Clint took a moment to determine his location. In those precious seconds, he first heard Molly’s half-stifled sobs. They jerked him out of his focused momentum, and he almost forgot his situation.
“I’m not dead,” he told her. But she couldn’t hear him. “I’m not dead yet,” he amended.
They would know exactly where he was, if not by his transponder, then by the alarms going off on every secure system indicating that a lab on B3 had been sealed off. The dull hallways hummed with the faint sound of machinery and environmentally-controlled air. The lights burned at their evening setting, a bright, horrid light that was supposed to be like turning on the lamp when it got dark. He was alone—for now.
“I’m coming, Molly. I think you can hear me, if you listen. I’m coming. Get ready to move.”
Two levels down, four blocks toward the center. That’s where Molly’s lab was. He decided to cover the horizontal distance first to keep Doctor Destructo on his toes. Breaking into a run, he sped down the hall toward the nearest mover, using every bit of added agility his improved mechanics allowed.
Through the mover entrance and onto the swift moving conveyor belt, a military version of an airport people mover. He effortlessly maneuvered from the outer entry belt to the inner express belt, moving close to 30 miles per hour with the conveyor’s assistance.
A half-dozen finely attired thugs appeared coming the other way. Clint dropped to the floor as bullets blazed overhead. The bullets would be armor-piercing, chosen especially for him. Well, he’d take that over shock guns. He had no doubt those would be coming soon enough.
Peeking over the divide, he let loose a quick burst of mini-shells. It shook his bad arm badly. He hated his gun attachment, anyway. It had a tendency to jam and he always ran out of ammo just when he needed to launch a barrage.
Bullets whizzed over his head as he dropped back down. They wanted to keep him pinned as they closed the distance. “Molly, seriously, you better hear me. When I get there, we’re going to have to move.”
Clint raised his arm and let fire three quick bursts. Then propelling himself forward, he sprinted forward, releasing burst after burst. The distance between them closed at breakneck speed. They swung to keep their aim on him while keeping low out of his fire.
And there—the last of his bullets. He kept his arm up and imitated the sound as best he could with his voice. He’d practiced it, just in case.
They were fooled for a half-second. Then they began to stand. Clint was nearly there. He launched himself into the air in desperation, adding power to his leap with his thrusters. He flung himself over the divide, twisting lengthwise so that he collided with as many men as possible. They fell into a heap beneath his heavy body. One rolled to escape and was left behind as he transferred onto a slower belt.
In the fracas, Clint opened his vents, spewing hot air. It added to the confusion. He knocked a man off his back, tried to pin him, but two others had his legs. He twisted again, shaking his legs powerfully, elbowing another who crawled on top of him. He managed to get to his knees before two tackled him in tandem. He rolled with them, his face pressed close to the next belt, the difference in speed enough to grate the flesh of his cheek to bone. One pulled his half-malfunctioning arm behind his back. Something metal snapped. A hand press his face down toward the rushing belt. Straining his neck muscles, he aimed out of the corner of his eye and let his retractable fist fly. It smacked the one at his head across the nose. The thug stumbled back, blood spewing.
Bucking, Clint ignored the pain—real pain; Molly’s fault for wanting him to be as human as possible—in his injured arm. He gained an fraction of leeway in the blink of confusion. He used it. Summoning all his strength, he flipped the man on his back. Together they rolled onto the next belt, his assailant half-beneath him. Clint flung out a leg as they slowed suddenly, taking out another thug in the fast lane, his reinforced shin blasting against the other’s.
He flung his legs upward then, forcing a backward roll that extricated himself from his close combat foe. He took to his feet. The other was almost to his as well. He had a few seconds before the others managed to gather their scattered guns. He barreled into the man facing him, knocking him to the ground, He clobbered his hard and left him unconscious. Standing and lifting him in one motion, he flung him across his shoulders. It wasn’t much of a shield, but it was better than nothing.
Moving quickly to the outer belt, Clint ran against the current. His internal sensors marked three men on the belt behind him, losing distance. Clint dropped his dead weight at the nearest exit, letting the belt carry the man away, and entered the hall. He had managed to lose distance.
Suddenly, the lighting changed, the brilliant white dimming. All along the walls, red LCDs flared into existence. A dull, insistent thrum played through the Island like the low string of a harp. A base-wide emergency.
This was bad, bad news.
Clint began charging his flare shell again. Power readings were not good, even synched as they were to his biological processes. He could manage a few more. He slammed the door to the movers closed with a touch of a button, then jammed his micron blade through the controls, hoping that would keep it closed.
Another minute and a half at least before he had a chance of the shell working like he wanted.
When this was all over he was going to ask Molly to take out the useless gun and give him more missiles. Lots and lots of missiles. Missiles always worked.
He paced back and forth. He didn’t see anyone along the hall; he moved into the storage alcove across the corridor. He’d wait until the flare was ready. No matter which way he went, he might run into someone. Here, at least, he was alone for the time being. His injured arm hung limply at his side. It whirred tiredly when he tried to lift it and shot pain all along his shoulder.
The flare was ready. He aimed at the floor and fired, shielding his eyes. The heat washed over him, bringing sweat instantly to his face. He blinked away the specks from his vision and looked at his handiwork. A smoldering crater of wire, metal, pipes, and steam opened before him. It opened onto the level below, but just barely. He hadn’t been sure even a full powered flare could manage to blow a whole through an entire floor of the Island.
He climbed down, avoiding the use of his bad arm as much as he could. He squeezed through the opening, hung from his good arm, and dropped.
Eyeing his power reading like a man calculating his distance to the nearest gas station when the gas gauge reads E, he emitted a final flare. The heat burned this time. Shaking his head to clear the explosion from his senses, he dropped through this layer too.
Right level, wrong block.
And the alarm kept thumping, like the slow approach of the enemy.