The moment Sabra had climbed inside and settled in the passenger seat, Fisher put his car into reverse, wrenched the wheel around, got distance from Defenda Eureka before she could get up, and floored it.
Sabra was laughing. “What the fuck, Feline Fancy? What the fuck? We’ve got to stop meeting like this!”
Fisher didn’t reply. He was still trying to figure out why he’d hit Defenda Eureka with his car. Oh, sure, with a suit like that, she would’ve probably survived being hit with a truck. Oh, sure, he didn’t like her or what she represented. But assault with a motor vehicle wasn’t exactly the sort of thing you could walk back from.
As opposed to buying a clip of illegal capekillers?
The streets of West End streamed past him. “Just crossed the fucking Rubicon,” he said, to himself. “Twice.”
“What? Is that a robot?” Sabra asked. In her armor, she seemed too big for the shotgun seat. Her helmet was pressing against the roof. “I think it’s one of those fighting robots, right?”
“No, it’s not,” Fisher replied and rolled his eyes high, caught himself and pretended to be checking the rearview mirror. All clear. “Anyway, what did Star Patrol want with you anyway?”
“No idea. The one with the bucket helmet, he was messing with my dad.”
Fisher felt good that his eyes were on the road. He didn’t think he could look at Sabra. “Huh,” he said, like it was surprising.
“So, I beat his ass,” Sabra continued. “Then the one in the armor showed up, so I ran for it, then you hit her with your car.”
Fisher was aware of it. The generalities if not the particulars. He’d followed the Star Patrol convoy, after all, and had watched from his car, parked two streets away, when he realized Bushranger had paid the Kasembe residence a visit.
And then, maybe ten minutes later, Sabra had dragged him outside like so much garbage, and everything had just sort of… happened.
“Bushranger and Defenda Eureka,” Fisher said, more properly looking into his rearview mirror for any sign of either of the Star Patrol capes. No sign, all clear. He wasn’t sure how long that would last. Defenda could fly which was a problem – but, if Fisher had any luck in his life, hitting her with his car might’ve broken her flight pack.
“I’m sitting on like ten minutes of suit power, yo,” Sabra said. “What’re we gonna do?”
“You hit her with your car! We’re in this together! Fulcrum and Ironhands!”
“It’s Fisher, Sabra. Pavel Fisher.”
“What? How does everyone know who I am? Like, Christ and Allah, is my armor invisible?”
“You were wearing a nametag, and you keep mentioning the cat food.”
“Whatever,” Sabra replied, waving her hand. “No names. You call me Fulcrum.”
Kid, at this point, that name really doesn’t matter.
But Fisher just said, “You’ve got it.”
Fisher turned a corner, glanced into the mirrors again. Nothing and no-one. God, where was he even going? His plan had been to track down Taurine, not get drawn into a running battle where his only ally was a teenager with more exuberance than sense.
“So, what’s the plan?” Sabra asked. “We going to keep driving in circles?”
“We’re not driving in circles. But this isn’t exactly how I thought my day would go.”
“Okay, well, I’m sitting on ten minutes of action until I run out of charge. Sitting here, it’s more like thirty. I need something to hook this thing to or to swap out the battery pack. Tell me you know a guy.”
Fisher thought of Gauntlet.
“I might,” he said, “But we’ll have to lose the capes.”
“What do you mean? I don’t see ’em.”
“Trust me, they’ll be tracking us somehow. It’s just a matter of time.”
As if on cue, there was a flash of royal blue against the morning sky, above the buildings they had just passed. Defenda Eureka. Fisher glanced back to get a better look. Star Patrol’s juggernaut wasn’t quite flying as normal, more taking extended hops from place to place. She’d been damaged, she’d been hurt, but she was still in pursuit – and Fisher was sure she was pissed.
“Six o’clock,” Fisher advised, turning back to focus on the road.
“Behind! Eureka closing from behind! Hold on!”
Be smarter. She’s the one in the armored suit, not you.
An energy bolt streaked past the car, detonating to the left and throwing up a gritty plume of asphalt. Fisher wasn’t sure if it was a warning shot or if Defenda Eureka had missed. Either way, Fisher counted his blessings with a wary thought: she wasn’t likely to miss a second time.
“Red light,” Sabra advised.
Fisher floored it and streaked through the intersection, leaving only angry horns in his wake. The road ahead was straight and narrow, a long run with a single lane of oncoming traffic and no room to maneuver.
“Right,” Sabra commented. “What’s a traffic fine when you’re running from the cops, right? Right. She’s cleared the intersection, Pavel. Taking aim, maybe?” The note of confusion there in Sabra’s voice there didn’t fill Fisher with confidence.
“What do you mean maybe?”
“Well, her arm is up, but nothing’s happening.”
Fisher’s dashboard went dark. An EMP, at that range? For three dangerous seconds, his car was still traveling at speed down a road with oncoming traffic and Fisher had the strange thought that this was how it was going to end. Sabra would probably be fine in that suit of hers, but not him.
God, maybe he was suicidal.
And then the seconds passed, and he felt the car jerk to a harsh and final stop as analog safety mechanisms kicked in. He blinked away the stars, pressed his artificial fingers against the back of his neck. Whiplash. It’d been a long time since he’d felt that.
He looked over to Sabra. “You okay?”
Her helmet inclined downward, slightly. “I think my nose hit the inside of my helmet, damn.”
Fisher glanced behind him. Defenda Eureka was at ground level now, approaching with long, powerful strides. “Car’s dead. We need to get moving. Right now. How far can you run?”
Sabra laughed at that, but Fisher didn’t have any idea why. “Can’t run,” she said. “Ten minutes won’t get me very far. Listen, I’ll fight this Defenda person and then– shit, I don’t know, we’ll figure that out, yeah?”
Before Fisher could respond, Sabra was already halfway out of the car, and shouting a challenge to Eureka. “I’ve been looking for a set of wings!”
“Come and get them,” he heard Defenda shout.
“Come and give them to me!”
As Fisher disentangled himself from his seatbelt, he caught a glimpse of Eureka answering Sabra’s taunt with a charge. One arm raised, she snapped off shot after shot from an arm blaster that had extended from her forearm plating. One shot found Sabra’s right shoulder guard and blew it away, but Sabra was already closing the gap.
The sounds of metal on metal rang out as Eureka and Sabra crashed into each other, pitting armored fists against each other’s powered suit. Each of them aiming for the weak sections – dented armor or exposed joints. They traded blows, sparks flying and paint scraping, and separated, seemingly satisfied with merely probing each other’s defenses.
Fisher wasn’t stupid enough to think that Sabra could be an equal match for someone like Defenda Eureka. Eureka had probably as many years fighting as Sabra had living. And yet he found himself hoping.
Sabra bounced around on her feet, the motion bizarre in her full suit. Defenda paced back and forth, like a frustrated beast looking for the weak point in its cage. Fisher figured that she was figuring out her next move – some way to bring Sabra in without killing her.
“You’re on a timer, Sabra, she’s not!” Fisher shouted, “Stop messing around!”
There was a time where he could’ve done more than shout. He could’ve raised his hands and helped Sabra more directly. But Taurine had cut that from him, killed that from him.
Now, all he could do was shout and watch and hope.
It was a sick, nervous feeling. His hand strayed to the handgun under his jacket. Would they penetrate Defenda’s suit? Fisher didn’t know, couldn’t know.
Sabra advanced, breaking into a run, just in time for Defenda Eureka to intone something ominous. “Got you.”
Eureka didn’t meet Sabra’s charge. She held her ground, weathered Sabra’s first punch, and stepped back, goading Sabra forward. And then, in a flash, Eureka darted behind her and, in one sharp motion, brought her elbow down on the backpack section of Sabra’s suit.
Something popped free in a gout of sparks. Sabra lurched forward under the impact, took two steps, and froze mid-motion. Muffled by her helmet, Fisher could hear Sabra shouting, cursing. And with good reason: without the battery powering it, Sabra’s suit was nothing but a prison.
To punctuate her point, Eureka stomped down on the disconnected battery pack. It detonated under her boot.
Seemingly satisfied that Sabra was no longer a threat, Defenda turned and pointed her arm in Fisher’s direction. An orange glow began to build in the mechanisms at her wrist. Fisher got the picture, and he went down to his knees, put his hands on his head.
“Smart move,” Defenda Eureka intoned. She kept her arm pointed at him, and the glow didn’t cease. Her helmet bobbed around, and her other hand wavered about. Subtle motions that Fisher could only pick up on because he was staring at her. But whatever she was saying, it was reserved for her and the rest of her unit.
By the time Bushranger arrived with a police truck and Anne Zach in tow, Fisher’s knees were beginning to hurt. As Bushranger hopped out of the truck and swaggered towards Fisher, evidently feeling much better, he gestured behind him with his thumb.
“Go on ahead, Defenda,” Bushranger said, pointing the way to Paradigm Tower. “Tell Barrier that we’ll be bringing in two suspects, and she’s not going to believe who we got.”
Defenda gave a little wave of a salute and took to the skies on wings of flame. Hot air – exhaust, maybe – licked Fisher’s face as Bushranger slapped handcuffs around his cybernetic wrists.
They searched him, found the gun immediately. Anne Zach examined the loaded clip and said, “Capebreakers. And just what were you planning, Fisher, hmm?”
Bushranger whistled as he hauled Fisher to his feet. “You just made my fucking day, mate.”
“I reckon I should thank you both,” Bushranger said, shoving him in the direction of the truck. “But later. For now, you’ll be getting the finest rooms this shithole has to offer. First that shooter hands himself in and now this. I knew you were all connected, mate. I knew it.”
Anne Zach pressed Fisher towards the truck while Bushranger turned away, a shock baton sparking in his hands. “Now, let’s see how brave your friend is out of that suit.”