I hate fighting flyers.
The cocky bastards always think they have the edge, and the worst part is, they’re usually right. They can duck behind cover I can’t reach on foot. They can come at me from above or below, which blows my sight lines. And some of them – like this prick Aeronaut, for example – throw things at me.
In this case, it looks a lot like it used to be a chimney stack.
Did I mention I hate fighting flyers?
I hit the asphalt at a full sprint and drop onto my side, sliding on titanium-reinforced joint ridges– heels and ankles, knees, hips, elbows. My momentum takes me under the body of a moving bus and out the other side. Aeronaut’s brick missile nails the bus dead-centre, caving a dent in its side the size of a hatchback. The bus goes into a skidding spin and wobbles to a halt in front of oncoming traffic, facing back the way it came. I spare a quick glance at the shaking driver and see the “Out of service” sign give a fitful orange blink and then wink out.
No civilian casualties. Aeronaut’s luck is better than his brains.
No time to feel superior. He’s coming at me again, with those ridiculous ankle-jets flaring up and filling the sky with a smoky purple vapour trail. I slink into the temporary safe haven of a shadowy alley and find a fire escape. Anything to even up our current elevation disparity.
At least I have one thing going for me. The Professor kitted me out for ranged defense. I unpouch a couple of razor-edged shuriken in the shape of a night shrike. At least, I assume they’re in the shape of a night shrike. I don’t know what one looks like. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s a real bird. It sounds cool, doesn’t it? Yeah. That’s what matters.
You’d think if you were someone who jets around at barely subsonic speeds in a skin-tight luge suit and no helmet, you’d cultivate some situational awareness. Not Aeronaut. He blasts around the corner after me like a hawk on fire, eyes on the alley floor. He’s so sure of himself, a class-B flyer fighting an earthbound villain, that he doesn’t even do me the courtesy of looking up.
Just for that, I decide to teach him a lesson. The first shuriken pings off the engine casing around his right ankle. It raises a few superficial sparks but does no substantial damage to the jet propulsion unit.
The other shrike-shuriken hits him square in the left buttock.
His howl is so embarrassingly shrill I instantly regret not activating the camera in my body armour. I could have gone viral with footage of the following three seconds. He goes off course, clips a bulky air-conditioning unit and crashes straight through some civilian’s bathroom window.
Colossus City is full of idiots like this, brimful of unearned power, unchecked aggression and a deeply flawed understanding of the principles of law. I mean, I’m no upstanding citizen, but I don’t fly around hitting people with architecture. I’m a business woman.
Speaking of which, my window of opportunity is closing. I hit the rooftops and cover the distance to the PerniCorp Labs office in under a minute. I may not have wings, but I get around just fine.
A notification pings from the faceless dweebs of Tethys Sentinel. They’ve hacked the alarm on the CEO’s office window, put it in a standby coma. On any other day I would laser-cut a clean hole, but Aeronaut’s interference has killed my schedule. I turn the entire pane to dust with my sonic drill and leave it to the Teths to paper over the cracks in the security system. That’s what I’m paying them for.
Forty seconds, in and out. The safe is where it’s supposed to be, my passcodes are up to date and the cameras are sightless. Professional, right?
I’m just anchoring magnetic clamps to the CEO’s desk for my descent when Aeronaut makes his triumphant return.
“Got you now, mercenary scum!”
He smashes through a window – not the one I already broke – and slams me in the midsection like he’s a linebacker for the Rhodes. Tangled together, we smash through another previously-unbroken window, which I barely notice over bellowing security alarms, roaring wind and all the air emptying from my lungs.
“Get off me, you idiot!” I gasp, trying to break his armlock around my waist. Is he trying to cop a feel? I’m at a bad angle to see his face but I have my suspicions. And not just about Aeronaut’s lack of boundaries. I think we’re gaining altitude.
“Maybe you should reconsider your career in cat burglary, Miss Shrike.”
God, he’s so pompous.
“First of all, burglary and industrial espionage are two different things. Second of all, Night Shrike is not actually my name. Third, keep those hands to yourself or you’ll lose them.”
We are definitely climbing. The lights of Colossus City splay out below, stretching along the five converging rivers like enormous fingers spreading from a sparkling hand. “Are you planning to put me down soon?”
He booms with irritatingly forced laughter. “I’m planning on teaching you a lesson, Night Shrike.”
Ah. So he’s one of those ones. In it for the sadism. Figures.
I hit record on the camera. “Y-you’re going to d-drop me?”
“I’m going to teach you to fly. A thousand feet should give you plenty of practise. So long!”
His grip loosens and I’ve had enough. I double-tap the sonic drill and blast the jets right off his ankles. As we fall apart, I unfurl my wingsuit and flatten into a glide.
Aeronaut goes into a howling uncontrolled tumble and vanishes towards the bay.
“Tread water,” I shout helpfully after him. “I’ll call the coast guard in an hour. Three at most.”
I hate fighting flyers, but what else can you do when you can’t beat them?
This was going to be next week’s story, because I’ll be out of the country next week and I wanted to get ahead in case of unreliable internet or something. Then I had my flu shot today and now I’m too damn tired to write this week’s story. So next week’s story is now this week’s story, and the story I would have written for this week is getting bumped to next week.
I mentioned I’m tired, I think.
Colossus City first appeared in “Mister Extra“, and will continue to be the venue for me getting this superhero fixation out of my system.
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