It was supposed to be so easy, Naffur Suite reflected. He was shaking.
In order to pay off his debts, he had taken a job for the Haveheights to help rob the Manhattan Building. During the monthly Lottery, where a lucky few would get the chance to audition before the elites of the Orchard, he would slip away from the action and cause a distraction for the guards. The Haveheights, who were waiting outside, would use that time to attack the bank and steal enough money that Naffur wouldn’t need to worry about his gambling problem.
Everything had been going fine. Then Naffur had gone downstairs and found a man dead and a temporary portal already set up. He had punched a woman, and from the reverberations through his fist, probably broke her jaw. A man had fired a plasma weapon at him-
The elevator reached the upper floors and the doors slid open. A few of the people who were gathered for the Lottery gave Naffur a casual glance, and then generally looked at him again with sharper eyes.
‘Ah, I’m still wearing the mask.’ Naffur thought. Just as he brought his trembling hands up to remove the mask, the floor in front of him erupted in a plume of plasma. Four figures leaped up from the floor below to the penthouse, each with a plasma rifle and a power suit.
Screams cut through the previously peaceful penthouse ballroom and the few spars that were occurring froze as they gazed wide-eyed at the new arrivals.
“Everyone stay still and there will be no problems.” The tallest of the four arrivals said. He was standing with a green visor, obscuring most of his face. “Bring us Senator Firefly and the rest of you can go free. He needs to pay for his crimes.”
Before the leader even started to speak, Naffur felt his instincts kick into overdrive once more. He scrambled back towards the elevator, but there was a burst of plasma there too. A wave of force exploded outward from the elevator shaft and knocked Naffur off his feet. He crashed to the ground as his body twisted in an agonizing position. With a cold snort, the man that had been with the woman Naffur had punched pulled himself out of the elevator and scanned around.
Seeing Naffur, he sneered and then ignored him.
Congratulations! Your Skill Feign Injury is now Level 51!
Once more, the reminder of the type of Skills that Naffur possessed filled him with a sense of helpless frustration. He wasn’t a coward. He was…
“If you don’t cooperate, we aren’t afraid to resort to force,” The leader said, giving a meaningful look to the hopeful poor populace of the Orchard. The plasma rifle in his hand was heavy and smoking. The powerarmor he was wearing was clearly top of the line.
His hands trembled as he quietly got to his feet.
Congratulations! Your Skill Skulking is now Level 45!
Naffur might not be a hero. But right now, he wasn’t himself. All that he had to do was channel the Ghosthound on the cheap mask he was wearing. The eye flashed emerald as he closed the distance to the man who sneered and walked past him. With his Skulking Skill, Naffur didn’t make a sound as he approached. He was still some distance from his fellows and was beginning to walk around the hole that they had made to leap up to this floor.
Naffur used Intrepid Hammer and smashed his fist directly into the critical machinery for the power armor on the small of the man’s back.
Congratulations! Your Skill Intrepid Hammer is now Level 3!
Congratulations! Your Skill Intrepid Hammer is now Level 4!
Congratulations! Your Skill Intrepid Hammer is now Level 5!
Congratulations! Your Skill Ambush is now Level 36!
Congratulations! Your Skill Cheap Shot is now Level 41!
The man squawked awkwardly as he was taken by an almost overwhelming force in the small of his back. Naffur’s hand immediately throbbed painfully, as he effectively had punched steel as hard as he could. But he had cracked the machinery and sent the man flying forward.
To Naffur’s chagrin, he knocked the man into another one of the terrorist compatriots, knocking them both to the ground. The leader abruptly cut off in the middle of his demands and twisted around to look at what the cause of the commotion was. Everyone stared silently as the two terrorists were brought to their knees by a single blow. All eyes, at that moment, were locked onto the masked Naffur.
Like a rabbit, Naffur bolted for the hole in the floor to get out of the line of fire, cursing himself for getting carried away by the moment there.
With a roar, the leader twisted around and brought his plasma rifle to bear on Naffur, who was already slipping through the hole into the floor below. Out of the corner of his eye, Naffur saw the blue-white bolt of plasma rushing towards him and squished his eyes shut.
If he died like this, in front of Mareen-
Naffur’s eyes sprung open and he flailed wildly to seize the edge of the hole. He couldn’t just run away if she was up here alone with these mad men-
Naffur Suite’s grab had pulled him abruptly sideways as he changed his mind and scrambled back up to the penthouse floor, but the plasma still ripped past him, clipping his right hand. His thumb was ripped away in a flash of heat and pain. Thoughts of rescuing Mareen were forgotten as Naffur howled and let go of the edge of the floor to cradle his burnt hand. He hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of himself.
Tears were in Naffur’s eyes as he heard the leader’s shout above. “Fuck! Screw it, live fire boys. Dank, take out that crazy fool below.”
There was a crash as a heavy body, likely weighed down with power armor dropped back to the lower floor near Naffur. Right in front of his tear-choked eyes, thin cracks ran through the floor. Although the materials in the post System world were relatively stronger than they had been in the past, the demands put on them grew much more quickly than the building materials could keep up.
Heavy footsteps accelerated towards Naffur, who bit his lip and sprung to his feet. “Oh no, the floor it collapsing.”
Almost in spite of himself, the oncoming attacker, who was a veritable freight train in terms of momentum and weight, looked down at the floor.
Congratulations! Your Skill Deceitful Words is now Level 34!
By the time that Dank realized that the floor was holding relatively well and looked back up, Naffur had fled around the corner. The hole in the floor was probably twenty meters away from the elevators, and a little to the right, just around the corner from the hallway in front of the elevators. So Naffur dashed to the nearest cover, the corner to that hallway.
As soon as he ran around that corner, he attempted to skid to a halt as his face twisted in horror. How could he have forgotten that a man’s dead body was just laying here-
His feet slipped as he attempted to slow, and Naffur fell on his ass, soaking his pants in blood. It was a good thing too because bolts of plasma tore through the space above his head. Dank rounded the corner, with angry eyes, and Naffur did the only thing that he could think of.
He scrambled forward and grabbed the nearby dead body. Then, he threw it at Dank to distract him.
On instinct, Dank fired a bolt of plasma that ripped through the medic’s chest cavity. Melted skin and blood spattered down on Dank’s combat visor, covering it in a sizzling film of gore. Swearing, Dank attempted to wipe the gunk away with the very clumsy metal fingers of his powersuit.
Naffur bolted, hoping for an escape from this place.
“-do you mean, the elevator can’t go to the penthouse?” A voice said, as an elevator slowly opened. A man took a step out and right into Naffur’s path. The man was speaking on a cell phone, and frowned at the floor rather than noticing anything about his situation.
Naffur slammed into the man, bowling him over. The two fell in a pile of twisted limbs back into the elevator. As they hit the ground, Naffur realized he knew this man: it was Senator Firefly.