Just beneath the control room, Clint took out the hallway cameras before Molly had a chance to tell him herself. The image-commands were thin and chaotic now, as if Arturo didn’t know what the next move should be and kept trying out options. Finally, three words occurred to him, surfacing oddly, as if they had been there all along.
I don’t know.
Clint laughed. The all-powerful Mystic bamboozled by the destructive and unpredictable Doctor Destructo. It was fitting. Well, Clint had his own ideas, and he figured it was best not to examine them for flaws.
His communication system was set-up for the Intra-Island network. He connected to Molly’s room. She picked up after four beeps.
“Hey, Molly. How’s it going?”
“They can listen in,” she hissed. “Get offline.” She hung up. He dialed again. It beeped and beeped on his end as he waited for her to pick up. He paced the hallway, sending messages of Come on, along the neural thingamajig.
“This had better be good.”
“Molly! I hoped I’d catch you at home!”
“Clint,” she said in her best mother tone.
“Let them listen. It’ll be great. I’ll tell you exactly what I’m going to do, and you tell me if it’s a good idea. I decided against the elevator, because, well, I think it’s out of service now due to the bullet holes. I considered the stairs, but they might end up being my stairway to heaven, if you catch my drift. So here’s what I’m thinking. If I charge my flare shell to full blast, I can knock the floor from under them, create a diversion, and take them by surprise.”
This idea was answered at first by complete silence. Then, in a dangerous voice, Molly said, “That is the most idiotic idea you’ve ever come up with. You’ll be killed for sure. I have…good reason for believing so.” She didn’t hesitate sending the graphically violent mental image.
“Come on, the most idiotic idea ever? You’re kidding me. What about that time I decided to disguise myself as a waiter in that underground club so that I could get close enough to Big Daddy Chops to ID him for the FBI.”
“Do you want to die?” she asked.
“Don’t hang up.”
“They’re coming down to get you.”
“I’m sure they are.”
“Well, do something about it.”
“You don’t trust me.”
“You jumped onto a nuclear missile without batting an eye. Your sense of danger is a little out of whack. Why am I still talking to you! Do something!”
But he had already done something. With the cameras out, neither Molly nor Doctor Destructo could see him, and as he’d been talking, he’d pulled out his micron knife and cut deep into the wall, slowly slicing a thin doorway through which he might pass. The first layer of wall came away with a small tug, but he had needed to cut through a second and third layer as he argued with Molly. But now he had reached his goal.
Beneath the control center, and running like a backbone through the entire base, was what the eggheads called the Island’s nerve center. Hundreds of fiber optic wires and thick electrical cords ran through the Island’s many levels. Banks of processors, monoliths of hard drives space, innumerable blinking lights covered the walls. It was a place few were authorized to enter for fear of disrupting what, for the time being, functioned effortlessly.
Clint had entered through some sort of whirring, thinking piece of machinery, cutting it in two and pushing it heavily down the shaft. The great bundle of wires hung down the center; he began slicing through the entire collection, his knife moving effortlessly through the wiring. As the different pieces fell away, he watched them fall with a sort of reckless energy. General Hugh would have his butt for destroying millions of dollars of military grade technology.
Sometime during this, his connection with Molly ended. He had replied somehow to her urgent, “Do something!” and she had started to reply in her most frantic, I’m-so-concerned-for-your-safety-I’ll-kill-you-myself voice when the line severed. More correctly, probably, when he had severed the line.
He started on the processors next, slicing deep in, destroying as much as he could. Above, Doctor Destructo would be outraged as the systems began to fail.
Clint had his flare shell charging, too. When it reach maximum strength, he let loose at the ceiling, blasting a giant hole through it into the control room. He released a second blast immediately after, placed so that the floor above him threatened to fall into the chasm below—which, Clint thought, looked surprisingly like all those chasm over high-tech areas in the Star Wars movies.
The gun fire started on the heels of his two blasts, shrieking down toward him and shredding more of the Island’s systems. Clint slipped through one of the small access panels, opening the door easily from the inside, where there was no lock or security.
In the hallway, he broke into a run. The lights were flickering. He hadn’t thought the basic electrical systems would have been affected, but what did he know? You probably couldn’t flush a toilet if someone in the control room flipped a switch to stop you.
He was only really worried about two things. One, that the atmospheric system had enough of an emergency protocol to keep the air pumping on Molly’s level. Two, that the Island didn’t sink into the sea for some reason.
He heard shouts from some distance but changed direction to avoid the encounter entirely. He was making for the outer edge of the Island, moving as fast as his legs would take him. He hadn’t much time—if he was right.
He entered a lounge with large windows just under the water. He was surprised to see true daylight through the blue water. The room was too big. There was a private meeting room connected to the lounge. He stepped in and force closed the heavy doors. Another downside of his slash-and-burn method. It would have to do.
He stabbed his micron knife through the thick plexiglass and began to cut. It had made a decent way into the Island. It would suffice for a way out. Water forced itself through the growing crack, Filling the floor of the room. The door sealed the room off well enough for the water to climb not-so-slowly up Clint’s leg.
By the time he had finished the exit, the water was already approaching his waist. It rushed in now, rising, rising. As soon as it covered the hole he had cut, he pulled himself through, kicking for the surface. He emerged and turned himself from side to side, determining his location. The main dock was over there, farther than he had hoped, but doable still. He saw activity along the shore. Just as he had thought. Doctor Destructo had decided to make his escape. A master of destructive chaos himself, Doctor Destructo would have seen it was no longer in his best interests to stay around.
Clint dove under the water, engaging his thrusters and pulling rapidly through the water. He could hear the boat engines turning over, rumbling to a start. Up for air and a quick glance. Hulks of destroyed vessels littered the bay, and he hid behind one. The first boat was pulling away. That would be the Doctor’s, leading by example. Clint dove under again. He had dumped all his weapons but one. He still had a final scorched earth projectile, and he didn’t want it to go to waste. He loaded it as he sped through the water. Since it wasn’t a normal projectile, he crossed his fingers, hoping the water wouldn’t keep it from going boom.
The boat was speeding up, moving quickly to shattered remains of the Island’s shield. Clint had a slim window to catch it. Kicking powerfully to the surface, he extended his arm, reaching for some handhold. He caught hold, but the sound alerted the men on deck. As he pulled himself in, he raised the scorched earth device and fired. The capsule flew through the air and then exploded like a firework. For a millisecond, a bright white ball, like a miniature star, hung in the air. Then waves of fire exploded out from it. Clint shielded his face, but he was heading right into it, so he slackened his grip, let the water cover him, and then began pulling himself forward again.
The deck was clear. He climbed onto the boat, headed first to the helm, where there was a short fire fight that ended with a magnet missile destroying the front part of the ship.
He was beginning to worry that he had been duped, that the Doctor wasn’t on board, when he checked the cargo area.
Doctor Destructo was stowed against the wall, tied down securely in case of bad weather or choppy conditions. In his tank, he looked like a display from a circus, some sort of mutated fish-man.
Clint began to laugh hysterically, laugh so hard that he buckled over, hands on his knees.
“Really?” he managed, wiping tears from his eyes. “This is how it ends? With you set away like a piece of luggage.” He began to laugh again. “The great Doctor Destructo, museum artifact!” He couldn’t stop laughing. He sat on the ground, chuckling to himself, and when the began to curse him in his dry voice, he laughed some more.