We hadn't gotten far before one of Scourge's team found us.
She came at me when we turned the corner; short, dark haired and tan skinned, with arms that looked as if they had been dipped in metal from fingertip to shoulder. I caught a brief glimpse of the intricate circuitry that wrapped around each appendage moments before her knuckles met my face.
There was a flash of energy followed by a solid k-thunk as I felt my eyeballs rattle around in their sockets while I was thrown down the hallway. I didn't know what was going on with her arms, but her fists were like a set of high-powered pistons--her punches felt like getting hit by speeding dump-trucks.
Sumerset lifted the freeze-ray to fire, but the woman had already ducked out of the way and down the next corridor; behind us, the steady growl of powered armor rumbled from above.
"Shit," Sumerset said, torn between the two directions. "Flanking us. Alright, you try to plow through her. Get down to the Vault. I'll handle whatever the hell is coming this way."
I gave him a look. He was an old man with a piece of outdated hardware. But he just threw me his reckless grin.
"Don't worry, kid. I'll be fine. Go. I'll meet you in the Vault."
I turned and ran.
He called himself Man-of-War. He wore a suit of powered armor with glass-plated slots for eyes and a scowl-like grill; the golden-colored ceramic armor towered at 7 feet, every inch of it bristling with weaponry. When he arrived in the hallway, all he found waiting for him was an old man with a freeze ray.
And a crowbar.
"Nice suit," Sumerset said.
"You should know," Man-of-War responded. "Based it off your design."
Sumerset pointed the freeze ray at him; Man-of-War chuckled.
"Really, now? You can do better than that. This thing'll operate at sub-zero temperatures, no problem. And ice is hardly an issue for ceramics."
"I figured," Sumerset said, and he turned the ray toward one of the pipes that lined the wall. The beam struck it, sheathing it in frost; he brought the crowbar down into a savage arc, shattering it.
A thick geyser of water swelled up and out of it, hitting Man-of-War in the chest.
"What the--" Man-of-War began, but then Sumerset fired the freeze ray again--aimed straight at the jet of water.
Frost followed the spray down to its source and up to its target, creating a frozen cage of ice that locked around Man-of-War's suit. At once, he was locked in position, his joints frozen stiff.
"You son of a bitch," he said.
"Prety much," Sumerset agreed. He turned to go--
--only to watch a single red blade scissor down and cleave the freeze ray in half.
"Good evening, Sumerset," Scourge said as he stepped out into the hall. "I was hoping we might have a chance to chat." He looked different, now--still clad in white, but with a mouth that was several inches too wide. When he smiled, his entire head seemed to split from ear to ear. Something about his eyes, too--they burned.
"Go ahead and talk," Sumerset said, and he brought the crowbar down to the control panel to his left. There was a shower of sparks, followed by a sharp hiss. A six ton glass-plated blast-door slammed down like an anvil, locking into place between Scourge and himself.
Man-of-War's gears snarled against the icy cage, cracking the frost inch by inch. Sumerset turned, pulled the crowbar out of the panel, and pulled out several wires. In only a few moments, he had coaxed a second blast door to descend--this one locking down between himself and Man-of-War. A moment later and the armored villain managed to twist his way out of the ice, breaking it with a loud crack.
Now Sumerset was trapped--locked between two glass walls and the men on either side.
Scourge snorted. "Man-of-War, would you be so kind?"
"Gladly," Man-of-War said, and he reached for another panel. Metal crumpled beneath his fingers as he yanked the front end off; a wire extended from the suit's wrist and plunged inside of the circuitry. "Shouldn't take longer than a minute."
"Now," Scourge said. His attention turned back to Sumerset. "Let's have that chat, shall we?"
The woman who had sucker punched me in the hallway was waiting for me just a few yards away. Except this time I was expecting it.
Whe she threw a punch, this time I sidestepped and blocked--only to feel a rush of energy bat me aside like I was a cat-toy. I realized then that force was extending out of her fists--I could even see it as she punched. It was like her entire arm was sheathed in a slightly larger, semi-transluscent fist made out of bluish silver energy.
"Figures," I rumbled through my helm, and then I sprang to my feet to attack.
This time, the energy took the form of a shield; my fists battered off of it harmlessly. Immediately, I thought of Paladin--was this something similar?
Before I could give it much more thought, she hammered two more blows into my torso and sent me slamming against the wall. I felt metal dent behind me.
Sumerset hadn't had a chance to explain the suit much before we left, but I could tell that the armor was doing something different--I felt it hardening and relaxing with each blow, like a muscle that clenched in response to a hit. It meant the blows were being displaced along my entire body rather than concentrated in a single spot; otherwise, I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be able to get up after her first hit. When I sprang back to my feet after the second and third, she seemed genuinely surprised.
"Aren't you a spritely thing," she said, and then the energy shifted from fists and into a two handed sword.
"That's a pretty cool power," I said, and then I charged.
The sword came down for my shoulder. I felt it bite through the armor--but then I felt the wire-like webbing beneath tighten, locking the sword in. The woman was caught off surprise--I threw all my weight into her, throwing her off her legs and continuing to push her down the corridor.
"But you know what's an even cooler one?" I asked as I aimed for the glass plate behind her, hitting it with tremendous force--enough to nearly dislocate my shoulder. But she took the brunt of the impact. We smashed against the pane and descended together, falling over two dozen feet into the Vault.
When we hit ground, it was with a tremendous crack. I felt bones break--hers, not mine. As I slowly got up and dis-tangled myself from her unconscious figure, I could feel the wound she'd scored on my shoulder already closing up--along with the bruises from the fall.
"Being able to walk away from that," I said, and then I ran deeper into the Vault.
"You might as well give up," Scourge said, watching Sumerset as Man-of-War worked to disarm the blast-doors.
Sumerset shook his head with a smile. He had withdrawn a cigarette from his coat, and was now in the process of lighting it; once he had it good and burning, he reached in his coat for his cellphone.
"Don't bother," Scourge said. "Man-of-War's jammed all outgoing signals. No one you can call for help."
Sumerset started pressing numbers. Scourge's eyes narrowed; he shifted his attention to the distant figure of Man-of-War.
"Figure out what he's up to," Scourge said.
Man-of-War nodded; part of the wrist-plate on his arm raised up, exposing a control panel. He brought his other armored hand around and carefully started tapping buttons. A moment later and he spoke--not even the metal hum of his suit's voice could mask his puzzlement.
"Huh. He's, uh, not sending a signal out of the base..."
"What is he sending?" Scourge said, growing impatient.
"It's--oh. Just a text message," Man-of-War said. "Apparently to another cellphone somewhere in the base."
Sumerset finished what he was doing and flipped the phone closed.
"Let's see," Man-of-War said. "Pulling the content now. It's--hm. Apparently..." Man-of-War paused. "Huh."
"What?!" Scourge said.
"What the hell is a 'Dreadbot'?" Man-of-War asked. "And what's 'Berzerk Mode' mean?"