The assault rifles that the figures fired into the pit had some sort of silencers attached, but they only dulled the deafening clatter in the enclosed space. From behind the man with the gloves who was still making his way towards her, Ayesha could make out a flickering, bright light from the pit, like the light from a welder’s torch and a strange, warbling noise like a thunder sheet being shook.
Ayesha had enough time to guess that the noise and light was the tube that the man had carried into the warehouse when her thoughts ran white hot.
These people had opened fire on Luis.
She had no idea if his defensive power had worked.
They were ready to kill her.
She felt oddly gleeful.
Ayesha rolled onto her feet. The man with the gloves was still running at her. Too slow.
She darted to him. Moved to punch him. Just before she did, the memory of the heat haze floated out of her sleeping conscious mind.
Ayesha slipped behind him. Experimentally punched the back of his head. The haze returned with the buzzing of angry bees. She measured the point at which the static wind became too thick to push through. It was just over an inch from his skin.
It began to push her away, but Ayesha was ready this time. She turned with the push. Pirouetted. Bled the momentum into the ground.
She checked for any reaction in the gloved man, but he was still. It didn’t affect him at all.
He noticed her movement. Seemed surprised. At some invisible signal, the palms of the gloves began to glow with blue-green light. Ayesha saw his fingers begin to claw. The gloves were a weapon.
She pulled back, into the shadows. Searched. Found what she was looking for. She dove, rolled, and grabbed with the same motion, springing to her feet. In her hands was a length of wood.
She ran back to the man. Swung the length of wood. He was turning back to her, surprisingly quick. Bringing around his glowing hands. The wood was heavy. Made it hard to change direction. Ayesha turned to her side. The hand slipped past, inches from her ribs. She felt the heat radiating from it.
Continuing the momentum of her swing, she brought down the wood, square on his head.
Whenever Ayesha had to move an object that wasn’t her body, she was excruciatingly aware of how it resisted her. How she had to force its inertia to build before it became as mobile as she was. How once it was moving, it was almost impossible to change direction. It was like that with the wooden plank. As she brought it down, she felt the resistance mount greater and greater as the angry buzzing once more sounded.
As the heat haze soaked up the movement, Ayesha had just the presence of mind to let go of the wood. The momentum was reflected, and the wooden plank went flying upwards. It twirled quickly as it flew, finally shattering a pane of glass from the skylight above and disappearing into the night sky.
It would have been funny if Ayesha could register it. But in the flow of movement, the only thought that Ayesha could compose was one word: Shit.
She needed a new tactic.
The man leapt at her with the gloves, but without the plank of wood slowing her down, it was easy to dodge. She skirted around his back. Automatically, she flipped. Rolled. Prepared to kick him.
In the heartbeat before her foot connected, she had just enough presence of thought to remember the hazy shield.
Frustrated, she unfurled slowly. Wasting the stored energy of the kick. She was powerless. None of her attacks could do anything to their shields.
As she returned to her feet, she saw something on the man’s chest. A red, blinking light. It was attached to a small, black device that looked to be made out of plastic. As she ducked under the man’s next swipe, she came in for a closer look at the device. Small disks, almost like radar disks or the speakers of a stereo, were embedded into its side. The haze seemed thickest there. Ayesha guessed that this was probably the shield generator, but there was no way she could know for sure, or touch it if she knew.
He spun with the glove. Ayesha dodged lazily. She was trapped. She needed to slow down, and think of a plan. But every time he attacked her, her thoughts sped up again to dodge.
A voice called from the pit. ‘Hans! What’s happening? Is the friend down?’
Ayesha’s brain was so focused, that she hadn’t given a thought to the others. Now she glanced at them, dodging another two strikes from the gloves as the voice spoke. One of the men, the one with the tube, had turned.
‘She’s enhanced!’ panted the man with the gloves. Ayesha hadn’t realised that he was tiring. ‘Help!’
The other two stopped firing into the pit. The question of what happened to Luis almost formed in her mind, but it was swiftly driven away. They were bringing up guns, pointing them at Ayesha. Behind them, smoke poured from the pit.
She was trapped.
They were going to kill her.
Ayesha’s right foot turned toward the exit.
Then she noticed something.
A blue-green light in the midst of the smoke.
The orb collided with the back of the man holding the tube with a burst of sound and light. The shield’s deafening buzzing peaked, then vanished, and the man was thrust forwards and off his feet, landing awkwardly on the metal tube.
Luis’s voice shouted from the depths of the pit. ‘You shithead assholes! Come down here and fight me!’
Ayesha wasn’t listening. She noticed the hazy shield vanish when the orb collided with it, but then saw it return a fraction of a second later. She actually saw the static take the brunt of the force from the fall.
The two with assault-rifles and the one with the gloves were confused now. Threats were on both sides.
The gloves were evidently short-range. The guns were not. She darted towards the pit and the three at its edge.
While the gunmen were still confused, she looked down into the pit, dreading what she might see.
Luis was fine. He stood just where she’d left him, defiantly looking at the ledge of the pit.
His robot on the other hand had changed position. It was even lower to the ground, its feet spread as if it was supporting an enormous weight. From out of its shoulders, something had emerged. What looked almost like two regularly shaped crystals or lightbulbs had slid from beneath two plates. It’s mouth was open from firing.
She slowed enough to shout down at him. ‘Hit them!’
The two with rifles turned towards her, and as they did, Ayesha felt her consciousness change. Suddenly, the rest of the world faded into grey nothingness. There was only her body, the two barrels, and the invisible lines of danger that stretched from the barrels and infinitely on.
All that was left in Ayesha’s mind was the thought of where the lines were, and what she could do to make sure they wouldn’t cross her.
The woman with the gun opened fire, but Ayesha had already moved. She flipped upwards as the bullets burst against the ground beneath. The man then fired, but she was already moving again, this time limboing on her back beneath the barrel. She twisted one knee, put herself into a standing position, then placed herself between the two. Now, they couldn’t fire without risk of hitting the other.
A bolt of energy was launched from the pit and hit one of the gunmen, but he had braced this time. The shield ate the bolt, then reformed a fraction of a second later. It formed in time to eat a second bolt, reforming again a moment after that.
Ayesha came to a realisation: The robot couldn’t hit faster than the shields could reform.
But she could.
The man with the tube was getting to his feet now, and the gloved man was running back to them. Ayesha had to act quickly.
‘Luis, call your shots!’ she shouted, hoping he’d understand.
As Ayesha spoke, the woman with the rifle attacked her with the butt. This brought another realisation to Ayesha with a thrill of joy: The guns weren’t shielded, otherwise why try to hit her with it.
She spun to the ground, turned the motion up into a high kick. Hit the barrel. The gun flew from the woman’s hands.
Before the it had even reached the apex of it’s flight, a bolt hit it in midair. Louis’s robot had targeted it while it was flying. The gun exploded into fragments with a blast of blue-green light.
‘Her!’ said Louis’s voice.
Before Ayesha had even stood, another bolt hit the woman, popping her shield.
Ayesha had waited for it, and in the fraction of a second before the shield reformed, she sprung onto her hands and planted both feet into the woman’s chest in a powerful kick. Directly on the red, blinking device.
There was a satisfying crunch, and the woman flew backwards. The shield did not reform.
The man behind Ayesha opened fire, but Ayesha was still aware of the lines of danger emanating from its barrel. She had already twisted away on her hands, but she was on the back foot now.
‘Gunman!’ Luis shouted.
A blue green bolt launched out of the pit.
Ayesha launched herself towards the gunman too, over his stream of bullets, hoping she had timed it right.
She hit the man a moment after the bolt did. Ayesha couldn’t punch as hard as she could kick, but she’d built enough momentum to wreck the generator against her fist.
The man barely staggered, instead bringing up the gun to fire into her. She had no time to move. The line of danger crossed her body.
Before he could fire, another bolt hit him. Ayesha guessed that it was at a weaker power – Luis wouldn’t want to kill him – but without the shield it was still enough to send him flying back and off his feet like a cartoon.
The man with the tube had returned to his feet. He pointed it at Ayesha. She turned her attention to him.
Pain exploded from Ayesha’s side. A white hot, burning heat that spread out from a point on her ribs, leaving a numbness. It was like a toothache spreading throughout her torso. The pain was so blinding, that she didn’t even notice the movement. She was being pushed from the point of contact, the point of pain.
But it hadn’t come from the man with the tube.
Ayesha cried out, and fell towards the pit. Whatever had pushed her, whatever was lancing white hot pain throughout her body, fell with her. She was aware of arms pressing into her, the hazy cushion of the shield between, and she turned to see the man with the gloves. Their blue-green light had turned almost white, and it was pressing into her clothes, pressing tendrils of agony into her body.
He’d tackled her, but clearly hadn’t expected her unnatural lightness, overshooting and falling with her.
The numbness was spreading, but with the parts of her body left under her control, she twisted. One arm. Both legs. It meant that when they hit the floor in front of Luis, the man was beneath her.
His shield popped out when he hit the ground. Ayesha lashed out with her foot, planting it into the shield generator. There was no crunch, but the shield didn’t return.
She let herself breathe a moment. The gloves were no longer on her, and though she still ached, the numbness and pain were already receding. She was still crumpled on the ground though.
Luis rushed over to her.
‘Ayesha! Are you okay?’
She looked up at his concerned expression.
Behind him, back on the ledge, she saw the man with the tube.
He was pointing it straight down.
‘Get down!’ she screamed at him.
The man’s expression was pure, unbridled, rage. He seemed to not even care that one of his comrades was down here with them.
From the tip of the tube, fast moving ripples erupted. It was like watching a powerful hose underwater. The ripples advanced towards them.
Something blue-green blossomed above them, and Ayesha threw an arm over her face.
She heard the noise again, the thunder sheet warbling. It was louder now, nearly deafening.
Ayesha looked up. A blue-green, translucent, glowing film had surrounded the them in the pit in a rough dome about twenty feet across, protecting all four of them. It’s centre was Luis’s monster, and it seemed to be radiating from the two lightbulbs at its shoulders.
Beyond the bubble of light, Ayesha couldn’t make anything out clearly. Ripples ran over its surface as if thy were under fast moving water. Ayesha wasn’t sure if it was Luis’s shield, or the man’s weapon.
Luis was looking up at the man, but he seemed tense. Ayesha noticed the robot form straining slightly, buckling as if under a great weight. The shield was growing more uneven now.
‘Can’t hold forever!’ Luis shouted through gritted teeth, ‘And I can’t shoot while the shield’s up!’
Ayesha got to her feet unsteadily.
‘If you can pop his shield, then I can hit his generator!’ Ayesha tested her limbs. The gloves had left her feeling numb and shaky. She was recovering, but not fast enough if she wanted to jump up there in time. She saw something on the ground. It was the pipe she had dropped earlier. Ayesha had an idea. ‘Can your robot kick me upwards?’
Luis’s eyes moved frantically back and forth for a moment, thinking. He winced, then nodded. ‘I think so! Get to my rear left foot! When I say “Go”, I’ll drop the shield, fire, and kick you up!’
Without thinking, Ayesha moved fast to the creature’s foot, bracing herself at the point where it met the ground. One hand was placed on its leg to steady her, another was holding the length of pipe. ‘Fire a shot, kick me up, then fire again!’ she said.
The shield above them was almost flickering now, growing thinner and more translucent in places. From what Ayesha could see, the man with the tube had not stopped firing.
Luis had been looking up too, but he turned to see her in position, ‘Ready?’
‘Yes!’ she interrupted, hoping she was right. The numbness was still there.
Things moved quickly.
The shield dropped.
The ripples didn’t vanish. Ayesha saw that they were coming from the weapon. The waves and ripples moved towards them.
Not fast enough.
A loosed bolt shot through the ripples. A moment later, they began to fade.
The monster kicked her up at the same time Ayesha leapt.
She saw the man flinching back from the bolt that had just hit him. His shield was already back, but the bolt had knocked the tube into a different direction. Ripples were streaming across the floor of the warehouse.
Ayesha spun as she jumped. Aware of where the man stood. The pipe in her hands.
The man turned to her. Began to bring the tube back towards them.
The second bolt was loosed towards the man.
When the bolt was halfway towards him, she twisted. She launched the pipe with such force that her super-light body was thrown backwards away from it.
The man brought up the tube. Too late. The bolt hit him, and the shield popped.
The barest fraction of a second later, the pipe, spinning around as it flew, smacked into his chest. It shattered the shield generator, sent the tube skittering across the warehouse floor, and knocked the breath from him as he tumbled over.
Ayesha, still flying backwards from the force of her throw, twisted her body. She landed on the opposite lip of the pit, skidding to a halt with a cloud of dust thrown up from her running shoes.
Panting quick and deep, she paused in that position. For the first time in a long time, she felt her desire for speed satiated.
After a few seconds, Luis’s voice called out.
‘Did we get him?’
Ayesha laughed through her heavy breathing. ‘Yeah, we got him!’