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Thugs on the Roof
For the next four hours I went through what any new police officer would have gone through in learning the capabilities of the suit. It was amazing.
The cybersuit was designed for mob control, and more. According to the tutorial, it was waterproof, hacker proof and bulletproof. It was also resistant to fire, cold, electricity, and radiation.
I learned MAC was a fully integrated and self-contained computer network housed in the cybersuit itself. Once proper protocols were established, it could communicate with Paragon City computer subsystems, law enforcement, or any of a dozen other agencies and organizations, from FEMA to Paragon City Sanitation. Its main purpose, however, was to assist the wearer. I realized quickly that without all the manuals to guide me I was going to need all the assistance MAC’s circuits could generate.
But it was almost one o’clock in the morning and what I really needed was sleep. I could tackle the world’s problems tomorrow.
As I lifted my hands to take off my helmet, I heard a faint rattling sound, like someone shaking a locked gate. What is that noise? I whispered to myself.
Instantly the sound became amplified tenfold. It rang in my skull like the banging of pots on pans.
“Ah!” I said, and grasped my helmet.
“Is that too loud, Steve?” said MAC. “You asked what the noise was, so I amplified it for you.”
“Well turn it down!”
The sound diminished.
“From now on don’t amplify something unless I tell you to!”
Now that I had time to think, I realized I knew what the sounds were. Feet. On metal. Someone was climbing up the fire escape outside my building.
I walked to my window and opened it. I stuck my helmet outside and looked up as best I could. I caught a glimpse of a leg disappearing over the top of the roof. Since my apartment was on the top floor of my building, I was curious why someone needed to be on my rooftop at one in the morning. And after 13 years with the PD, I didn’t think it was the window washers getting an early start.
“Can you give me full power? I want to check this out.”
“Negative, Steve. You have not completed the tutorial. I am not authorized to go beyond initial power until user proficiency is established.”
“I don’t have time for that. Can’t you give me emergency full power?”
“I am not programmed to consider that option.”
“How am I supposed to see what’s going on up there?”
“Well,” said MAC, “You could always walk up there and see for yourself.”
Well that stopped me in my tracks. Of course I could, I thought. I could just walk out onto my fire escape wearing a ridiculous suit of armor and climb up onto my roof in the middle of the night and see what’s going on.
“MAC, can I be hurt in this thing?”
“That is a very generalized question, Steve.”
“Just answer it.”
“Can I be hurt by guns?”
“What kind of guns?”
“The kind that shoot bullets.”
“The likelihood that you would be harmed by guns that shoot bullets is extremely low.”
“Allowing for your current 22% proficiency with cybersuit functions, statistically speaking, you have a greater chance of injury walking around your apartment.”
“Okay, then. I’m going out. And don’t be a smart-ass.”
“Smart-ass: jokester, one who jests. Acknowledged. I will try not to be a smart-ass.”
I grasped the window frame and pulled up. It was the sticky window next to my couch, but the suit made it effortless. I looked up quickly. Two short flights and then the roof. Here goes nothing, I thought. Or everything.
The thing I remember about that fateful climb was how loud I was. Stealth was definitely not on the list when they made this thing. I reached the cement overhang of the roof and made to throw my leg over and roll onto the roof. “Or you could jump up,” said MAC.
“Really? How high can I jump?”
“On initial tutorial power? Only six feet.”
“High enough,” I said, and leaped for the roof. I landed squarely on a ventilation duct and fell on my back, making more noise than a herd of trash cans. The stars stared back at me.
As I struggled to one knee I heard voices. “What the --?”
“It’s Steel Shield! Let’s get outta here!”
“Wait! No, it ain’t! He ain’t got a shield.”
“Yeah, and Steel Shield’s armor is orange, not green, you moron.”
“Who is it then?”
“A new guy. Ain’t never seen him before.”
“Cool. We get to kill the new guy!”
By then I was on my feet and I could see I was facing three Hellion gang members. My blast shield made the phosphorous in their tattoos shine in the moonlight like trails of thin white fire. One of them had a bat in one hand and a woman’s bag in the other.
“Nice purse,” I said. “Your boyfriend give it to you?”
“Who are you?”
“Someone who knows that isn’t yours.”
“Sure it is. I grabbed it from her fair and square. And I’m keepin’ it!”
From behind his back he pulled a gun. The other Hellions did the same. Forty-fives. Nasty. Instinctively I crouched into firing position and reached for my duty weapon, then realized I didn’t have it. In a sickening instant I knew the only thing that was going to keep me from dying on this rooftop was the cybersuit. The Hellions knew it, too. They started laughing as their shots rang out. I saw the white flashes from their guns and cringed, awaiting the burning pain of the bullets striking me. I felt the impacts on my armor; my helmet, my chest, my legs, my neck. I heard the shriek of each ricochet. When the shooting was over I was still alive. I cannot describe the joy of that moment. I almost laughed with exhilaration.
With new confidence I faced the Hellions again. “Looks like you’re going to need more than that,” I said.
“Get him!” said the one with the purse, dropping his empty gun and dashing for the fire escape. The other two were on me before I could react. As I tried to balance myself and throw them off, they stabbed at the joints of the suit with switchblades. Each strike was turned aside as it hit my armor. MAC, I thought, what kind of strength do I have on initial power?
“On initial power you have the strength of four normal men in top physical condition.”
They’re not normal men, but I’ll bet they aren’t in top physical condition, I thought. Throwing my elbows outward, I hurled the two Hellions through the air and to the ground. I walked over and picked one up, holding him at arm’s length. The feeling was amazing! I was hardly even trying! As I was distracted by this new strength, the other Hellion came at me. “Foe at three o’clock!” said MAC, and my right fist shot out before I even began to look, slamming into the Hellion’s face. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
“Please don’t kill me!” pleaded the Hellion in my grasp.
“You’re under arrest,” I said.
“I didn’t do nothin’! It was all Rondo’s fault! He said we had to make our bones or the Eel would never let us join his gang. I didn’t even want to jack purses. I’m a burglar, not a thief.”
“Thanks for the explanation,” I said as I walked to the edge of the roof. “But you’re still going to jail.”
I looked down over the ledge and saw Rondo climbing down the fire escape to the street. “I wonder if I can jump down from here,” I mused.
“J-jump down? Are you nuts?” squeaked the Hellion. “That’s six stories!”
“MAC, do you think I can jump down from here without killing myself?” I said.
“How the hell should I know?” replied the Hellion.
“Almost certainly, Steve,” replied MAC calmly. “There is a nine percent chance you will suffer discomfort. Inertial gyro activated. Leg actuators and back stabilizer reinforced for landing.”
“It’s a risk I’ll have to take,” I said to the Hellion. I looked down at the ground and picked a spot in Rondo’s path. As if by magic, I saw blinking crosshairs in my blast shield, but in such a way as to appear like they were painted on the street with gold glow-in-the-dark paint. When the blinking stopped a moment later, MAC said, “Target acquired.”
“Here goes nothing,” I said, and jumped. The Hellion screamed in my ear as we descended, gaining speed very quickly. I felt that sickening feeling you get in your stomach when an elevator starts down, only multiplied about ten times. I hit the street about three paces in front of Rondo the Hellion. Bits of gravel and asphalt sprayed in all direction from the impact. Taking quick stock, I realized I was fine. No pain. The Hellion in my grasp had passed out.
Rondo stopped quick and looked up at me, clearly surprised. “Hi,” I said, and grabbed him with my other hand. I lifted him to shoulder height. He kicked at me. “Let me go!”
“You’re under arrest, “I said.
“You ain’t no cop!” said Rondo the Hellion, grabbing at my arm, trying to free himself. Then he saw the GCPD chevron on my chest. “You’re making a big mistake,” he said. “I’m in good with the Eel. He’ll find out. He’ll tell FF and you’ll have a big fat price on your armored head. You really wanna take on the Hellions and the Outcasts, too?”
“Shut up. You’re going to jail. And if it pisses off your boss, too bad. I’ll arrest him, too.” Holding the two Hellions at arm’s length, I walked four blocks down Clark Street, turned on Commerce, and made my way to GCPD Precinct 11. I wasn’t even tired. MAC, I thought, how much initial energy have I used?
“You have used seven point two percent of the training power so far, Steve.”
It was amazing. I had been wearing the suit less than a day and I had already made two arrests. I had been shot at and had come away unharmed. I jumped down from a six-story building and lived to tell about it. The suit was everything I hoped it would be. And I was only on initial power!
I turned toward the station doors and they opened for me. I was surprised because GCPD security doors don’t open for anyone but cops wearing the city chevron. Then I realized I was wearing a chevron, big as day right on my chest. It must be encoded like my badge, I thought. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Then I saw one of my academy classmates manning the sergeant’s desk, Tom Schrader. Things were about to get interesting.