Through the dust and the gasoline
Through the cruelty of strangers
To the neon dream
Long distance information
Just tell me where the manholes steam
A little girl waits on my station
With a new machine
On Detonation Boulevard...
I got wrecked out here
In a Eldorado
I got wired, white-walled
This hot-wired sedan
I caught something weird in Encenada
I've a brother of sorts in Torquemada
Long distance information
Disconnect me if you can
On Detonation Boulevard...
Pink noise, white noise,
And a violet whining sound
It burns inside this car
No cops, no signs, no left, no right
No stops, no turning round
Well you can run but you can't ride
You won't get far
On Detonation Boulevard.
Sisters of Mercy
Brogan flew the stolen aircar toward Omega sector on instinct, only occasionally glancing at the navigation display. He didn't really need to do that—he could feel something in Omega sector drawing closer, had felt it since Jama's spell awakened the City's spirit. She sat next to him now, her hands bandaged from self-inflicted wounds. She had spilled her own blood to prevent the dark heart of Omega from taking control of the City's spirit after she awakened it. Until then, she had been about to cast yet another spell, but Brogan had cautioned her against it when he felt something powerful stirring in Omega. He had almost begged her not to.
They had stood alone in the City Center, watching the Spirit of Angelus, a towering Digital Angel armed for battle, streaking away towards the invaders, when Jama announced her attention to perform an encore. She had already defeated one attempt by Gurzorath to wrest control of the Angel away from her, and felt confident she could accomplish much more. But Brogan wasn't so sure. He pointed in the direction of Omega. "Jama, you've Awakened something in Omega, and it knows where you are right now. It knows what you're doing. Whatever you decide, whatever happens afterwards, I'll be with you, but it's just you and me here."
Jama understood that somehow, Brogan always seemed to know when there were Entities on the move. She thought for a moment and said, "Let's get back to the Squad." They were walking back to the car they'd 'borrowed' when Gurzorath (or one of his servants) tried to take control of the City's awakened spirit yet again. Jama drew her kris and grasped the blade with both hands, pouring her own blood into the spell to assert her control over it once and for all. Brogan looked at her in shock as she staggered from the blood loss and emotional strain. "Okay, I'm driving this time."
He wrapped Jama's hands first, then they radioed the Lieutenant. Masada had teleported straight to the Wall, just outside Omega sector, and he had the nuke with him. Brogan and Renuka would have to meet the rest of the squad there, and try to stop him. And they were both wounded. He still had burns from the Soul Stealer's pyrokinetic attack, and Jama was going to have a hard time casting spells with her hands wrapped up like that. Not the best time to take on a world-class esper with a nuclear weapon and a private army. This is insane.
The car they had stolen was fast, and they didn't have far to go. They only had a couple of minutes to discuss tactics. Brogan remembered Jama shouting "I don't want to die" back in the garage, before the invasion. I'm not gonna let that happen. But she won't be safe with me, anywhere near Omega. "Jama, have you got that flying spell ready?"
She sounded a bit confused, but answered "Yes, why?"
"You won't want to be in this car when it lands."
Then they saw the Wall. And Masada. And his infiltration team.
Brogan didn't know how many people Masada could teleport. He expected the Esper would bring along the obligatory "can of whoop-ass" to make things interesting. Masada hadn't stopped there. He hadn't been content with just a six-pack, either. He'd decided to open up a whole case. It looked like at least a squad of clades, several suits of power armor, and... something Brogan had never seen before. At least two of them, and they were freakin' huge.
Brogan had been considering a kamikaze-style attack on Masada using the aircar as a guided missile, counting on his toughened cyborg body to survive, but when he saw the firepower protecting Masada, he immediately abandoned the idea. The car would never get past all those guns under control and hit its target, even if Brogan did survive somehow. Then Brogan saw Hemelshot's spinner, doing exactly that, aiming not at Masada, but at the hulking creatures in front of him. Whatever they were, a crashing aircar didn't seem to bother them.
Brogan saw the rest of 9th Squad below him, and had a moment of awful clarity, as he saw the entire battle taking shape in his mind. Masada had the advantage, the numbers, the firepower, and the position. He'd done this by simply bypassing most of his opposition. Damned teleporters. Well, two could play at that game. Brogan couldn't teleport, but he could still get past most of Masada's defenses. He put the car into a steep climb, and looked over at Jama. "Guess it's time for you to bail out. I'll get back together with the squad as soon as I can." Then he turned back to the controls. He'd been through this before—as he approached the Wall, everything in the car would fail, one system at a time.
"What are you doing, Brogan?" Jama already knew the answer.
Brogan kept his eyes on the controls. So far, so good. "Making sure he doesn't get over the Wall. Now, go!"
He cleared the top of the Wall, and saw Omega sector again for the first time since 9th Squads' expedition to find Jester. It was everything he remembered—burned, ruined, horrible. Dead. Just like him. He wanted to go back. Omega sector had been waiting for him to return. Nobody else could go there, but he'd be safe, and if Masada got past the Wall, Brogan would be there, ready for him. The rest of the Squad would be just fine without him while he waited to ambush Masada in the Omega Sector. It was a perfect plan....
He felt Jama's peck-on-the-cheek kiss before he realized what she'd done. By the time he snapped out of it, she had already heeded his warning and bailed out of the car, flying to join the rest of 9th Squad. Had Brogan imagined it? The sound of her voice shouting "Good luck!" over the roar of the wind as she opened the car door still echoed in his ears. What the hell had he been thinking? He couldn't go into Omega sector alone! Jama was counting on him, and so was the rest of the Squad. For that matter, so was Cadbury, and everyone else. The whole City was on the line!
Fucking insane. Was that magic, or am I really that attached to her? We keep doing this crazy 'bailout' shit, and I'm gonna repaint the back of my clamshell. "If you can read this, the witch fell off."
Brogan checked the car—it was going to hell, real fast, but still flying. He altered course slightly, towards a guard tower overlooking Masada's staging area next to the Wall. The car's engine gave out as it passed over the Wall, just above the tower, and Brogan bailed out. He couldn't fly like Jama, but cyborgs are great jumpers. Brogan's landing wasn't perfect, but he was on top of the tower in one piece. He couldn't say the same for the car—it flew over the Wall, out of control, hard-landed and scattered pieces of itself across a large swath of Omega sector. Brogan stood up, and unlimbered the P-88 particle beam he'd been issued. Then he looked down on the battlefield. Somehow, he'd done it. He was overlooking Masada's rear area, and neither Masada nor any of his minions knew Brogan was there.
The battle had reached a fever pitch. Yiska was throwing trucks again. Blue Steel was badly damaged, but still fighting like mad. Carpenter still didn't have his sword. Hemelshot seemed to have survived yet another car crash. But they were still badly outnumbered. Masada screamed orders at his troops, exhorting the clades and power armor pilots to "deal with them."
Brogan drew a bead on the mad Esper and growled "Deal with this!" But the P-88 was nothing like the C-90 maser which Brogan was used to, and the shot went wide. Masada realized he'd been outflanked, and Brogan realized he'd lost the element of surprise. At this point, both men knew their bad day had just gotten much worse. Brogan fully expected to feel the wrath of Masada's esper abilities next, against which he had no idea how to defend himself, so he figured it was all over. But instead Masada made two fatal mistakes—he decided to make another pompous speech, and arm the nuke.
Brogan registered three simultaneous thoughts when Masada did this: 1) That his brains had not been blasted into a million pieces by a world-class esper, 2) that said esper was also a world-class windbag, and 3) that Angelus was about to be engulfed in a nuclear fireball. Point #2 was extremely annoying, point #3 considerably more so, but fortunately, point #1 had given him a golden opportunity to do something about it. Brogan slung the P-88 (he couldn't hit a damn thing with it, honestly) and jumped. Yeah, cyborgs can jump, remember? It was most of 40 meters, so Masada wasn't exactly expecting it. Sometimes even espers get surprised.
And Brogan screamed all the way down—an incoherent shout of rage at Masada for trying to destroy his City. He was falling fast enough, yelling loud enough, that by the time he landed, Masada could hear the doppler effect changing up the pitch of Brogan's scream. That was nothing though, compared to the sound of Brogan's actual landing. He brought down both fists on Masada's telekinetic shield, shattering it without slowing down, then followed through and plowed into Masada like a wrecking ball. Masada's unconscious form went flying, and Brogan lay there next to the nuke, momentarily stunned.
When he looked up, six angry clades had assault rifles trained on him. And the nuke's timer read 15 seconds. "You guys oughta run like hell, unless you like nuclear fireballs." They didn't move. It looked like he'd have to do this the hard way. None of them saw Hemelshot coming, but they sure as hell heard him arrive! "Disarm the bomb, Brogan. I'll draw their fire!" He drew their fire, all right, running wildly past the troops, shouting at the top of his lungs. Not that it did much to him—they all hit him, with negligible results.
Brogan stood up, and one of the clades still had a bead on him—a burst of automatic fire clanged off his clamshell, also with little effect. About this time, Masada came up behind Brogan, but for some reason didn't attack him. (He found out later, Yiska had taken control of his mind.) Twelve seconds left to disarm the bomb. Brogan didn't know much about nukes, but he was a veteran of the Angelus PD bomb squad, and the timer and controls on this device looked familiar, so he tried a couple of standard overrides he knew. There was no time for anything else. Most people changed them as a matter of routine, but then, a few techs didn't know about this one....
Ten seconds. The timer stopped with ten seconds left. Masada keeled over unconscious again as Yiska did something unpleasant to his brain. Hemelshot walked over before anyone else could react and delivered a killing shot to the esper's skull. Masada's followers went crazy when they realized their prophet was dead. Brogan grabbed the nuke under one arm, and leaped away from the mob of angry clades, taking Hemelshot with him to safety. Fortunately, with Masada dead, they no longer had any real reason to fight—after that it became a rout. Victorious, 9th Squad began to regroup.
Brogan saw them gathering across the barricaded street littered with bodies and the smoking wreckage of Enochian power armor—Tyger's excellent handiwork. Nathan Carpenter came walking out of the smoking chaos, and summoned the Spatha Sancta, to Brogan's amazement. He realized the Holy Badge could have done so at any time, yet he had fought without the sword, leaving it locked away safely at X-SWAT HQ, to keep it out of Masada's hands. Yiska and Hemelshot were, inevitably, exchanging words about Masada's death. And Jama...
...damn it, why does this keep happening? Jama would've been safer up on the tower. Yeah, Brogan you're a friggin' great quarterback come Monday morning. You can't knock out Masada, disarm his nuke and play bodyguard for a sorceress who's almost as reckless as you are, all at the same time. So settle for two outta three.
Jama lay unconscious on the sidewalk, wounded, but not mortally so. Carpenter reached her first, cradled her in his arms, and healed her wounds by the power of his faith and will. Jama's eyes opened and looked into his. He set her back on her feet, and her gaze remained fixed on him. Jama reached up and put her arms around him, and kissed him. No chaste peck on the cheek this time—Jama's lips met his. Carpenter didn't respond. Afterwards, Jama rested her head on his shoulder and said "I love you, Carpenter."
Yeah, definitely safer up on the tower. Like she didn't have enough enemies—now she's gonna piss off Mrs. Carpenter. Can't help you with that one, Jama. What say we go back to Omega and give Gurzorath a wedgie instead? That'd be a lot more fun....
Carpenter simply replied "I know." But the words carried the weight of a whole conversation; understanding, acceptance, and underneath that, a stern but gentle admonition. Nobody in the squad said anything. Jama looked acutely embarrassed. Brogan was just glad she'd pulled through in one piece, again. (Nobody had seen her kiss him, just minutes before. Our little lady was getting around today....) He walked over to the two of them, still carrying the nuke on one shoulder, and looked at her with a knowing grin, shaking his head slightly.
Brogan finally broke the silence. "I'll bet you say that to all the boys."