Part Thirteen: Manhattan Rooftop
Jenny Forrest shivers involuntarily as she waits on the rooftop with Street Ronin, Scrapper Jack, and Agent Hu. She’s not cold—her new battlesuit is layered and heavy, and if it weren’t for her enhanced physique she’d probably be pretty warm right now—but she’s all nerves as she waits for the signal. Hu looks like she ought to be cold—the new, fire-friendly outfit Robert made her doesn’t look like it has any insulation at all—but she appears completely at ease in the crisp weather.
It’s because she’s pretty much made of fire, I guess. That’s so not fair.
They’re about a block from the Haruspex Analytics building, on the roof of the Foster-McLaughlin Complex. It’s a taller building—55 stories to Haruspex’s 50—and gives them a clear, unobstructed view of the Haruspex Analytics roof. Street Ronin kneels over the lip of the low wall encircling the roof, staring through a sight attached to one of his many high-powered rifles. The image from his scope feeds directly into Jenny’s visor as well as a small handheld screen, which Jack and Hu are sharing. The display shows two helicopters sitting on a helipad, with a few silhouettes scurrying around them.
“They’re being prepped for takeoff,” Street Ronin says. “We probably want to prevent that.”
“Not yet,” Jenny says.
Street Ronin sighs. “No,” he agrees reluctantly. “Not yet.”
“We’ll move in if they start to take off,” Agent Hu says. “Even if we’re early. It’s only two copters. That means they’re evacuating the big guns.”
“Probably Artie’s evil twin,” Jack adds. “If he’s still here.”
“Wait…” Jenny frowns, fighting back a sudden surge of panic. “Does that mean they know we’re here?”
Jack shakes his head. “Just that they know we’re coming. Doctor Enigma apparently made a lot of noise that the bad guys could definitely hear.”
One of the sensors on Jenny’s visor starts blinking red as Agent Grant appears out of nowhere and steps up to them. She takes a half step back, startled. Jack tightens one fist, then relaxes when he realizes who it is.
Street Ronin doesn’t so much as twitch. “We almost there?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Grant says. “We’re going in now. Can you see the entrance with that thing?” He gestures toward the rifle scope.
“No,” Street Ronin says. “We’ll need your play by play.”
“Well, first of all, Sister Sentinel is a badass.”
Street Ronin nods in agreement. Jack snorts in amusement. Agent Hu just rolls her eyes.
“Um,” Jenny says, “maybe you could be a little more specific?”
“She just pushed a revolving door out of the wall and shoved it into the middle of the lobby,” Grant says. “Didn’t even miss a step.”
“Stronger than Vigilante,” Street Ronin says. “Probably not up there with you and Regiment, Scrapper, but she’s closer than most. Tough to boot.”
“Yeah,” Jack says. “I know who the Bastions are. I’m glad I’m retired.”
Agent Hu stares up at him, then gestures toward the Haruspex Analytics building. “You’re terrible at retirement.”
Jack grins, his scar making the grin look lopsided and a little deranged. “I got a knack.”
“Shit.” Agent Grant looks toward the Haruspex building, scowling. “They just activated some kind of impressively fucked up defenses. Big metal plates sliding all down the sides of the building.”
“I got it on scope,” Street Ronin says.
The scope feed updates in Jenny’s helmet, and she’s tempted to utter a curse of her own. A series of metallic plates, arranged like scales, cover nearly the entire surface of the building. The only gaps she sees are strips of the building where she assumes the metal plates emerged.
“There’s an alarm, too,” Grant says. “I can hear it from the outside.”
“Who’s inside?” Jack asks.
“Sister Sentinel and Curveball. Doc is trying to portal in, but it ain’t working. He says there’s interference. Scrapper, can you get through those things?”
Jack frowns. “Probably, but I bet it’d be easier to just rip ‘em out of the wall. Even they’re made out of some kind of super-metal, the building looks like regular concrete and steel. Something would give somewhere.”
“You don’t sound like you like the idea,” Jenny notes.
“Yeah,” Jack says. “I don’t. Tearing ‘em off also means dropping ‘em once they’re free. They might hit someone.”
“Easier to punch through the roof,” Hu says. “Or burn through. We need to take out the helicopters anyway.”
Street Ronin gets to his feet. “Agreed. Time for us to go. Roof is still our best shot.”
“OK,” Jack says. “You ready?”
“Hold on a moment.” Street Ronin reaches down beside his rifle and slings a tightly-packed backpack over his shoulders. He checks his utility belt and gives his weapons a last once-over. “OK. Zero?”
“Ready,” Jenny says, “though I don’t think I’m gonna like the ride. No offense Jack.”
“Heh.” Jack grabs Jenny and Street Ronin, hoisting each up off the ground, one under each arm.
“Right behind you,” Agent Hu says, then bursts into flame and shoots into the air.
Jack leaps, and Jenny suppresses the desire to shriek. This isn’t like being carried into that shipping compound in Farraday City—then, it was almost impossible to tell where they were, what with the storm raging around them. Now she can see everything, and everything is very, very far away.
The buildings below them shrink, then as their arc changes from up to down they very quickly expand. The Haruspex roof comes into view, and grows larger far more quickly than is comfortable.
“Landing might be a little rough,” Jack shouts, then they hit the ground.
Jack bends deep as he lands, absorbing as much of the shock as he can, but Jenny’s head knocks up against the inside of her visor, causing her to see stars, and Street Ronin grunts in pain. Jack drops them on the rooftop, then springs away again, and Jenny can hear a high pitched whining sound as something sizzles as it strikes concrete and steel.
They have point defenses up here.
“We gotta move!” she shouts, and scrambles to her feet. Her suit is undamaged, and the HUD shows that there are in fact four energy weapons placed at the corners of the building.
A column of white-hot flame streaks across the sky, slamming into one of the weapons, causing it to go up in a mini-inferno. Agent Hu streaks across the rooftop, drawing fire from the remaining three. Two hit her square in the back, but she doesn’t seem to feel it. Street Ronin rolls to his feet, grunting in pain, and pulls out a silver disc. He punches down on one end; the other end flashes light, alternating red and yellow. He throws it like a baseball, then runs toward the still-burning weapon Hu destroyed.
It’s a solid throw. The silver disc streaks toward one of the energy weapons, exploding just as it hits the base of the gun. The weapon pops up out of its base and falls over, scorched and smoking. Scrapper Jack leaps to the third, ignoring a hit to the chest as his fist comes square down on the weapon, punching through its shell. He draws his fist back out, pulling the weapon off its base in the process.
Which leaves only Jenny.
Lucky, lucky Jenny.
Gritting her teeth, she runs toward the fourth weapon, currently trained on Agent Hu. She speeds up, noting with satisfaction that while her armor is heavy, it doesn’t seem particularly bulky: it fits well and doesn’t slip.
She’s about ten feet out when the weapon swivels toward her. Light flickers over the… what do you call that? A muzzle? Energy weapons don’t need those, do they? What do you call it then? Um, nevermind…
She leans back into a slide, closing the rest of the distance nearly prone as the weapon fires over her head. She’s there—now what?
I’m not as strong as Jack, but maybe I’m strong enough.
She rolls into a crouch, places her shoulder beneath the barrel, and stands, pushing with all her strength.
Fire lances up her back as she feels a sharp pinch in her spine. Metal groans, then something in the base of the gun snaps. The entire barrel jerks up sharply, then falls over to the side. The weapon is silenced.
That’s when the rooftop lights up with gunfire.
People, Jenny remembers. There were also people on the roof.
She dives behind the ruined weapon as gunfire tears into the roof behind her. A second later she remembers the body armor is supposed to be able to resist small arms fire. She reddens slightly.
Well look, Robert is a genius but I’m not just going to take his word for it.
She rolls, grabs a broken bit of gun, and hurls it back toward the source of the gunfire. She hears a muffled cry of alarm, then footsteps in retreat as the metal bounces and clatters off into the night. Street Ronin pops up with his rifle and fires once, twice, three times. The rooftop is silent.
“Clear,” Jack says, then walks over to the first helicopter. He starts ripping it apart with his bare hands, taking care not to fling parts of it off the building.
Agent Hu lands next to Jenny, eyeing the gun she destroyed. “Nice work. I thought you were gonna do something complicated, like hack the system in order to shut it down.”
“That would take way too much time,” Jenny says. She stretches. Her back pops. She feels a little better. “The direct approach seemed faster. Hurt like hell though.”
Agent Grant blurs in beside them. “OK, things are bug-fuck crazy downstairs. The security guards just tried to knife each other, and now they’re pumping neurotoxin into the ventilation.”
“They tried to knife Sister Sentinel?” Jenny asks.
“No they tried to shoot her. They tried to knife each other. Like, one long cut across the neck. I don’t get it. But that shell is definitely blocking teleporters, so we’re resorting to drastic measures to punch through.”
Jack stops ripping up the helicopter and turns to face Agent Grant. “How drastic, exactly?”
They hear a faint sonic boom in the distance.
“Right,” Jack mutters. He goes back to dismantling the helicopters.
“Should we be worried about this?” Jenny asks, looking around for a handhold.
“Just stay away from the edge of the building,” Street Ronin says. “It’s probably just going to be a little—”
A loud boom fills the air, and the entire building shudders, causing Jenny to stumble.
“—shaky,” Street Ronin finishes.
The building stops shaking almost immediately. Jenny looks around cautiously. “That’s it?”
“I was expecting something more violent,” Hu admits.
“Oh, it was plenty violent,” Jack says. The first helicopter has been reduced to a pile of metal scrap. He heads toward the second. “It was just very focused violence.”