The staircase was not a continuous unit; certain parts of the Island’s design had been encouraged by extreme caution bordering on paranoia. The single staircase that connected all floors seamlessly allowed an intruder to move between levels with ease, they the builders constructed the stairs so that each connected with only one other level. It took some time to get clearance to violate fire code, but since the Island was ultra-covert, the Powers That Be finally caved.
Clint and Molly sat at the landing between the two levels and planned. Also, Clint had nearly tumbled down the stairs; his legs hadn’t re-mastered the stair step yet.
“I’m telling you, we knock out the guard, take his clothes, find some clothes for you, and we’re set. We’ll walk right into the control room without any trouble. I should have thought of this when I was trying to rescue you.”
Molly raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
“What? You don’t think it will work?”
“Does Doctor Destructo employ women?”
“One of the men’s suits will fit.”
Both eyebrows went up this time. “Really.”
“You have a better plan? There’s no use over thinking it. It’s not my style.”
Molly nodded reluctantly. She carried the automatic rifle, a little unsure of its weight. She held the walkie-talkie up to her ear. They had dialed the volume down. “They’ve switched to some sort of code.” Clint listened: “The mass optimization of quantifiable elements 9.12 is completed. Scheduling marketing campaign for 8.1 immediately. Goal of market saturation going as planned.”
“Turn it off,” Clint said. “Navajo would make more sense. Ready?”
“As a hippo in a tutu.”
Clint bounded up the stairs, letting quick bursts of his thrusters cushion the sound. Molly followed more slowly after.
At the door, Clint listened, amplifying the sounds to get the best sense of what lay on the other side. Breathing. A slow sway of feet. One guard, alone. Glancing back at Molly, who waited a few steps down, he nodded. Then he swung the door in, grabbed the man in his arms, and wrenched him back. As the door was closing, he saw two bare-chested men turn a corner. They saw him. The door shut.
“We’ve got company,” Clint said, wrestling the guard to the ground. “Yang foot soldiers!”
He hated to kill a man unawares, so he cut off the struggling guards air to black him out. Killing in battle was part of the game, but you should face the enemy head on.
“What do I do?” Molly asked, the pitch of her voice rising.
“Shoot the door! I need a few seconds!”
The fury of the rifle echoed through the confined staircase. Holes peppered the door, Molly shouting half in fear and half in exhilaration. A few bullets flew close to Clint as the guard began to succumb. “Watch you aim!”
The guard was out. “Stop!” Clint shouted to Molly.
Before he could make a move, though, the two Yang foot soldiers blasted through the door with a tandem flying kick. It smashed into the wall with a tremendous crash!, almost ripping off the hinges. Clint came at them with a fist, which the first leaned away from and the second caught in his palm. Quickly, Clint released the fist, letting loose the cord. The second Yang’s attempted flip became a ribbon dance. But the first Yang grabbed the cord with a lightning grasp and, spinning around Clint, wrapped it around his neck. Clint launched himself back into the wall, smashing the little, muscular man hard.
His grip loosened a hair, so Clint followed up with two more heaves into the wall, pushing away a sudden disorienting sense of vertigo. He stumbled on the third try, fall toward the railing. The unintended move cleared him from the second Yang’s flurry of punches. He caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and forced himself limp. Flat on the floor, the Yang on his back took the axe kick meant for him. The impact still knocked the wind out of him. But the cord had loosened enough to let him draw it back in.
He managed to catch a glimpse of Molly on the staircase, swinging the rifle back and forth to follow the action. When she saw him glance at her, she lowered the weapon. He thought she muttered, “Stupid.”
He rolled over, simultaneously removing the cord from around his neck and pulling his hand back in. He caught the standing Yang’s leg with his returning hand and pulled it out from under him, giving him the moment he needed to find his feet.
They all three squared off again, the two Yangs exchanging knowing glances. Clint was cornered against the railing. The ground seemed to tilt beneath his feet.
The command came as a thought. Clint didn’t hesitate but rushed forward as if hoping to shoulder through a brick wall. The two foot soldiers spun, the one leaping into the air, the other remaining grounded, to catch him in the pincher of their iron-clad feet. He took a blow across the face, another in the gut. He staggered back, head spinning. He raised his hands to block his head from the next assault, but his arms responded sluggishly. He barely deflected the blow. He threw himself into a roll, closing his eyes and letting his internal heat-sensors show him his situation. Three bodies. One in the air above him. He flashed out his legs, hitting the attacker above him. The attacker collided against the railing, his graceful movements disrupted. Clint jumped to his feet, barreled full-bore toward the cornered foot soldier. The railing ripped from the wall at the impact. Clint caught hold of one of the support bars as it flew out into the open air. His opponent landed hard on the steps below. He hung above as if from a rung of a dangling ladder.
He dropped down on on the unmoving body, gave it a quick, suspicious look-over, then ran up the steps. Molly stood at the top of the platform, holding the rifle like a club, her hands around the barrel.
“Thanks,” she said breathlessly.
“The distraction was your idea.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Everything hurts today.”
“Not much hope of wearing their uniforms for disguise.”
She was right, of course. Yang foot soldiers always went shirtless, with loose red pants.
“There’s still the other.” Clint grabbed the handrail as he took the last steps. Now that he had slowed down, his vertigo was worse.
“I don’t think so.”
Clint looked at the man who had been pressed up against the wall during the fight. He was six-eight and remarkably thin.
“Well, it sounded like a good idea,” Clint said. “All right, new plan. I want some missiles. And some explosives.”
“Before or after we find EMP ray, take out Doctor Destructo and three other evil organizations, and escape with our lives?”
“Anything else?” Molly asked.
“Get Doctor Destructo to tell us who gave him my transponder code.”
“Gotcha. No problem. You do understand that if the Yang Brothers’ forces have made it this far down, we could encounter anyone.”
“It’ll makes life interesting.”
“My idea of interesting is watching video feeds as you beat people up.”
“Then stay behind me and imagine you’re watching a iMax in 3-D.”
Clint stepped into the hallway. “Coast is clear. Let’s go.” He took Molly’s hand. “By the way, good job with knocking that guy out.” And he led her swiftly down the hall.