Spacer Hades & Cerberus 41
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In which we lose a team member and gain two, and Needle and Lucky have a conversation.



April 11 and 12, 1987

Boy, was I ever right, too, although things didn't turn out much like I anticipated. Not that they ever do.
    We left the befuddled thugs to await the authorities and held a quick conference on the street. Lucky didn't know where Aliese might have gone to ground, so it seemed that the only real course of action was to make him come to us. She does know where a lot of his places are—drug warehouses, gambling dens, etc. If we started busting up what was left of his operation, she suggested, he would probably find us pretty quickly.
    Silly me for not taking her literally.
    She came down on the first of the dens like the wrath of God; the door nearly exploded when she kicked it down. About a dozen very startled men in the next room simply stood there gaping for a second; I don't blame them. From the looks of the place, we had interrupted a strategy session. She stood there in the doorway, the glowing staff barring the way, "Scott" flowing as a silver fog around her feet—nice effect. Then the place erupted in gunfire. She paid it no mind and stalked into the room, shattered the bar so no one could use it for cover, grabbed a bottle and headed for the back room. There we could hear the sounds of her rapidly getting the best of someone.
    Albert had one of my shields over him; he walked in and looked at people, who screamed, collapsed, and went catatonic in short order. Scott condensed to liquid form and moved like a snake, striking with astonishing force. I hung around the edge of the fight, nipping away at our opponents, who for some reason utterly failed to understand how sensible it would have been to surrender. I wasn't focusing very well, to tell the truth; I've never really been comfortable with violence, and the situation as a whole had me feeling strongly uneasy. In less than a minute there were only three left standing, and they didn't look very certain of themselves.
    Then a man sprinted out of the back room yelling, "Fire!" Lucky loomed up grimly behind him.
    We got the casualties out into the street before the whole place could go up. Scott, who's proving himself damn useful to have around, unscrewed the nearest fire hydrant and used his body as a conduit for the water. The blaze was quickly under control. Meanwhile, I finally lost my temper with Lucky, who didn't seem at all interested in what I had to say about property destruction or endangering innocent lives. The fact that Aliese owned the building was enough for her. Wasn't the point of the plan to hurt him?
    It's that look she gets, like I'm talking another fucking language. Like I'm the one being totally irrational.
    I followed along, though, increasingly unhappy as we went through this little routine two more times. She didn't set any more fires, at least. At each of the places we visited, she picked a captive and told him to tell his boss that we were looking for him. Usually they were running before they hit the ground.
    And then he came looking back. Those TECH bastards have probably skipped town by now, but before they left they sold him a doozy. It came stepping over the brownstones on upper Commonwealth Avenue with eerie grace, a mechanical spider five stories tall.
    We didn't have any time to make a plan, and I suppose one wouldn't have helped much—as things are, I consider the end result a pretty impressive display of spontaneous teamwork, enough to give me hope that one of these days we really will learn to work together.
    I took off to get an aerial view, harboring some faint hope that it might have a weak spot. Every leg bristled with weaponry, and the central mass was practically solid with them. Three different weapons fired at me; a laser came much too close for comfort. I swooped in close, hoping that it wouldn't shoot too near its own body. I wish I was better at flying.
    Albert was clinging to one of the thing's legs, I don't know what the hell he was thinking. Scott had gone gaseous and was slipping in through whatever tiny cracks he could find in the outer plating. I looked for a port or a window, anything to give me a clue as to whether this thing was remote-driven or if there was someone in there; if the former, I was going to be pretty useless in this fight. I found what looked like some optical sensors.
    Then I heard Albert scream. I half-turned, caught a glimpse of him flying through the air, and a brilliant light went off practically in my face.
    Blinded, I could somehow tell where Albert was, "see" the outline of his aura. I made a desperate grab for him and missed. He's alive—I have no idea how he survived that fall—but it's going to be a while before he's up and around. I'm glad he's going to pull through.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson