Short Story: Invincible (Part I)« Chapter 6 – Maneuvering for Advantage (Part III) Short Story: Invincible (Part II) »
[Invincible by Kyt Dotson is a short story in the Black Hat Magick series. If you would like to skip this and move on directly to chapter 7 click here. Otherwise enjoy!]
“Hadaly! LZ is hot!” Elaine shouted into the phone as she raced up the stairs, taking them two by two. “I repeat, LZ is hostile—no friendlies! Wrap it up and get the hell out of there. Respond.”
An alarm went off on the phone.
“Fracking frelle!” she screamed as she bounced off the closed door to the roof. Instead of grabbing the doorknob, she’d lowered the Enoch-phone to look at the screen. “Andromeda Sienna! Do not engage! Don’t touch them! They’re infected! I repeat: Andromeda Sienna. Do not engage!”
She checked the phone again. The connection had been severed.
The door to the roof resisted momentarily but gave way upon judicious application of shoulder to metal, spilling her onto the gravel. She stumbled before catching herself, scanned the area, found Frog, and rushed to her side.
“I can’t contact Hadaly!” Elaine skidded to a stop next to Frog. The green-haired girl knelt against a guard rail, peering through a pair of binoculars at a building two blocks away. The dilapidated warehouse provoked a prosaic sense of urban decay with its rusted doors, papered over windows, and concrete walls. Although she wasn’t wearing them, Elaine noticed her goggles flashed brightly as she peered in its direction.
“They’ve erected some kind of force field,” Frog said, adjusting the binoculars. “From the brightness on the scope, I’d say that it’s at least a twenty coulomb field. More than enough to fry anything we’ve got and us if we tried to discharge it. Hadaly’s suppression systems can handle that, can’t they?”
“Yes,” Elaine pulled her goggles on. The heads-up display showed the tremendous flux across the surface of the building like a tortured amoeba of energies. “I ordered her to pull out if anything happened. I knew we couldn’t trust those p’tach!”
Frog’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think she’s coming out,” she said. “I just saw an astral power spike.”
Elaine flipped the Enoch phone open again and spun up a series of programming interfaces. They spread across her vision like blossoming flowers, highlighting Enochian syntax and macros that she could use to build a countermeasure for the force field. Along the side of the heads-up display a series of cell phone icons stacked up like an ammo readout—the burner phones she’d bought for just this purpose, five of them currently clipped to her belt. She selected one and began programming it.
“We need to get her out of there now,” Elaine said. “I can probably overload the field with an EMP bomb, but the backwash could be dangerous to Hadaly, so I’ll modify the bomb to… No, maybe I can shield a phone so that it will pass through the field and direct a shaped EMP back through the… No, what if I formed a Lovecraft-Helsinki bridge between two phones across the transphase and—”
“She’ll be fine.”
Horrorstruck at Frog’s lack of concern, Elaine worked at her phone with frenetic stabs. “You don’t understand… She thinks she’s invincible!” Her fingers had gone numb with adrenaline; her thoughts refused to compile anything coherent.
Frog sighed, lowered her binoculars, and gave Elaine a sidewise smirk. “Congratulations. Our little girl is officially a teenager.”
Elaine’s message hit Hadaly’s RF receiver like a ton of bricks—“Hadaly! LZ is hot! I repeat, LZ is hostile—no frien—tzzztch!”—her head snapped up and a slow, wicked smile played onto her lips. An algorithm she’d developed from a comparative study of movie villains pondering prey. The android on the other side of the table lifted its head an increment.
“Is there a problem?” it asked in its mechanically sibilant voice.
“I don’t have to be nice to you anymore.”
Assault Mode: ACTIVATED.
The apertures of her eyes widened to their maximum resolution and coolant flooded into her interstitial spaces along with lubricants into the joints through the dynamic fluid system akin to the human lymphatic system. Much unlike a human, however, the locks that prevented her limbs from pivoting in unnatural directions disengaged allowing her unparalleled freedom of motion. Acquisition routines came online devouring the data that she’d been processing since she entered the room. Her Astral processor spun up, breathing coolant into vapor as capacitors opened wide, igniting the dynamos in her joints.
The table flipped vertical in one smooth movement, the droid—only halfway to its feet—caught it in the chin and lost gyrosynch. It toppled backwards as Hadaly ducked behind the metal sheet, blocking LOS with the sentries in her forward arc, but it left her vulnerable to those in her back arc. The room became a map of eigenvectors, luminous spaces of varying lines and values making peril a game of numbers: fields of fire, fulcrum movement arcs, prohibited zones, areas of denial/confidence, best-fit dodge scenarios, escape routes.
Several easy opportunities opened themselves immediately, soft points in the eigenspace. High escape success, over eighty percent likelihood of egress without damage. All excellent odds—except that Hadaly wasn’t in the mood for retreat.
By the time the first bullet fired, she was already in motion; the table in her hands scythed through the droid before it hit the ground, slashing through its papery exoskin and fragile aluminum endoskeleton. The torso twirled away, severed from its legs, limbs pin-wheeling grotesquely as it arced. She winged the table, shattered and unaerodynamic as it was, at the nearest sentry covering her rear arc.
The eigenspace shifted, closing overlapping fields of fire, opening up new spaces. Probabilities and dynamics flared into life as she danced away from the incoming projectiles. The bullets already in flight meant nothing to her, their trajectories were already decided, their fates certain. It was what the sentries hadn’t tried yet that she needed to predict.« Chapter 6 – Maneuvering for Advantage (Part III) Short Story: Invincible (Part II) »