The first shots were already being fired when Mechromancer’s armored boots thumped down onto the concrete.
"They had some guys on the doors,” A female voice chimed in on the radio, “Mooks barely even knew what hit them.”
"Good,” Hard-Light’s voice chimed in, “Sarah, Chavez, take some people to secure those side entrances. I don’t want any of these fucks escaping.”
From his vantage spot Erich could see where a group of goons were already searching through the pockets of the dead sentries, the telltale flickers of light barriers making them as allies. He was halfway toward them before his HUD to lit up with a new targeting solution from a nearby alley.
With deliberate motions, he raised his arm, “Aim assist on.”
“Acknowledged.” The suit intoned, Erich’s arm turning rigid as the suit’s pneumatics took over, artificially guiding his palm mounted blaster in the direction his right eye was looking.
With a tiny squeeze of his fingers, he felt energy rocket through the limb as a bolt of force blasted out from his palm. The skinhead, bags of takeaway in the process of being discarded after hearing the gunshots, didn’t even see it coming.
Erich had to resist the urge to cringe as a wet crunch rang out.
“Nasty.” Gravity murmured, turning away from the stain that now liberally smeared the walls of the alley.
“Bit too much power,” He blanched, also turning away from the nauseating sight.
It felt easier though. The taking of a life. His breath had barely twitched as he had pulled the trigger. Was he really getting used to living like this? Or was he just getting better at hiding the guilt? He didn’t know. And to his surprise, he found he didn’t care anymore.
What was of greater concern to him was tracking ability of his suit! It had done so well.
He hadn’t had high hopes for it considering the base code had come from an omni-phone app. One that had the obnoxious ability to superimpose little cartoon hats on people’s heads through the camera. A frivolous waste of technology.
He couldn’t help but wonder what the original creator of the abominable thing would think if they knew their little toy had been used to form the basis of his weapons system. He couldn’t imagine they would be pleased.
“Aim assist off.” He said, the thought bringing a smile to his face.
“Nice cannon,” Hard-Light said, striding over, “now get that oversized tin-can over here. The fucks locked the doors from the inside.”
Erich knew the villain could easily force them open himself, but he also knew better than to suggest that. So instead, he stomped over to the front entrance, as quickly as the heavy footfalls of his suit would allow.
As he expected, the thick metal of the warehouse’s massive doors proved no impediment to his suit. Like a hot knife cutting through butter, he drove his fingers into the gap between the doors.
The sound of shrieking metal was music to his ears. In fact, it was intoxicating. The sensation of power that accompanied it.
Bullets started to ping off his barriers from inside as the gap widened, but he paid them no mind.
Besides, as quickly as it started, the rain of fire started to diminish as return fire from his side forced the defenders to duck.
“Are you using me for cover?” He asked, after a quick glance at his rear camera.
“Your fat ass is big enough for it.” Gravity shrugged, “and it’s not like we have a lot of cover to work with out here.”
Erich was just about to respond, when a loud ping drew his attention back to what he was doing.
“Barriers down to ninety percent.”
“Shit,” he muttered.
The suit’s tough, not invincible, idiot. He thought as sporadic gunfire continued to spark off his barriers. Are you trying to kill yourself?
“Flashing,” He announced over the comms, “close your eyes and cover your ears.”
After an agonizing second waiting to ensure everyone had heard him, he spoke up.
The oversized headlamps on the suit’s head and chest lit up, just as the front mounted directional speakers let out a deafening shriek. The effect was not all that dissimilar from an oversized flashbang going off.
The fire from his front cut off almost immediately.
“Advancing.” He called out, not caring if anyone heard, as he brought both arms up. “Sixty percent power to blasters, wide sweep mode.” He muttered into the suit.
He didn’t wait for the acknowledgement before he started firing, aiming in the general direction of the nearest hit box. The wide angle of the firing mode dissipated some of the force of the shot, but it was more than sufficient to send a young man and woman sprawling across the floor, their cover flying with them.
”Barriers down to eighty percent. The voice intoned as sporadic gunfire started to pick away at him once more.
Throwing accuracy to the wind, Erich fired at every target he could see, aiming for cover as much as people as he continued advancing forward, occasionally kicking crates, and people, aside as he moved forward.
And as he had hoped, his allies from outside picked up on his plan, and started firing into the now completely exposed members of the Brotherhood.
“Focused mode, eighty percent power.” Erich instructed as he saw someone beginning to turn and run, attempting to disappear towards the crate filled rear of the warehouse.
The man didn’t get far, Erich’s shot took him square in the back. With a lower power setting, the thug didn’t quite explode, but there was a distinctly wet crack as the force of the shot sent him sliding across the floor.
He didn’t get up again, nor did he appear quite structurally sound anymore.
Not that Erich really had time to dwell on it, as he turned to track the next-
He hesitated as Gravity’s voice rang out over the comms. Just long enough to notice a very important fact.
He had been about to shoot a friendly. Well, relatively friendly. The man in question didn’t look very friendly after nearly being the victim of a friendly fire incident.
These guys need uniforms.
Looking around, he see could Hard-Light’s goons moving up into the warehouse, stepping over the trail of destruction he had left on the way in.
“Still with us, Mechromancer?” Gravity asked.
“Y-yeah,” he coughed, belatedly realizing that he needed to breathe, “It all happened so…”
“Fast?” She smiled.
She gave him a commiserating look, one that was clear even through her helmet. “Meta fights can be like that. Especially when the other side doesn’t have one of their own. One side just has so much power over the other that they bulldoze right through them.”
She gestured to the piles of shattered and thrown crates strewn across the entrance area. As she did, Erich found himself deliberately ignoring the dozen or so bodies, not knowing which ones he was directly responsible for and which he wasn’t.
The guilt he had been so quick to write away as nothing before came back in full force. Especially when he saw that the flattened nature of one suggested he might have… stepped on him.
The thought made him feel ill, and he had to turn away.
The last thing he wanted was to throw up in his suit. He was already going to have to hose down the feet. Hopefully he could avoid having to do the insides as well.
“If you hadn’t been here then this would have been a decent spot for them to hunker down.” Gravity continued, ignorant of the morbid nature of his thoughts, “Clear lines of sight. Large open space without cover for us to have to cross. Lots of ammo. They could have kept us at bay until either cops or reinforcements arrived.”
…Or Sarah and the other mook brought their people in through the side entrances. He supposed.
Still, he got what she was saying.
He and his suit had just walked through their carefully constructed defenses. Shrugging off small arms fire as it were nothing.
Well, not nothing. He noted, glancing at his barrier read out. Seventy six percent.
High, but still far too low for his liking.
Sure, the suit could bounce most calibers of small arm off its armored parts, but the delicate joints could be damaged by even a pistol if it struck them at the wrong angle.
And that didn’t even take into account explosives, meta-abilities, or someone just plain setting him on fire.
As the dearly departed Crusher discovered the hard way. He thought cynically, Far from invincible, indeed.
“Didn’t see you use any of your abilities.” He noted, as he started to think about possible upgrades to the suit.
“My stuff’s not good for big firefights like this. I’m much better at totally locking down just one person,” She shrugged, “but I have to have vision on them, and it’s pretty obvious when my powers are working.”
As she spoke her hands lit up green, as if to emphasize her point, “Anyone could plug a bullet in me while I’m standing there like a moron.”
That made sense. Now that he thought about it, it had also been the case in their other fights as well. At the time he hadn’t thought much of it, focused as he was on not being murdered, but afterward he had wondered. Never quite got around to asking about it though.
“Even then, I can only use my ability so many times before I exhaust myself. To be honest it’s a pretty crap power.” She said, starting to trail off, and if Erich weren’t in the suit, he might not have picked up what she said next.
“Still better than Sarah’s though.” She smirked.
What was the deal with Sarah’s power? Because now that he thought about it, she hadn’t used it in the firefight at the bar either. Was everyone’s ability secretly crappy or something?
“Quit standing around you morons. We’ve got to get all this crap loaded up and shipped out.” Hard-Light growled as he strode inside, gesturing to the many machine components had been scattered about the place during Mechromancer’s mad dash.
The goons were quick to move under their boss’s supervision, one rushing over to grab a forklift.
“*Mechromancer,” the villain called, making him wonder when the guy had learned his new Cape name, “Good work breaking through. Saved me having to make the effort, and let me know I didn’t waste my money after all.”
Erich resisted the indignant response that welled up in him at the idea that he was worth even a cent less than the man had paid.
“Thank you, sir.” He said through gritted teeth, glad his speakers served to slightly warp his voice.
“Boss.” The man corrected. “You’re part of my crew now, that means you call me boss.”
As if calling the man ‘Sir’ wasn’t torture enough? “Thank you, boss.”
“Good,” the older man nodded, “Now start loading those boxes into the vans. That big ass suit will probably be quicker than the forklift.”
That really tested Erich’s ability to restrain his tongue. Use his suit to perform menial labor? Why not just take a dump in the central processor while you were at it?
“Will do, boss.” He managed to grind out.
He was on his third box when Sarah and her team showed up.
“Hello, Daddy!” The blonde woman smiled. “You guys stole all the fun. No one even tried to escape from our side.”
The villain barely looked up from his inspection of a nearby crate, his voice slightly slurred, “Must have all tried to get out from Chavez’s side then. Probably why she’s not here yet.”
“She isn’t?” The bubbly blonde asked. “Have you tried calling her on the radio?”
No. The man had become less and less coherent over the last few minutes. A side effect of his ability and his brain trying to find uses for the mounds of parts they were extracting from the warehouse. To be honest, Erich was impressed the man had even managed to answer his daughter’s first question.
Which Sarah was quick to pick up on. Sighing, she reached for her earpiece, “Chavez? What’s taking you so long. We need your guys to get over here and start helping load up the vans. Especially if we want to get out of here before anyone else shows up.”
It was strange to him, the way she could flip back and forth between sultry, bubbly and commanding. Bubbly annoyed him. Sultry… discomforted him. Commanding though?
Commanding he could respect.
“Chavez?” Sarah repeated after not receiving a response. Cursing, she turned to one of the nearby goons.
“Francis, get over there and tell that jackoff to turn her radio on.” The resigned way the woman said it suggested that this wasn’t the first time the woman in question had forgotten to do so. Which makes me wonder why she was selected to lead a team in the first place?
It was moments like this that reminded him how little he really knew about Hard-Light’s organization. His only real point of contact with it was Sarah and Gravity, and neither sister was prone to talking about the gang.
He really had to stop thinking of them all as just, ‘goons’. He had been able to get away with it before because he assumed it been a temporary acquaintance. Now it was liable to get him shot in the back one day.
It was nearly three minutes later when an ashen faced Francis jogged back toward the group. Why the idiot hadn’t thought to use his radio, Erich had not a clue.
“We’ve got a problem.” The man stammered, toward Hard-Light before realizing the man was off in his own little world, and switching back toward Sarah, “I… I… you’re going to want to see this for yourself, ma’am.”
Sarah leveled a speculative eye at the young man, before quickly taking charge.
“Mechromancer, Grey and Smith, come with me.” The blonde instructed, “Gravity, keep an eye on dad, and send him my way when he snaps out his episode. The rest of you, keep piling stuff into the vans. I want them fully loaded by the time I get back.”
The assorted mooks didn’t look happy, but nodded nonetheless as two of their number peeled off to join us.
“Alright, let’s go see what all the fuss is about.” Sarah said, electrical sparks flying from her hands. “This better be worth my time, Francis.”
“We didn’t hear any shooting.” Smith said.
“Probably happened when the firefight at the front started.” Grey responded, the heavily tattooed young woman cautiously stepping over one of the bodies, “Clever fuck must have timed it just right.”
“I don’t think so.” Sarah muttered.
Erich had no idea how the three of them were so calm about this. He felt like he was about to soil his suit. Hell, even Francis had the good sense to be terrified. The young man was practically shaking in his boots as he clutched his gun and surveyed the carnage.
The cooling corpses of Chavez’s team were strewn all over the empty street just outside the warehouse’s side door, and the woman herself had been hung from a street lamp by high-tension cable.
The others hadn’t fared any better; they’d been impaled by throwing discs, sliced open at the throat, had their necks snapped, chests caved in…
The list went on.
Whoever did this had been good. Very good. Even to Erich’s amateur – and slightly nauseated - eyes, he could see that they’d been picked off one by one. For one thing, the bodies were all facing in different directions. For the other, all the bullet holes were spread out all over the alley.
Well, not at the doorway, but there was an obvious reason for that.
The Brotherhood gang members had clearly attempted to escape and been mercilessly gunned down right at the precipice of freedom. The bullet hole spacing there was tight and controlled, not wild and arbitrary like it was everywhere else.
“Whoever did this, did it after Chavez took out the Brotherhood members who tried to escape.” Sarah said, gesturing to the pile of skinhead corpses.
Which meant that they should have heard gunfire, Erich surmised. After all, the Brotherhood wouldn’t have started to run until it was clear the battle was lost. Fanatics were stubborn like that. The gunfire at the front would have wound down by the time the massacre here started.
“Why did none of them radio for help?” Grey asked the next most obvious question.
“A localized jammer?” Erich put forward, determinedly dragging his eyes away from a corpse that had been pinned to a brick wall - with a throwing knife.
It didn’t help that his targeting computer kept trying to highlight the man’s face.
Sarah looked skeptical, “That didn’t affect our radio, all of a hundred meters away?”
Erich would have shrugged if he could, “A very localized jammer.”
Sarah shook her head, “No, I’m thinking that this was a meta ability. Something that canceled sound. It would explain why we didn’t hear gunfire, and none of them radioed for help. Would have made picking them off one by one easier too.”
“That would make sense,” Grey put in, “Doesn’t matter if the radio works if there’s no sound to transmit.”
Erich was still partial to his jammer idea, but he would freely admit that it was because he tended to frame everything through the eyes of technology. Logically, Sarah would be the same, but in reverse. Grey was obviously biased towards the boss’s daughter, so her opinion counted for nothing.
“Daddy’s not going to be happy about this.” Sarah murmured as she fingered her gun.
The fact that eight of his guys got wiped out by one or more metas, completely silently, from all of a hundred feet away? Yeah, Erich couldn’t imagine the guy taking that with solemn dign-
“Erich, you can tell him.”