off and met him in air with a rising uppercut that the Whitecoat dodged before landing a left cross with his bare arm, slapping the mechanoid out of the air.
Renaissance split her focus between scavenging the parts she needed from Whitecoat’s gauntlet and watching the fight. While she’d expected it for some time, it was the first time she’s seen proof that the Whitecoat had strength and durability that had nothing to do with his technological gear. Now she knew where the second set of nanites infecting and enhancing her own body originally came from. Somehow, she would have to have a talk with him in the future.
On the ground, Leo’s tried to roll as he landed, but Whitecoat landed on top of him, driving his knee into the robot’s back and slamming his face into the street.
“Let’s have a chat about ‘irrelevance’, jackass.” Whitecoat said. “When someone can and wants to kick your ass, they’re never irrelevant.”
There was a pop beneath him and Whitecoat thought it was from damage he’d done right up until the moment Leo’s purposefully dislocated legs whipped back and kicked him in the back, knocking him off the robot.
When he got to his feet, Leo looked horrific: his faux skin hanging off his jaw and forehead in shreds while his hips splays out at impossible and painful looking angles. The horror was multiplied when the skin began to melt and run back into its proper shape and his hips clacked and popped back into their sockets.
“While you may delay me, the chances of you defeating me are statistically insignificant. Archive files for the New York prelate ‘The Whitecoat’ suggests that you merely rely on technological aides and likely psionic-enhanced reflexes and stamina.” He folded his bola-launcher hand back into hand shape, then made a fist. A punching dagger extended from the top of the knuckles. “No healing factor, no enhanced durability.”
Whitecoat kipped up and took a street fighter’s stance. “Question: What kind of bumbling scientist outfit you with all that super-neato folding gear, but didn’t think to give you a gun?”
Face expressionless as always, Leo lunged, leading with the punching dagger. When Whitecoat dodged, he made him pay for it by going low to try and sweep his legs. He connected, but instead of falling, Whitecoat turned the motion into a cartwheel that carried him out of striking distance. Once space was opened, he then pulled something out of his coat and hurled it at the mechanoid.
Something black, round and dense hit Leo’s chest, knocking him back a few steps with the force put behind it.
“See?” Whitecoat taunted. “Even I can fight at range.” Granted, it was a hockey puck with the label peeled off (hockey pucks being cheap and plentiful), but with his strength, it was capable of doing serious damage to most opponents.
“Ineffectively.” said Leo, charging forward again. He slashed laterally with his wrist blade, then followed up with a snap kick when Whitecoat leapt back that caught the prelate in the chest and knocked him to the ground. “Integrated firearms cause overheat problems. Integrated pulse, PSM or plasma weaponry drain too much energy. It is usually preferable to close with inferior foes.”
To demonstrate, he aimed a kick for Whitecoat’s ribs.
“And yet…” Whitecoat caught the mechanoid’s foot and threw up upward, causing the Leo to go into an uncontrolled back flip. “If I’m so inferior,this would have been over by now.”
Back atop the bike share, Renaissance was Whitecoat’s technology into her own. “How long?” Adamantine asked, watching the mob below crush against and try to climb one another to get at her.
“This is going to be tricky.” Renaissance admitted. “Stunguns and tasers are more complicated than just ‘shock the target’. There are two phases to the process and they have to be fairly precise to be both effective and reasonably non-lethal. I’ve almost got a handle on that by regulating it through my palmtop, but there’s still a matter of a power source and a medium.”
“What needs to be done?”
Renaissance tightened the makeshift nest of plastic fasteners holding the adhesion element to her palm. “City current from like a lamppost is going to be too much for this rig to handle. I hate to ask, but I’ve seen some of your specs…”
Adamantine nodded without her having to elaborate. “You want to tap my internal battery. Go for it. I have an external power port or a reason.” She stepped away from the edge of the roof and placed a hand over her sternum. A three par panel slid open to reveal said port. “Now what’s this ‘medium’ you need?”
“Something to conduct the electricity through.” Renaissance knelt down to examine the port, then reached into her kilt pocket to find an adapter. “We obviously cant run a wire to every one of them,so we need a conductive material that can blanket them. Water would be the obvious choice, but even if we sash every hydrant on the street, we’d still need to get everyone together so there’s be a contiguous coating of water on them.”
Even though her face wasn’t very expressive Adamantine looked thoughtful. Her gaze wandered back to the brainwashed masses below. “Can you open the hydrants?”
“I can handle the other part. The second I’m in reach, they’ll try and swarm me.”
Renaissance shook her head. “If they disable you, the Legion of One could teleport you away before we could help.”
The robotic officer shrugged. “The entire point of my existence is to live among and protect these people. Right now, they’re trampling each other to capture me. If I can’t put myself at risk for them, I’m not only a failed experiment, but a bad police officer. If this is a plan that will work, then let’s hurry up and get to it.”
“I…” Renaissance started to argue, but she’d heard that same sentiment before—more than once in fact. “You’re right. And what’s more, your programming is amazing to enable you to make a moral choice like that. That wasn’t in your specs.” Realizing how condescending that might have come off as, she changed the subject. “There’s a dip in the street there where water’s likely to pool. I’ll hit the two hydrants on that side of the street. I think you’re going to have to come with me though…”
“With Legion still lurking somewhere and you needing my power source, that was never a question.” said Adamantine. “Are you ready?”
“It’s the best it’s going to be.” said Renaissance. “At the very least, I’ve regulated the power so that it will either work or fail—no lethal surges, and that’s what’s most important here.”
Adamantine extended her grapnel-launcher and stepped up, putting her free arm around the other woman’s waist. “Good luck to both of us then.” She fired her line up to the fourth floor of the building opposite them and reeled in sharply while jumping off the roof.
They swung over the heads of the mind-controlled civilians and landed in a full sprint toward the first hydrant. Behind them, the mob, perhaps forty people strong, turned and lumbered after them.
“Alloy asks me how I can hate zombie movies.” Renaissance said as they ran. “Part of me hopes he’s aware of what’s going on so I can point to this as reason number one later.” When they reached the hydrant, the mob was in a full run, so she didn’t bother with finesse or tools. Getting a good grip with the hand not bearing the jury-rigged super-stunner, she ripped the bolt completely off, letting loose a high pressure burst of water that knocked he leaders of the mob back into their compatriots.
Before the mob could react, the prelate and robot were already on the way to the second. As they ran, Renaissance handed Adamantine on and of a long cord with an adapter on the end. “There wont be much time once we open the second hydrant, so plug this in now.”
Adamantine ignored her, looking in the opposite direction, where someone was watching events unfold from the relative safety of a bus stop. “Josiah Colt. Avatar.”
“What? Wait—I know that name. He’s the Enforcer who can… that’s how they’re doing this!” Renaissance took one step off their path toward him, but a quick look back told her that freeing the people he’d made into pawns was more important. “Keep and eye on him; we’ll get him afterward. For now, plug this in, okay?”
This time Adamantine was paying attention and took the cord, plugging it into the port as they came up to the hydrant. “Right.” She then dropped to a knee and twisted the hydrant open, directing a second flood into the already soaked mob. “How do we know when it’s enough?”
Renaissance tapped in some last minute commands on her wrist mounted palmtop. “We’re about to find out.” She plugged her end of the cord into the adhesion disc. The blue glow came to life, then began to flicker in an erratic pattern as an unusual current ran through it.
Weapon at the ready, she turned her attention to the mob. Despite the torrent of water pounding into them, the horde was soldiering forward. Briefly, she considered trying to deliver the necessary shock through the spray from the hydrant. One look at it, however, and she knew that the flow wasn’t completely continuous, or laminar and thus wasn’t going to do it. Her best shot was the three inches of water pooling on the ground.
Wordlessly, she moved forward, avoiding the hydrant water. Adamantine came along behind her, keeping the power cord connecting them slack and not once commenting on how they were moving toward those seeking to capture her.
Just a few yards from their destination, Legion decided to make his presence known, appearing between them and making a grab for the power cord. Adamantine deftly blocked the attempt and swung a fist for his head, only to find him teleporting to her other side and bringing his baton down on her head. “I’ve got no idea what you two are trying to do, but it’s not happening.”
Unfazed by the rap to the head, Adamantine pulled the power cord out of his grasp. Legion, however, anticipated that and teleported on foot to his left, taking hold of the cord well out of her reach and yanking it. The end leading into Renaissance’s rigged gauntlet popped out and the adhesion disc went dark.
“Hey!” the heroine protested, rounding on the teleporting villain.
“Shut up and go to sleep, little girl.” Legion scoffed and swung his baton at her temple.
Nanite-enhanced reflexes and muscles more advanced than even the Whitecoat’s had Renaissance’s free hand up to intercept almost faster than even Legion’s trained eye could follow. She caught the baton and twisted it out of his grasp so forcefully that his wrist popped. Those same reflexes then allowed her to reverse the baton and whip it toward Legion’s own head.
Legion teleported in response, reappearing behind her. When she pivoted to face him, he teleported again and landed a roundhouse kicking her back, sending her stumbling into the press of brainwashed civilians, who promptly knocked her to the ground in her confusion.
The heroic pair separated, Legion turned to smirk at Adamantine. “With Mr. Raincoat still fighting your older brother, and Little Green Riding Hood out of the way, I’m going to say you’re about done. You vs. me and three dozen of my closest friends.”
“I’m still free. I intend to stay that way.” Adamantine informed him. Her face approximated a smile. “And you’re about to lose your friends.” With that, she swept her arm into the hydrant water, redirecting a splash of it at Legion’s face.
Out of reflex, he teleported to the side, realizing too late that Adamantine was sprinting through the space he’d just been occupied. Sprinting toward the jury-rigged gauntlet, which had just been tossed out past the legs of the civilian mob by Renaissance.
The robotic policewoman bent low to catch the gauntlet in air, dodging the grasping hands of her ‘adoring’ public before simply plunging into their midst.
Dozens of bodies pressed in around her, making it impossible to see what she was doing, or to move easily. Adamantine shut out all her senses except touch, turning the gauntlet over by feel until her fingers sought out the port for the power cable and reinserted it.
Current surged into the modified adhesion disc as she was pulled down. Fortuitously, that was where she wanted to be.
She hit the ground in a spray of oil-laced water, ignoring the disorientation and her own programming’s demands that she right herself. Instead, she dipped the active disc into the water and activated it.
Chaos broke out all around her: spasming bodies fell around her, shrieks of fear and surprise assaulted her senses. One of those voices was Renaissance’s—on the wet ground and with her gauntlet off, she wasn’t protected.
Over the course of a few seconds, Adamantine found herself buried under and surrounded by groaning, confused bodies. Rather than answer her directives to get herself back upright, she instead tuned her hearing to try and find anyone with a distressed or irregular heartbeat from the shock. What she heard was the approach of Legion.
The teleporting villain tossed aside two middle-aged women and bent over the downed Adamantine. “Finally.” He said with a huff. “This job’s been more trouble than—” He was cut off by a metal tentacle looping around his shoulders and throwing him off his feet.
“I might not know what’s going on,” said Alloy, still on his hands and knees while Isp held Legion and Osp remained on the lookout for other enemies, “But I know you’re probably on the wrong side of it.
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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