I'd only heard a little bit about the 'Cape-Busters', but it was enough. They were a federally-funded military response team designed to handle non-registered capes and occasional powered crazies. Most major cities had a squad of them on stand-by.
Supposedly, they were damn good at what they did.
Sumerset seemed to think so.
"Get away from the windows," he said. "Stay low. I'm turning your suit up to full."
The armor's hum increased in volume. Suddenly, a single step was like walking on a trampoline. My arms felt like spring-loaded sledge-hammers; my toes were rockets on the verge of igniting.
"Don't pull your punches. Most of them will be wearing body-armor. Get outside as fast as you can--I'm coming for you."
The window to my left exploded. A man in urban camo swung in from a length of cord, landing in a crouch. His face was shrouded behind a gas mask and helm. He was holding a very big gun that was currently pointed at my chest.
"Freeze," he shouted, and in the same breath, he fired. I was already moving--coming in low as a thread of lightning arced over my head. The gun resembled an immense taser; instead of a bullet-clip, it had a big battery stick.
I drove my feet into the floor, letting the armor do the work. The legs snapped like a bow--I was launched at him like an arrow, slamming into him shoulder-first and driving him back through the window. The sheer force of impact sent a bolt of pain up my arm; the poor bastard was flung forty feet back, his tether cord snapping taut as he dangled in the night.
More had come in through the window behind me. I turned around just in time to catch one of their taser shots straight in the chest. My muscles clenched in expectation of the shock--and then--nothing.
"Armor works like a Faraday Cage," Sumerset explained. "Redirects flow through itself and to the ground without so much as shorting a circuit. That trick won't work twice, though. They'll switch to concussive rounds. Move."
I did. My feet pounded into the floor; I leapt down the shattered steps, landing besides Sharkface's unconscious form.
"Shit," Sumerset said.
Police lights flashed outside the slum, painting the room in alternating blasts of red and blue.
"Roof!" Sumerset said.
I turned. The first round slammed into my stomach, then exploded.
It was like getting socked in the belly with a two ton fist made of lead. I Even through the armor, I could feel it--and I crumpled. Air left me in heavy gasps; I was sent reelign back toward the door.
I threw myself low and charged. Another shot popped off behind me, blowing a three foot hole in the floor. I flew up the shattered steps and brought my fist straight into the soldier's torso.
Something cracked. He flew into the ceiling, smashing through tile and wood.
"Probably came here for Sharkface," Sumerset said. "Weren't ready for you--but that'll change real fast. If you ain't out of here by the time they start turning on their power armor--"
"I've got power armor," I said, wheezing. I darted through the next room, springing past gunfire and ducking up the next flight of steps.
"Theirs is better," he said. "Theirs is always better. Government always has better gear, better training, better experience."
"Then what do we have?"
"Bigger balls. Watch up ahead."
As soon as I stepped around the corner, I got a face full of fist. My torso snapped back; the view screen flickered and crackled. I was sent careening into the wall, landing with a smash.
The man who punched me wasn't wearing body armor. He had a headset, a tank top, and camo pants--along with a bulky metal backpack. Two hinged 'wings'--no more than thick strips of steel--extended from the back of the pack, ending in handles that doubled as iron knuckles. He held these handles, swinging them with his fist--it was probably how he managed to knock me back with one punch.
"Activating a flare. Hold out your hand."
I did. Something lashed out from my wrist, exploding in a blazing hot white light. The helm's viewport adjusted accordingly, keeping my visibility high.
The soldier cursed, stepping back.
"Keep going," Sumerset said.
I started to move. Then I heard a voice behind me.
"You the new Skull? Replacing that crazy bitch from before?"
My feet froze. I turned, setting my sights on the soldier. He was grinning through his blindness, flexing his augmented fists.
"It's a trick," Sumerset said. "Don't just stand. Move!"
"Maybe crazy runs in the family. You her sister? Brother? Daughter? Son?"
My fists clenched.
"MOVE!" Sumerset roared.
"I'm only askin' on account of me figuring that if you were related to her, you'd wanna know that I'm the one who put two bullets into her pretty little skull," he said.
Something hard and hot surged up into my chest.
I lunged at him, swinging my fists in a blind, furious rage.