When the mohawked man catches my fist and throws me into the air, I expect to have my eyes flash before my eyes, because I just don’t feel like I should survive something like this.
And yet, I do. I land on my feet and don’t even flinch. This is the part I love about fighting–the fact I’m pretty good at it.
Amy charges at the man, slugs him in the stomach. He laughs and then tosses her aside. He winds up for an attack on me.
I loosen up. Gotta get in my scrappy boxer mode. I put up some fisticuffs, crack my neck, and start doing mini-hops in place. Here we go.
He wound it up, and now he’s launching the punch, his arm moving so fast it might not even be perceptible to the human eye. And, just after it’s out of the gate, after its position can no longer be adjusted, I jump to the side and let him fly past me as he is unable to control the momentum of his own attack.
I turn around and get ready for a second attack. As soon as he’s regained himself, he lunges again, this time with his whole body. All I have to do for this one is lean to the side and stick a leg out, and he’s tripped, tumbling onto the floor.
He gets back up and flashes a shark tooth smile. At the same time, Amy steps up beside me and gets ready for another charge.
She runs forward, doing the exact same thing she did last time. Instead of shoving her, the man pulls back his elbow and punches her in the face. A yellow zap of electricity follows. She falls to the ground, and the back of her head hits the floor. She ain’t getting up for a little while.
But then the man takes it a step further, and kicks her in the side. He readies another punch.
I slide on the floor in front of her and block his hands with mine. It’s… very difficult… to hold him back. How the hell powerful is this man…
“Gotcha,” he says.
Electricity starts flowing from his hands, shocking me with the voltage of a taser.
Of course, nothing happens to me.
I’m not exactly normal.
“The hell’s with you?” he asks.
“I guess we’ve both got cybernetic abilities,” I say. “But mine are way better.”
“Good to know,” he says. He grunts, and the voltage increases, really starting to tingle. But I’m still holding him back. In fact, I might be pushing him. If I can just… keep…
Then, the man lets go, pulling his hands back and punching one more time. I grab his fist again, but with both hands.
And, of course, that proves to be my ultimate undoing, considering I’m immobile, and he has a free fist, one that hits me in the chest and knocks me a good six feet backwards. I don’t land on my feet this time, but I hop back up.
The man laughs. “Thought you were gonna kick my ass,” he says. He rushes up to me and reaches to pound my face in.
I block him with my arms and push him away. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself,” I say. “Fight ain’t over yet, Mr. Shocky Hand Guy.”
“Just about is, Little Morgan. Too bad I couldn’t kill you this time.”
At this moment, he takes off running away from the conference room door–
And then from behind me, a team of four Blade Runners, complete in long jackets, swords, and scouters over their right eyes, jump and take a battle formation. I don’t recognize them. They also don’t seem to acknowledge my existence.
Our knights in shining armor, indeed.
“Pearl! After him!” shouts the apparent leader, a blonde-hair, blue-eyed beautiful man with a giant pulse rifle in his hands. The Blade Runner named Pearl dashes off to chase after the mohawked man, leaving three Blade Runners next to me and the now-unconscious Amy. But instead of asking me any questions or trying to help my friend, they simply dash past the doorways and into the conference hall.
I look down at Amy. “I’m really sorry for everything,” I say, mostly to myself considering the circumstances.
I don’t want to leave her. But I leave.
The lives of everyone taken by the Sakaguchi Knights, everyone literally snatched away by rampaging war robots, are at stake. To the best of my ability, I’m going to save all of them. I enter the conference hall, dash down aisle upon aisle of empty seats, and reach the front stage… where eleven robots are surrounding a group of various men and women in suits, mostly older, mostly white, all scared shitless.
In front of the stage are five Secret Service agents with guns trained on the robots, as well as two of the three Blade Runners. The third is actually already on the stage, holding her sword in an attack position.
And yet, nobody is moving, probably on account of the fact that these robots have guns pointed at all of these hostages.
The hostages are mostly people I don’t recognize, people like the man who I saw get snatched up–Harold, I think was his name. But there are a few I do, most notably Jimmy Carter, who is looking defiant but not at all healthy with the possibility of his impending demise in front of him. And Donald Blyth stands there with his arms crossed, eyes closed. Then there are several Japanese men from Sakaguchi itself, including… There he is. Karina’s father, looking petrified. Where is Karina? Oh, God, please be okay…
“IS THE CAMERA ON?” one of the robots bellows with a voice loud enough to reverberate across the entire conference hall.
The Blade Runner on the stage says, “Yes. The camera’s on and broadcasting. Now please tell us your demands. Please.” She inches closer.
What can I do… What can I do…
The robots then turn in unison to face the front of the stage, where there is apparently a live broadcast recording right now. One of them steps out in front and does a polite bow before beginning its speech, its robotic, monotone voice sounding less like an advanced robot’s and more like a menacing 80s arcade game boss:
“This is a message from John Vann, the next mayor of the city of Atlanta. I have been biding my time for years now, and I have waited for the time to strike, to make a Second Surge. That time is now. The Earth Group has amassed a great force, and now I shall make my return to my home to end the evils of greed, capitalism, and the destruction of our planet.
“These men and women here are the worst of Atlanta. They are an example of what happens when the seed of money sprouts and poisons the soil.
“These despicable technological robots, these so-called “knights,” have been their downfalling. We have reprogrammed their weapons and used them against themselves, so that they can see what it is like to be on the other end of their war machines. If they want war, we shall give it to them directly.
“And therefore, we will make an example of one of them before you. To hurt them just as they have hurt us for decades.”
One of the robots steps out of line, grabs Donald Blyth, and drags him to the front of the stage. There’s sobs and screams from the hostages.
There’s nothing I can do. If I jump on-stage, he’ll die. If I wait, he’ll die. If I attack the robots, I’ll die and so will everyone else.
A deep pit wells up at the bottom of my stomach.
“Blyth Industries has supplied weaponry to armies across the planet. It has dumped toxic waste in our rivers and burnt our forests. We will no longer tolerate the endless overseas wars, the destruction of the environment, or the insidious corporate brainwashing brought forth by Donald Blyth and his company. Therefore, he will die.”
One of the Sakaguchi Knights raises a gun to Blyth’s forehead. Blyth looks forward, emotionless. “If this is what will save Atlanta, then I accept my fate. This is what the city deserves.”
All sound in the room stops. Silence reverberates like a black hole.
I look away. Close my eyes.
There’s a thumping sound.
And I look–
A smoking hole from Blyth’s forehead.
I can smell the burning skin.
Then, with no further warning, the robots deactivate, their eyes turning off and their bodies slumping over. One of them falls to the floor and makes a loud crash.
As the Blade Runners and Secret Service agents storm the stage to free everyone, I realize I can’t move. I’m frozen in place.
I feel frozen, but not just physically.
I failed. The day wasn’t saved. Not by me. I was just a bystander. An onlooker. Someone who could do absolutely nothing to prevent absolute catastrophe, even with all the puzzle pieces in front of them.
Or, rather, all the pieces but one.