The door shuddered again. Yamamoto whipped up his phone and pulled up an app. A camera feed filled the screen.
The lobby was flooded with tactical cops. Helmets, balaclavas, eye protection, radio headsets, body armor, carbines. The two cops at the head of the stack carried ballistic shields and pistols. Every gun was trained on Yamamoto’s front door.
Fox counted eight officers, plus more spilling out into the stairwells. The tallest and strongest among them stood at the doorstep, wielding a battering ram. He wound himself up, paused for a moment, and with a grunt he swung the ram against the door.
The door shook in the frame, but held.
The breacher continued pounding away. The door continued to defy him.
“He can swing that ram from now ‘til Doomsday and the door will hold,” he said.
“Sooner or later, they’ll try something new,” Fox said.
As if on cue, a cop formed a fist with his hand and pumped it up and down. An officer carrying a shotgun squeezed his way up to the front. The man with the ram backed up, making room.
“That’s not going to work either,” Yamamoto said confidently.
“BPD!” the leader announced. “Open the door now!”
“Are they cops?” she asked.
“They have the right gear,” Yamamoto said. “The right look. Let’s assume they are.”
“What’s the plan?”
A shotgun blast drowned out his response.
On the screen, the shotgunner racked his weapon again. Angling down at the lock, he fired another shell. Wood powdered and disintegrated, revealing a thick metal plate.
Undeterred, the shotgunner moved on to the side of the door, hunting for the hinges.
Not that he would find them. The hinges were deeply recessed in the frame, practically invisible from the outside, and even if the shotgunner blew them off, the sturdy bolts would hold the door in place.
“What did you say?” Fox asked.
“We’re getting out of here,” he replied. “Go to the balcony and check the windows for snipers.”
She hustled to the balcony door. The sliding doors were constructed of thick ballistic glass, proof even against antimateriel rounds. She drew the blinds and peered out into the night.
A forest of darkened windows, large and small, stared back at her. Any or all of them could harbor snipers.
She pulled out her flashlight, held it high above her head, and clicked it on. A thousand-lumen spotlight blasted through the glass, banishing the night.
Squinting hard, she played the light across the windows, looking for movement, reflections, long barrels, anything that suggested a weapon. All she saw were laundry lines and drawn curtains.
Yamamoto was at his shoe rack, calmly but swiftly zipping up his boots. As he rolled up his pants, he said, “Step outside and check the parking lot down—”
The shotgun boomed. Four times. Sawdust drifted into the living room.
The door stood firm.
“Downstairs,” Yamamoto finished.
Fox unlocked the door, crouched deeply, and duck-walked out into the balcony. She took three steps to the right and whipped out her phone. She fished around her jacket pockets and produced an infrared / thermal vision camera combo, sized for a smartphone. She attached the device to the camera, lifted the phone above the parapet, took a long panorama shot of the parking lot, then swiftly lowered it and checked the screen.
The infrared image was grainy and blurry. The amber illumination of the streetlamps had confused the sensors, creating a lossy, grainy black and white image. She squinted, trying to make sense of the image.
There were two new cars in the parking lot.
Both were parked close to Yamamoto’s apartment.
The thermal view revealed a landscape of cool blues. Warm yellows and hot reds surrounded the streetlights.
And the newcomers’ engines.
She zoomed in on the cars, looking at the windows. But she couldn’t make out if there were anyone inside.
Yamamoto slid the balcony door open. He was crouched low, keeping his head below the parapet, his carbine in his hands, a helmet on his head and his pack on his back. Behind him, a chorus of heavy booms resounded from the apartment.
“Two possible hostile vics,” she said, showing him her phone.
He grunted. “Easier to go through them than the SWAT team.”
“How are we going down from here?”
He flashed a grin. “Watch.”
He slinked over to a corner of the balcony. Hidden in the shadows was a large waterproof bag, secured with a drawstring. He carefully opened the bag, revealing a rolled-up polymer aramid ladder equipped with a pair of folding grappling hooks.
Fox smiled. “Tricky.”
Outside, the shotgunner fired another volley. Yamamoto snapped the grappling hooks open, anchored them to the parapet, and tossed the ladder out into clear space. The weighted ladder unrolled as it fell, reaching all the way to the asphalt.
“You go ahead. I’ll cover you from here,” Yamamoto said.
She was the better shot. But he had the long gun. She simply nodded and vaulted over the parapet.
Her momentum carried her out into clear space. She braced herself against the wall with her fingers and boots. Grabbed the ladder, dug her boots into an aluminum rung, clambered down.
Above her, the entry team continued hammering at the door in vain. All around, lights flicked on from windows. Men and women yelled at the noise. She ignored them all, her entire being focused on the descent, on the ground—
Down below, car doors opened.
A man shouted.
“CONTACT!” Yamamoto called.
A string of suppressed shots rang out, so fast they almost sounded like full-auto fire. A man shrieked, his voice fading into a bloody gurgle. Another cursed. Rounds punched into metal, ricocheted off asphalt, thumped into flesh.
Fox accelerated, scrambling down the ladder. So long as she was up here, she was exposed. But the ladder swayed and twisted, and the rungs were thin and slippery. She went as fast as she dared, counting off the floors as she went, focused on the floor—
Yamamoto’s carbine went silent.
And the attackers returned fire.
A shotgun boomed. Two carbines cracked. Dust and fragments fell on Fox from above. They were shooting at Yamamoto—but she was still dangling in mid-air, still exposed.
A searing bolt of white light flashed past. Thunder crashed, rattling her eardrums.
An Elect was in play. She had to get off the ladder. Now.
She looked down. Only half a floor to go.
Released the ladder.
Her boots touched the floor.
Tucking her head, she rolled forward, spreading the energy across her shoulder and her back. She rose into a crouch and sprinted for the nearest vehicle.
To her ten and two o’clock, muzzle flashes bloomed in the dark. Bullets screamed past, so close she felt the shockwave of their passage. She went low, sliding the final few feet, coming to a dead stop two arm’s length from the engine block.
“GREEN!” Yamamoto yelled.
His suppressed carbine chattered once more. No flash, muted bangs, distinct from the other long guns in play. Polymer cases rained from above. The incoming fire dropped instantly, the gunmen scrabbling for cover. Fox drew her pistol and popped up above the engine block.
She identified both suspect vehicles by their open doors and shattered windows. A body lay by the trunk of the left-hand car. Shadows danced behind the cars, betraying the presence of men.
“SET!” she yelled.
“MOVING!” he called.
She laid down a barrage of fire, sending a four-round burst to the left, a four-round burst to the right, repeating the sequence like clockwork. Brass leapt out of the ejection port like a waterfall. She had no targets, but it didn’t matter; she was here to dominate the world, to cover Yamamoto as he descended.
And the corpse crawled for cover.
Pivoting in place, she planted the red dot on his head, worked the trigger one two three four—
Abruptly the gunmen sprang up, popping out from around engine blocks. Shotguns thundered, carbines barked, and she ducked back down, ejecting her empty magazine. Rounds skipped off the hood, missing her face by inches. As she reached for a fresh one, she saw Yamamoto rising from a crouch, sprinting to a van across her.
She slotted the new mag into the mag well, hit the slide release, yelled, “GREEN!”
“SET!” Yamamoto replied.
And a fresh barrage of gunfire kicked off.
The bad guys were reacting to their calls, trying to pin them down with superior fire. The engine block would stop rifle-caliber rounds, but if the threats had any sense, they would move in to destroy them.
She turned to Yamamoto.
He was kneeling by the cab, illuminated in a streetlight. He thumped his chest with his left hand, formed a fist and pumped it in the direction of the enemy, then drew a horizontal circle with his index finger, going clockwise.
She gave a thumbs-up.
He pointed at her. Made a knife hand. Stabbed in the direction of the enemy.
She gulped. Nodded. Gave a thumbs-up.
Yamamoto scooted off, moving to flank the threats. She raised her weapon above the level of the hood and kicked off a tight burst, spraying down the left-hand vehicle, then the right. Bullets whined and screamed past. As the muzzle flashed like a chain of supernovas, searing her sight, a thought rose in her mind.
Where’s the guy I shot?
Out the corner of her eye, a shadow flitted past a window.
Instantly she punched out her pistol and blasted away.
Glass spiderwebbed and shattered. A man shouted. She tracked left to right, laying down a steady stream of fire. A dark figure rounded the trunk of the car, shotgun in hand, and she blasted him twice in the face.
He went down in a spray of sparks.
And pushed himself off the floor, cursing.
She extended her weapon and fired twice more.
The rounds punched him down. He rolled like a log, coming to a stop on his belly. In the streetlight she saw his face, artificial skin shredded to reveal a dented mental skull.
A total conversion cyborg.
She ejected the mag, reaching for her third spare.
The cyborg rolled over on his back.
She slammed the mag into place.
The cyborg sat up, bringing his shotgun to bear.
She shot him in the face. Four times.
The first round was standard JHP. The other three were armor piercing rounds, 6.3mm tungsten carbide penetrators encased in polymer aeroshells. This time the cyborg went down and stayed down.
A flurry of suppressed semiauto fire rang out.
And then, silence.
“Clear!” Yamamoto called.
“CLEAR!” Fox replied.
She poked her head up. Yamamoto knelt behind the left-hand vehicle, weapon now trained on his apartment.
“Did you drive here?” he asked.
“Get in your vic and follow me. We’re heading to the RV.”
He duck-walked over to the neighboring car. The lights flashed in silence. It had to be his vehicle. She got to her feet, sprinted for—
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
She scooped her discarded magazines from the gravel, dropping them in her pocket.
By the exit of the parking lot, a man yelled.
“Police! Stop! Drop your weapons!”
Yamamoto cracked off a three-shot string. The cop cursed.
“We’re out of time!” Yamamoto shouted. “We have to go!”
There were three more bodies lying by the shot-up cars. As she blew past, she whipped her head around, glancing at them. They lay in lakes of expended cases.
But there was no blood.
At least, none she could tell in the dark.
Yamamoto fired another string, slow and deliberate.
“Shield! Get a shield up here!” a cop yelled.
“Get back in the truck! Cut them off!” another ordered.
“LET’S GO!” Yamamoto shouted. “BPD is—”
A humongous explosion cut him off.
The blast had come high and from behind them. The SWAT team must have gone with an explosive breaching charge. From the sound of it, it was double, maybe even three times more powerful than a standard charge. That could take the door down.
Both operators climbed into their vehicles in double-quick time. Fox jammed the start button—no keys needed, another STS mod—and the car instantly awoke. The computers booted, the gravity mirror hummed to life, the air conditioner switched on.
Up ahead, a black-clad figure poked his head around the corner.
Yamamoto’s car leapt into the air.
“STOP! LAND YOUR CAR—”
Three rapid shots flashed from Yamamoto’s car.
The voice shrieked.
Three more shots.
Fox yanked the controls, pulling up into the air.
Behind them, rifle shots rang out. Yamamoto dipped his car, ducking below a row of apartments. Fox followed close behind him, the gravity mirror barely scraping past a roof.
The shooting stopped.
The duo accelerated, spinning to the right, rushing down the street, making another hairpin turn to the left, putting as much distance between them and the cops.
A single set of police sirens howled. Blue and red lights slashed through the night. The SWAT team was finally catching up.
But the cops were too late.
They were already gone.
Want more stories of supercops and supervillains in a city of corruption? Check out my novel HOLLOW CITY!
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