“You are strong but you are not strong enough to hold this city. Tell Lord Grave that I have come.” Taker was surrounded by a dim green glow at this point. Every instinct that Hector had said he should’ve opened fire the moment he spotted the guy. He didn’t carry a sniper rifle but a scoped assault weapon had more than enough range to be effective. Sadly, Operative Grave had been right about playing by the rules. It kept the collateral down.
“Lord Grave does not waste his time on weaklings.” It didn’t matter what he said; he just had to buy time for Jason or Robert to get here. “If you would face him, prove yourself against me first.”
“So be it.” The green glowing man lowered his head and charged forward into the Circle.
“Pass the breadsticks?” Liz said.
“Sure.” Hector moved the basket closer to his date. Italian wasn’t his favorite but Liz had declared the bread to be worth it regardless. The fierce look in her eye had been so adorable that he hadn’t argued.
The waiter arrived and set their food down. Liz’s arm twitched in its sling when she saw her chicken.
“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am. Should I-” The waiter’s look of horrified embarrassment visibly changed to relief when Hector interrupted him.
“No, that’s fine. I’ve got this.” He stood up and moved to Liz’s side of the table.
“Thanks.” she said, with a rueful glance at her injured arm.
Hector just smiled as he cut her food for her.
Hector entered the abandoned building with a mixture of weapons. The first hims in carried pistols and stun batons. Supporting them he had shotguns and assault rifles. Better yet, every single one of him inside the building was tossing flash bangs out like candy. His tactical helmet was more than capable of filtering the light and the noise for him.
The resistance was… spirited, to be charitable. Dressed in a collection of rags and cast-offs, punctuated here and there with more conventional clothes for what Hector assumed were the leader, the Battlegrounders attacked with clubs, knives and a few pistols. If one of them hit just right, they might have been able to do damage but it wasn’t likely. Hector was wearing a Kevlar bodysuit with ceramic plates protecting his forearms and vital areas.
Hector set his mother’s vitamins in a little plastic cup, set the cup next to her bowl and carried her tray up the stairs. As he went up the stairs, he heard her singing to herself. He smiled as he balanced the tray of food in one hand and knocked on her bedroom door. The singing stopped.
“Come in.” she called out cheerfully. It was a good day, apparently. He opened the door, grinning, and set her food on the nightstand by her bed. His grin vanished when he saw what she was wearing.
“Mom, I told you you don’t need to go back to work.”
She blew a raspberry at him and laughed. “Honey, I’m not sick anymore and I refuse to sit around while my son works multiple jobs to support me.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, cause working a few dozen jobs is actually a problem for me. Come on Mom.”
She shrugged. “Sure, but Hector, I want to work. I spent more than enough time lying in bed, now it’s time to get out and do something.”
“Yeah, okay.” he said with a sigh. “If anyone can get that, I guess it’s me.”
Twenty five Hectors maintained a steady stream of fire while four more kept watch and half a dozen kept Taker busy in melee. Keeping himself out of the line of fire was trivial and his marksmanship was more than up to the task of hitting an overlarge man who wasn’t even bothering to take evasive action. Luckily, Taker wasn’t much of a fighter. His swings were slow, telegraphed, and he didn’t even try to block Hectors’ attacks with knives or the stun batons he’d set to maximum charge.
Unfortunately, that green glow seemed to have a lot in common with Isaac’s field. So far it had soaked up everything Hector threw at it without any sign of weakening. There was a spark of white each time a bullet hit, a larger one when the batons made contact, but that was all. Well, maybe not quite all. Hector thought it might be getting brighter and it seemed to be protecting him from the flares and flash bangs he’d used too.
Hector was bent over his desk, speaking swiftly and calmly. “Be advised, Taker’s field is increasing in brightness, unclear whether that translates to an increase in strength or toughness but it seems likely.”
“Understood. What is the strongest impact it has sustained thus far?” Jason’s voice asked.
Hector paused a moment before answering. “Simultaneous hits from twenty five assault rifles and six grenades. Current theory is that Taker’s field is based on kinetic absorption.”
“That… may be a problem. Hopefully I will not need to resort to physical force.”
Hector strode through the Battlegrounders’ hideout, firing with casual accuracy and an utter lack of fear. On some level, he was aware that this shouldn’t feel so good. He stepped over a woman, either dead or obeying his instruction to lay prone. But this was what he was for, this was what he’d been training to do. A man came around the corner, clutching a bent piece of metal, and Hector shot him in the face then raised his off hand to wipe the resulting bloodspray from his visor.
Another him saw the woman rise from the ground behind him and he side-stepped just as she fired the pistol she’d hidden. Not dead then. He pointed his gun behind himself and shot her without pausing in his stride. He came to a door. In the original blueprints, this had been manager’s office. He kicked it open, too flimsy to need a breeching charge, and split as he entered. The new hims went left and right while he went straight forward.
There wasn’t a desk, but a woman wearing a brown robe sat in a large, overstuffed leather chair. Weird, he wouldn’t have expected something like that to be left behind. It was the last coherent thought those three Hectors ever had.