“Are you in?”
“Give me some time, Clint. Even with these schematics, hacking into the Island’s systems takes time.”
“Be careful. Just the survelliance system. Be gentle. Be invisible. Be—”
“Be quiet,” Molly interrupted.
“I’m just antsy. I’ve been sitting still too long. I gotta get moving.” Clint checked over his guns again. He had managed to snag one loaded with three shots of scorched earth. A beautiful weapon. Extremely dangerous, but beautiful. Also, he had reloaded his arm missiles. “Almost there.”
“Go talk to Darnov,” Molly said dismissively.
The Mystic was fastened to the cot. He hadn’t bothered to resist. Clint liked to think he saw that it wouldn’t help matters. Foresight was helpful making bad guys compliant.
“Anything else I can get you?” Clint asked. “A soda?”
“Seriously, Clint, just be quiet.” Then, after a moment’s thought. “A soda would be great.”
Eagerly, Clint ducked out of the room into the empty hallway. He’d managed to snag Molly a laptop a half hour ago without encountering anyone. He heard noises, shouts, and gunfire all around now. They’d be in the middle of a fire fight soon. Clint smiled. It was about time.
He jogged to the vendor cubby, pounded the machine with his fist until something came out. He turned at a movement at the door way. A single man stood in the doorway, uniformed in green and yellow, like something out of a Zelda game. One of the Rangers of the intergalactic being Xerlon. Weird, weird cult. He hadn’t expected one of them here. Probably just on the bandwagon so they could be taken seriously.
Clint lifted a machine gun in each arm, feeling a twinge of pain in the previously injured shoulder. “Well, what’ll it be?”
The other dropped his gun and raised his hand.
“That’s smart. Tell you want, you run along and tell everyone you meet I’m coming. Showdown time. Sound like a deal?”
The Space Ranger nodded and ran off.
As Clint stepped back into the dormitory where they had holed up, Molly said, “Almost there. Don’t ask again.” He handed her the can. “Thanks. I really need some caffeine.” Her fingers flew over the keyboard, her eyes darting rapidly from screen to Darnov’s handwritten instructions. She was tailoring them to their particular plan on the fly. “This really is incredible,” she said. “Whatever he is, Darnov’s no idiot.” Finally, she leaned back, rubbing her eyes. “Done. We should have access to all the camera feeds without the system’s AI noticing. You ready?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Oh, Molly, don’t start with the good luck speech.”
“Hey, I always give that speech before you go on a mission.”
“I know, but, really—” Her expression stopped him in his tracks. “Fine, go ahead. It’s a lovely speech.”
“I don’t want to give it now.”
“Look, I don’t have time for this. A block down there’s a battle raging. You said yourself whole sections of main level are filled with air poisoned by chemical weapons.”
“I know. I just…” She stared at her computer. “Just, good luck, okay. And come back.”
Darnov stirred on the cot. “This is intensely painful. Just kiss her, man. This is why I live in solitude,” he muttered. “Idiotic posturing.”
Molly stared red-faced at Clint, and he decided to check his ammo again.
“Bold on the battlefield, timid everywhere else,” she teased, flashing him a smile.
“It’s not really proper. I mean, you practically created me.”
“Stop it!” She turned away, half-angry.
He knelt down, turned her face toward his, and kissed her forehead. “A promise. I’ll return.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“I love you, too.” He stood. “So, Arturo, you’ll do what we agreed upon?”
“I am less likely to suffer at your hands than at any of theirs.”
“Exactly. Well, that’s that.” Clint tapped his temple. “Keep in contact, Molly.”
“Three of Valhalla’s Sons will come around the corner when you exit.”
Clint nodded, slipped out the door, and started blasting away, sparks flying off the corridor walls. He heard the Sons of Valhalla scrambling back, shouting to one another in their outrageous battle cries. Clint crossed the intersecting hall, showering the enemy with bullets, and continued on without a backward glance.
Elevator’s disabled. Marco’s men and some Feministas in the nearest stairwell.
The words came more as images and certainties than words.
Clint threw two grenades in before he entered the stairwell, then blasted through the door.
At the speed of thought, Clint received the command given to Molly by the prescient Arturo. He pressed himself against the wall. A knife clanged against the wall near him.
He took the steps three at a time, releasing his extendable hand. It grasped the shoulder of one of Marco’s men. He slammed the man’s head against the railing, bullets lancing through the other who still stood. Leaping over the bodies, Clint reached the door to the next level.
Flashes of information.
Big to-do. Yang’s guys, Unified World goons, handful of lesser thugs. You’ll be right in the middle. Stay low.
Clint hurled himself out into the hallway, skidding along the ground, throwing a grenade each way. By the time his shoulder butted against the far wall, he had his guns blazing.
“Old Star Wars routine,” he said as he ducked into a doorway. “You know, the droids avoiding all those laser blasts at the beginning of New Hope.”
The image came through as Molly’s eyes, stern and disapproving. Clint laughed.
The gunfire began again, more furious than before. Several sonic blasts whizzed by, the choice weapon of the Unified World Organization. It was going to get hairy.
Flare shell wall to next room.
Clint loaded his first scorched earth device, closed his eyes, said a quick prayer, and unloaded it into the hallway. The blast knocked him to the ground, and the subsequent wall of flame forced him into the back corner of the room he had taken refuge in. The air ignited in a flash, streaming through the hallway as if it were dry tinder. In a few seconds, it passed, and the air that rushed in on Clint seemed frigid by comparison.
He sat up. The arm that had covered his face bore scorch marks on the metal. He whistled.
“I took care of it. Wanted to save the flare shells.”
Get going. Up.
He stood, entered the hallway that had been scorched clean, and headed to the next stairwell.
I’ll continue to work on it at a good pace, but perhaps not daily, until it’s finished. Thank you for putting up with the numerous grammatical errors and free-form plot creation. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story as much as I have writing it. Someday, perhaps, I’ll even revise it, fill in plot holes, smooth out rough patches, and make it presentable.
Here’s to the ending I’ve yet to write!