The List – Episode 7: Riot Patrol

I edged through the screaming crowd, with its protestors waving both picket signs and various makeshift weapons above their heads.  The ragged clothes they wore carried a layer of grit and grief that was the norm of Old City citizens, and these particular citizens were not in the least bit happy.  I craned my neck to get a good look at the construction that was intruding on these people’s city, taking away a chunk of their factories, their homes, and their livelihood.

It had only been a week since the two blocks had been demolished, and two towers, almost on top of one another, already spanned the distance to the sky.  They were about halfway completed, skeletons of steel I-beams and concrete poking through the gaps where the windows had not yet been installed.  Showers of sparks and the pounding of rivet guns leaked out from the openings, the construction workers and builder-bots still hard at work even with the sea of rage beneath them.  When they were finished, the buildings would be home to the satellite offices of Biogravity R&D, and the citizens of Old City that had worked there for centuries would be thrust out into the street like mangy dogs, left to fester and grow hollow on the inside.

I found a spot off to the side of yelling and shouting, where I could view the chaos between the throng of angry protesters and the line of police riot squads without being caught up in the middle of it.  So far it was just standard pushing and shoving, the police not budging an inch against the crush of people as they commanded them to cease their unlawful activities.  This comparative calm wouldn’t last much longer; sooner or later a spark would ignite, escalating the situation into something much bigger and bloodier.  I had seen this before, in a lost memory from a past I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t need that to know the outcome wouldn’t be pretty.

Said spark came in the form of napalm, that splashed down onto the heads of the riot squad.  I caught a glimpse of the man that had dropped the liquid fire, up on the fourth floor of one of the new buildings, leaning out of an unfinished corner office.  I didn’t have much time to take the details of the man in, but I knew who he was from the face paint and the frilly collared outfit.  A super villain that went by the name Pierrot.  A bullet whirred by my ear, and I returned attention to the real danger at hand.

The cops that had been hit by the napalm screamed as the skin melted off their bones, and in a panic they started firing into the crowd.  The crowd only responded by crashing into the cops head on, a wave that kept coming even after being showered in bullets.   In the confusion, cops up and down the line let loose with a roar of gun fire.  I flattened to the ground as bullets tore into the protestors on all sides.  Bodies piled on top of me, spilling blood and guts and other gory bits, but I could still see the wave, now a tumultuous force of pipes, knives, fists, and guns, fighting its way through the police barrier.

Pierrot dropped down into the storm, and cut through the nearest grouping of cops.  The scimitar he welded spit flames out from the base, heating the sword bright red and creating a neat after affect as it moved with lightning precision to slice through bone and armor.

I crept through the throbbing mass of people and hunkered down closer to Pierrot’s location.  I planned on letting him do his thing for now, and waited, moving only to get out of the way of bullets and doing my best to stay hidden.  Sure Pierrot was a bad guy, but he knew it.  He embraced it.  I had built some knowledge on him.  During his day job, he was just a well off accountant that had managed to rise up out of Old City.  Like most villains, his hatred of who he was and what he was doing fueled him to take on the persona of Pierrot and enact violent acts on both of the cities’ citizens, some innocent, and some not so much.  No, he wasn’t the reason I was there.  It was who he would attract that would make this all worth while.

And that’s when she fell out of the sky, along with a couple dozen SWAT members.  She flipped gracefully just before she landed behind the riot line, her shiny skintight costume stretching as she caught herself on the sidewalk in a cat like pose. Double Shot, owner of the corporation responsible for these new buildings.  And – no surprises here – another privileged member on my list. She pulled the two large handguns, from which she’d earned her name, out of her hip holsters and pointed them into the crowd.  Large was an understatement.  Her handguns could easily be mistaken for cannons, and made my Seiver look like a toy.

The guns bucked with each shot, but her skinny arms somehow maintained the impossible feat of holding them steady as they tore holes into the crowd.  The fresh cops stepped up beside Double Shot and laid down a heavy blanket of bullets, dissipating the crowd in seconds.  Once or twice I felt a bullet pelt into one of the dead bodies beside me, but I kept my wits and stayed frozen.

Pierrot didn’t waste any time fleeing.  He was smart enough to know when the situation was too hopeless, and didn’t care if the world thought he was a coward.  He scrambled up the scaffolding and disappeared into an opening on the third floor of the first unfinished tower.

The gun fire was already slowing down to a trickle.  What was left of the crowd cowered back, hiding in any alley or crevice they could find while leaving their broken companions bleeding out in the street.  Double Shot let a couple more rounds off into the stragglers, turned, and followed Pierrot up into the building.

                Cue my appearance.  I rose up out of the carnage, gore dripping off of my jacket and splattering on the pavement.  The first cop that spotted me didn’t get a chance to warn his comrades on account of his newly crushed wind pipe.  I smashed in the faces of three more cops before grabbing hold of the scaffolding, and as I scaled the metal beast I dropped a grenade behind me to cover my tracks.  The structure collapsed into a heap of pipes and sheet metal just I leaped off.

The fight had already begun.  Wielders and foremen fled from the fire that engulfed the expanse of unfinished and unwalled rooms.  Builder-bots continued to lay I-beams and pour concrete even as the paint melted off their hulls.  In the middle of it all, Pierrot was hunched over, panting.  Double Shot edged around the flames, one foot in front of the other and chin up as if she was strutting down a fashion runway.  Who knows, there was a good chance the building already had cameras installed, and if she took Pierrot down it’d be a huge PR boost.

Double Shot broke her stare from Pierrot for an instant to size me up, and Pierrot did the same, but was a split second too late.  As soon as he did, Double Shot rushed him, slid under the fiery swing of his blade, and fired.  Pierrot jumped backward as the bullet ripped into the ceiling above.  If he had waited a moment more his left arm would be gone.  Instead it bled out from the deep gash where the bullet had grazed the skin, taking a large chunk of flesh with it.

As he landed, Pierrot stamped down with both feet.  A layer of napalm jetted out of his boots, covering a ten yard area, and Double Shot was in his radius.  The molten gel nipped at her heals as she propelled herself upward into an impressive corkscrew spin.  It was pretty to watch, but useless.  Pierrot had calculated this move and was already on the assault.  His sword sped through the air.  Double Shot was mid spin, her guns pointing in all the wrong directions, and she wouldn’t be able to swing them around it time to shield herself or counterattack.  I knew better than to underestimate Double Shot, but Pierrot obviously didn’t by the next sequence of events.

His eyes widened in surprise as his blade hit empty space.  Double Shot hovered just over him, legs extended straight up towards the sky, barrel of the gun in her right hand flush against Pierrot’s scalp.  I shielded my face from getting any more brains splattered onto it, and Pierrot fell until he was splayed out into his bed of fire.

As Double Shot dropped towards the inferno, she fired both guns in rapid succession – the same trick she had used to defeat Pierrot – and she flittered in the air until she landed outside of the ring of napalm.

Her back straightened and her nostrils flared as she eyed me.  “I didn’t expect you to be here.”

“It was only a matter of time,” I said.  I couldn’t tell whether that was fear in her voice, or excitement.

The corner of her mouth curled up.  She shrugged.  “Saves me the trouble of having to hunt you down.”

“I try to make your lives as easy as possible.”  I let the beam blade handle drop into my right hand and the Seiver into my left.

“You are as funny as they say.”  She raised both of her guns up so they pointed at the ceiling.

“A comedian, they say?  At least you’re loosening up now.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be any fun.”

“You know, you may stop me, but you can’t stop progress.”

I held my arms outstretched.  “This?  These buildings?  Not all of them, but I can sure as hell try.”

She shook her head.  “You don’t get it.  You don’t belong in this world, and neither do your ideals.”

“I guess we’ll just have to let our guns settle that manner,” I said, grinning now.  Not that I found it hard to do what I do, but it made it easier knowing my opponent stood completely against me.  And now I’d get to destroy these buildings just to prove a point.

Double Shot was done talking.  She leveled her guns at me, and I lunged behind a pallet of concrete mixture.  The heavy bags buckled into my back as she burst a few shots off.   I waited for a lull, then returned fire.  By the time my bullets had made it there, she was already spinning upward into a hole in the ceiling.  She perched on the steel rafter for a moment, smiled at me, and then was gone.

I knew better than to blindly chase after her and play right into her hands.  I listened for the squeak of her suit, trying to gauge her location as I snuck along the air compressors and hydraulic horses.  I didn’t have to wait long for a noise, but it wasn’t the one I’d been looking for.  Holes punched down from the ceiling as she fired down on me.  She apparently didn’t know my exact location, which was the only reason why the floor a foot to my left was pockmarked like the moon.  I didn’t like the idea that that could have been my head, and decided to move a little bit faster.

Shots continued to rain down from overhead, spewing concrete debris from above and below as the slugs pierced through several floors.  I was in a full out sprint now, keeping my head low and heading straight for an open elevator shaft.  When I got to the opening I jumped in, slid the Seiver back into my jacket so I could grab the cable, and cut the counterbalance with my beam blade.  The cable jerked in my hand, shredding the skin off my palm and nearly yanking my arm clear off.  The elevator plummeted at terminal velocity, giving me only split seconds react.  I freed my grip and kicked off the wall, pushing myself out of the shaft just as the rising counterbalance would have sheared me in half.  The momentum threw me up through the I-beam skeleton for a dozen floors.  A concrete ceiling destroyed my momentum, along with my collar bone, and ricocheted me back first onto a construction platform.  I let the Seiver drop back into the raw of my palm and rolled to the edge of the platform.

Double Shot bounced from beam to beam, quickly clearing the several levels I had worked so hard to put between us.  Using the thick steel platform as cover, I fired down on her.  She glided through the torrent of metal, tumbling through the air like gravity didn’t apply to her.  I wanted to show her how wrong she was – I just needed to figure out a way to hit her first.  The Seiver ran dry just as she ascended on my position, and I flipped onto my feet and extended my beam blade.

She didn’t make a sound as her feet touched down onto the narrow steel joist that connected to my platform.  I couldn’t give her time to set her sights – if I went on the defensive I was dead.  Instead of falling into my trap, Double Shot calmly let her guns rest at her side.  I took the time to breathe as trickles of sweat streamed down my forehead and off the tip of my nose.  Somewhere in the background an emergency alarm blared.  I felt generous, so I decided to give the construction workers a few more seconds to escape as I stared down Double Shot. She was anticipating my next move just as much I as I was anticipating hers.

The building shuddered.  Whether it was a result of the workers evacuating in haste or the rioters attacking the base didn’t matter, the small movement set things in motion.  I jabbed the beam blade forward.  Double Shot took to the air, floating, dodging, as I manipulated the blade into a tangle of death that could not touch her.  When the beam twisted, she twisted, when it suddenly jutted in one direction, she’d fire in the same direction to avoid it.  She was good, but I was pushing her back with each minute attack, and the ledge inched closer and closer to her.  I refreshed the blade back to its normal state, shot it straight out and whipped it around in a three-sixty motion.  Double Shot back flipped as the beam seared the air an inch below her flawless face, hungry to take a bite out of it, and then she disappeared off the side of the building.

I could do nothing but watch as she tumbled through the air, bullets propelling her over the empty space towards the adjacent building.  As I expected, she nailed a ten point landing safely on the other side.  I ejected the magazine from the Seiver, slapped a new one in, and filled my lungs with air.

I ran the length of the platform along the ledge of the building, gaining speed and letting the adrenaline focus my senses.  I vaulted off.  The air rushed at my face.  In the distance Double Shot was sighting me in.  I steadied my gun in her direction, firing enough just to keep her off my back.  Gravity started to pull me down as I reached the apex of my jump, not even a quarter of the way to the next building.  If that had been my target, I would have been in for a long fall.  I readied myself for impact and slammed into a steel girder that had been left hanging from a crane.  The cable supports cried out and twisted around each other, sending me into a dizzying spin more than fifty stories up.  The city whirled around me as I did my best to keep my hands from slipping off the slick metal.  The girder swung wildly under my weight, carrying me across the gap between the two buildings, then threw me off as the cables yanked taut.  I fumbled through the air until the sharp pain of a metal beam slammed into my ribs.  I wrestled hold of it, my fingers clutching the edges as the rest of my body dangled helplessly.

Double Shot watched as I struggled to my feet, a smile on her face.  I couldn’t hit her, and she knew it. She had skills, but she had made the same fatal mistake as did many before her.  She should have killed me when I was hanging there helpless.  She didn’t, and now she was going to be the one to die.

I worked the controls on the beam blade and we started the dance again.  Her lithe body skipped through the air, twisting and flipping as the white hot of my blade snaked from point to point.  It wanted to sink its fangs into her, but it couldn’t.  She was too fast, too agile, and now she was just toying with me.

I held my position as I extended the blade longer and longer, driving Double Shot deeper into the core of her building – and soon to be her tomb.  She must have noticed what I was doing, the plan that I had set into action during the fight in the other building, because a look of panic contorted her face and she started firing shots in my direction.  But by that point it was already too late.

Even though my blade poked through the opposite end of the building, the handle still felt virtually weightless in my hand.  There was a good reason beam blade technology had been outlawed – it was really just unfair how much destruction one of them could cause.  Sure, there were ways to protect against them, but it was expensive and these buildings had not yet had the countermeasures installed.

The building shimmied and groaned, signaling my time for departure.  I pushed off the edge of the platform.  What Double Shot must have thought were just wild swings earlier were all planned out, each swing hitting a calculated point to weaken the structure in these two buildings.  As I fell, I whipped around full circle and slid the beam blade through the entirety of both buildings.

Now they were falling with me in a race to terra firma, and piling thousands of pounds of concrete and metal on top of Double Shot.  I shut down my beam blade and spun to face the advancing earth.  I reached for a grenade I had made especially for situations like this.  It wasn’t sure fire, the timing had to be exactly perfect or else they’d be shoveling my flattened corpse off the pavement.  I gritted my teeth and waited for the ground to get just a bit closer, then I pulled the pin and hurled the nade downward.  The nade exploded into a large mass of gray foam, engulfing me, slowing my decent a hundred fold.  The foam disintegrated seconds later, giving me enough time to flip around and land feet first.  The shock of the impact rattled the bones in my legs and back, no doubt creating countless stress fractures, but the nade had done its job.

Smoke and dust billowed outward from the base of the toppling towers, but a crowd of Old City citizens where already gathering closer and closer.  They cheered as they took out the remaining cops that were scattered about, their cries of celebration creating a different kind of riot.