I’ve been working on the third installment of the Irregulars series. Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite. And maybe remind me to finish the thing.
When the Americans turned me into their spy to infiltrate Liberation’s Praetorian teams, I don’t think they expected me to make Team Blue. After all, how could they plan for their little experiment to be placed on the premier demi team? The one that not only fought in the nastiest combat against the aliens, but also took down the worst demi criminals. For as horrific as the alien war was, there was something undeniably satisfying being the a part of the team that did the whole “saving the world” thing. It was something I missed in the years when the world thought the Metal Ghost heroically perished during the last battle on the Demnisen flag ship. That probably explained the mixed feelings I felt as EMERGENCY CONTRACT flashed across the freelancer network. Holy shit. Emergency contracts were a general call for any demi freelancer in range to assist Liberation’s Praetorian teams. It was usually something very big. Based on all the zeroes on this contract, the emergency was one of the worst the government faced since the end of the war.
Rene’s pinging us, Delph informed me. Rene Descartes ran the largest freelancer firm in North America. He was also my main employer. I guess you could call him a friend. As much as we could be friends in the freelance business.
Put him through, I said.
“Kevin, did you see the emergency contract?” Rene asked. His accent was thicker than normal. That didn’t bode well.
“Let me guess. The powers that be specifically told you not to let me anywhere near it,” I said. Since Liberation’s upper layers found out that one of their minor freelancers was, in fact, one of their dead heroes, they let their displeasure be known. At first, there were a few assassination attempts. When those failed, Liberation did something far more sinister. They just stopped giving me government contracts. For a freelancer, that was more deadly than ninjas.
“Non. I was told to make sure the Metal Ghost showed up at Freedom Tower.” Rene fired off some rapid French to a subordinate. It sounded like “Bring all the heavy guns.” Fuck. Rene came back on the line.
“Kevin, there’s something very wrong with this contract. It’s not just freelancers. They’re offering immunity to any Irregular who participates. When have you ever seen that?”
“Never.” Oh, holy fuck. Liberation made it clear that it considered any person who still worked with the Irregulars as a potential insurgent. They could turn themselves in to be rehabilitated, but “unrepentant” Irregulars were preferred dead than captured.
“I want to put you under contract for the duration. Not for the commission, mind you. I’m worried you might need the protection.”
“Normal commission contract with standard agency rate,” I said. Rene and I weren’t exactly friends. He wouldn’t hesitate to throw me to the wolves to protect his firm under normal circumstances. Business was business. That being said, he also knew when he needed to stand with – and provide the legal protection for – a demi who would be considered an ally. Reputations were important in the freelancer world.
“Be careful Kevin,” Rene said as the emergency contract details came over the link. Except this one was different than the one on the net. This emergency contract was written especially for the Metal Ghost. As I scanned the details, I could hear the ghost of an old comrade laughing at me. She was the one who told me to be careful what I wished for.
Rene was kind enough to provide me with a ride over to Freedom Tower. The huge monstrosity dominated the New York skyline. Even the new five-hundred-meter-tall habitation towers were dwarfed by the wreck of the Demnisen flagship. I stepped out of the back of the cargo truck along with a dozen other Descartes Solutions freelancers. The streets in front of the tower were cleared of all the regular civilian traffic. Regular freelancers were being directed by Relief Force constables to help with evacuation or setting up weapon emplacements. The Praetorians were putting the freelancer demis into strike teams. The scene brought back flashbacks to the alien war.
“Metal Ghost.” The voice boomed across the square. Everyone around the front of Freedom Tower stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I was looking at the man who called my name. Praetorian Primus Novus Americana. The Team Blue leader was one of the most powerful demis in the world. Normally, he wasn’t as tall as my fully armored form, but he was wearing his own shiny new armor. The red and blue armor was emblazoned with the stylized globe sigil of Liberation. The helmet tucked under his arm was styled to look like a Roman centurion. His handsome face was taught and unreadable. He motioned for me to join him. The crowds of RFC, Praetorians, and freelancers parted as I walked across and entered Freedom Tower. Primus said nothing as we walked across the mammoth entryway of Freedom Tower. We bypassed the personnel lifts and got into a waiting cargo lift. As soon as we got in the lift, Primus put his helmet on and stared at the doors. I saw his fingers flash a familiar sign. It took less than a second for Delph to make the secure connection.
“What the fuck is going on Brian?” I asked. My oldest friend didn’t say anything for a long moment.
“Rajesh went insane,” he answered. “He destroyed Lyons.” It was like he slapped me across the face. I couldn’t process the words for a long few seconds.
“What do you mean he destroyed Lyons?”
“The entire city is gone. Everything in a ten-kilometer radius was wiped away.”
“How? Rajesh doesn’t have that kind of power,” I said.
“He does now,” Brian said. “And he’s coming here.”
The doors hissed open. We stepped out into one of the shuttle bays. Team Blue was waiting for their leader. I didn’t know anyone on the current Team Blue. They were all post-war Praetorians. Besides Team Blue, there were also a couple dozen other demis. Most were lower-ranked Praetorians wearing standard battle armor, but there was a sprinkling of freelancers. Those folks I recognized. Most I knew by reputation, but I’d worked with a couple of them. Both were powerful blasters. It looked like Liberation was getting all the big guns together to take on one of the great heroes of the alien war. Brian walked into the middle of the group. A hologram of the world appeared over the group. There was a red dot in Europe. Delph helpfully told me that was where Lyons was. Or had been if Brian was correct. Another red dot appeared on Iceland. What the fuck happened there?
“People! We are on short time. We are defending this city against Pantheon.” The gathered demis went silent. Most wore shocked expressions. I couldn’t fault them.
“There’s more,” Brian continued, “Somehow, Pantheon’s abilities have increased exponentially. According to reports, he laid waste to the city of Lyons. Fifty thousand people are believed dead.”
“How could he do that?” Mirror asked. She was Brian’s deputy on Team Blue.
“I don’t know,” Brian said. Although Brian was wearing his “game face,” I could see the bewildered hurt on his face. Rajesh had been a reluctant warrior during the alien war. From what I’d heard, he spent the post-war years helping with Liberation’s humanitarian efforts.
“There’s more. Team Gold intercepted Pantheon in New Reykjavik. Details are scarce, but it looks like Pantheon killed them all. Along with most of the city.”
“Holy sweet Jesus,” one of the Praetorians muttered before crossing himself. Team Gold was the super-elite of the Praetorians. These were the Praetorians who guarded Nova Paris – the capital of Liberation. They were led by the Praetorian Primus, and he was the scariest demi I’d ever met. If what Brian said was accurate, the only other demi I knew of with the raw power to level a city was now dead. I saw the worried looks the others were trading. If Team Gold couldn’t stop Pantheon, what could they hope to do? The only ones who didn’t have that look were Brian and Jade Ray – one of the freelancer blasters. She fought as an Irregular during the alien war. The three of us knew about going up against impossible odds.
“Pantheon is coming here,” Brian continued, “We don’t know what he’s after. We are going to stop him. The other teams down there will help to contain and try to take down any of his avatars that get past us. Our job is to stop him – any means necessary.” I could see the pain buried in Brian’s dark eyes as he uttered those words. Almost as if on cue, alarms blared through the shuttle bay. Brian put on his helmet and strode to the opening of the shuttle bay. A couple of techs raced up to me. I was handed a comm unit and a huge rifle case.
“Is this what I think it is?” I asked the tech as I opened the case.
“One destabilizer rifle,” the tech confirmed. Damn. I didn’t know Liberation kept any of the Demnisen destabilizers. You know since they were considered “weapons of great inhumanity.” Still, if Rajesh somehow got super powerful and then went off the deep end like Brian was telling us, maybe it was a good thing Liberation kept a few around. Not that I intended to give this one back. Or at least, not in repairable condition. I sent dozens of nannites into the alien weapon to tie it into my systems. Destabilizers were tricky weapons, and I’d need all the help I could get from my AI’s to control this thing. Plus, it would make it easier to wreck the weapon later.
I clipped the comm unit to the side of my head. The nannites that made up my armor interfaced with the Liberation tech to hook me up into their comma network – and let Delph in. A new window appeared in my Heads-Up Display. I was designated as Cyan-Two. It looked like Team Cyan included all the demis not on Team Blue. Fine with me. At least they weren’t stupid enough to make me the leader of this rag-tag bunch. More indicators appeared in my view. It looked like we were going to intercept Pantheon at the New South Dockyard. From the green icons, there were already Liberation Praetorian units and RFC units surrounding the docks. God, I hoped they had that place cleared out. I thought about the destruction Rajesh already accomplished. Maybe they should clear everything in a ten-block radius.
Team Blue launched out of the shuttle bay. They all had flight powers or were using those nifty Liberation jet packs. The Cyan flyers took off after them. I hopped onto an assault shuttle with the six Team Cyan demis who couldn’t fly. Sure, I could do the whole leap over tall buildings in a single bound thing, but why waste the energy? The assault shuttle made the short hop in a few minutes. Each of us were dropped off onto different buildings in the port complex. I was put down on a massive cargo crane with a clear view out to sea. A small glaring red dot was coming towards us – fast. Way too fast for it to be Rajesh. It was almost as fast as Brian when he went all out. Maestro immediately started throwing up combat courses. This was what the AI was designed for, and he loved every minute of it.
Easy, Maestro, I told the AI. We don’t have enough data. He grumbled and went back to his combat computations.
Got him, Delph announced. A new window appeared in my view. I’m pulling this from a Liberation drone. The blurring image slowed and resolved. An unearthly handsome man in a brilliant white toga with huge three-meter wings coming off his back. He was gripping a giant flaming spear in his hand.
Oh joy, he’s wearing his Archangel Michael avatar, I mused. I can’t imagine what sort of hellfire a super-charged archangel can rain down.
Why would an angel rain down hellfire? Delph asked.
I was being sarcastic, I answered. I get that way when I’m about to fight an insane old friend.
I hadn’t noticed, Delph answered with a dry haughtiness. I felt her refocus on her pirated feed.
He’s splitting. Four more red dots appeared next to Rajesh. There was a pinprick of an explosion. Damn it, he killed the drone. I have no idea who he summoned.
Rajesh was one of the rare summoners. Those demis could create creatures (avatars) or forces (elementals). The limitations were how complete a mental picture could the demi form and how much strength they put into their creation. Rajesh had been a literature professor with a focus on mythology when Purgatory hit him. He had a mind full of avatars, and he had a lot of power to give them. Where most summoners could bring one or two creations out to play, Rajesh was known to spawn a half-dozen. To top it all off, he could “wear” one of his avatars like armor – like he was doing with his Archangel Michael avatar.
Maestro, keep your aim on Rajesh, I reminded the AI, Let the rest play with his other avatars. Maestro scoffed. He was the ultimate combat AI. He didn’t need my reminders. Okay, he really didn’t for this. Reminding him was more me trying to settle my nerves.
The first two avatars arrived on scene. A Norse Valkyrie riding a winged horse and Thunderbird. Damn. Rajesh wasn’t fucking around. Those were a couple of his more potent avatars. Brian ordered Team Blue to take the Valkyrie while Cyan’s flyers were to take out Thunderbird. Maestro and I mentally looked at each other. What the fuck? Team Blue had more blasters. They should be dealing with the giant bird raining down lightning bolts. As the teams engaged, avatars three and four arrived. Artemis and Athena. Those two were a couple of Rajesh’s favorites. Also, very scary when they worked together.
Orders flashed in my comm screen. I was to hold position while the Cyan non-flyers and the Praetorians on the perimeter dealt with two goddesses. Well, that was a better call. Sort of. It left me to concentrate on the closing red dot that had once been a very good friend. Of course, that’s when it went all to hell.
Red dots multiplied. Where there was one Valkyrie, there were now four. Thunderbird was joined by Crow, Eagle, and Hawk. Artemis was surrounded by two dozen wolves while Artemis was commanding a full square of Macedonian hoplites. Holy fuck. I’d seen Rajesh do that with a single avatar. Never when he was bringing out a full team. Where was he getting all this power?
The battle on the ground was a massacre. The hoplites marched straight through the gathered Praetorians while the wolves hit them on the flanks. Any time one of the more powerful demis managed to slow the hoplites or wolves, either Artemis put an arrow into the demi’s head or Athena cut him down with her spear.
It didn’t make sense. Rajesh didn’t have that kind of power. The Praetorians should have torn through the smaller avatars without a problem. Hell, regular RFC’s should have been able to take them. The hoplites and wolves ignored the attacks as if they were as powerful as Rajesh’s full-strength avatars. If that was true, we were in real trouble. Desperate calls filled the comms net. Every Liberation unit near the docks raced towards us. I hoped it would be enough. Based on what was happening in the air, I wasn’t sure.
Thunderbird, Crow, Eagle, and Hawk dove on Team Cyan’s flyers. The Cyan Praetorians formed a flying wall, unleashing multi-colored blasts at the birds. Thunderbird scattered the beams with a wall of electricity. Damn, that was a neat trick. Then, it was the birds’ turn. Screams filled the comms as the Praetorians were ripped apart by talons and beaks. The freelancer with them died spectacularly. She waited until Hawk’s claws were deep in her. A massive explosion consumed both of them.
Team Blue was faring marginally better against the Valkyries. Both groups swirled around trading Demi blasts and blows with the arrows and sword strikes of the Valkyries. Finished with Cyan’s flyers, Thunderbird, Crow, and Eagle joined the remaining Valkyries. Nine powerful demis should have made quick work of the six avatars. There was something very wrong with how this battle was playing out. First, Brian wasn’t fighting with his team. He just hovered a hundred meters from the edge of the port as if he was waiting for something. He wasn’t even commanding the different elements in the battle. As strange as that was, the more important problem was the new intelligence of the avatars.
The avatars swirled away from Team Blue. One of the Valkyries traded her bow for a long spear. Eagle and Crow flanked her, and the trio dived at Team Blue. The elite Praetorians wordlessly came into one of their practiced formations. The formal name was Bravo Two. During then alien war we called it bruisers blocking blasters. God, Brian’s predecessor hated it when we used the slang terms. The formation was a balanced and tight flying wall. Or would have been if Thunderbird didn’t unleash a localized hurricane. Rajesh managed that only once before – and it required him wearing the Thunderbird avatar and all of his strength to pull off. Yet none of the other avatars even so much as flickered as sudden winds lashed out at Team Blue.
Lightning and arrows rained down. Mirror created dozens of her trademark floating shields. She caught most of them, but her teammate Prism took three arrows and a lightning bolt. The light blaster fell from the sky. Team Blue’s blasters went to work. Again, Thunderbird created that electrical shield. Blue Two was a devious woman. She’d seen that little trick before – and she was a half-decent summoner herself. From behind Thunderbird and the two Valkyries appeared dozens of missiles. Thunderbird dodged as the two Valkyries shot arrows at the missiles like two buzzsaw guns. They almost blunted Blue Two’s attack. Almost. There was a brilliant flash as a half-dozen missiles struck one of the Valkyries.
At that point, Eagle, Crow, and the Valkyrie lancer met Team Blue’s bruisers. The Centurion Twins raced out to meet the trio followed quickly by Samurai and Blue Three. Crow stopped in mid-air and flung out its wings. Hundreds of black birds appeared in the midst of the Team Blue bruisers. It was if a swirling, pulsing, squalling ball of darkness surrounded the four demis. Thunderbird and the Valkyrie archer kept Team Blue’s blasters busy as Eagle and the Valkyrie lancer dived into the black ball. I couldn’t see the fight. One of the Centurion Twins’ green icons blinked orange an instant before his body fell out of the ball. Then his brother joined him. Samurai fell next, leaving Blue Three to face the avatars alone. I heard muffled explosions as Blue Three triggered his “dynamite punches.” There was the faintest glimmer of hope. Blue Three was one of the ten most powerful demis for a reason. The black ball erupted in a blinding flash of energy. When it subsided, Eagle was still flying, but Blue Three and the Valkyrie were nowhere to be seen. The four remaining Team Blue members tightened up, which wasn’t an easy task in the still raging hurricane winds.
“Blue One, what the fuck? Go help your team!” I screamed at Brian over the radio.
“Cyan Two, please stay off the radio,” Brian said. The voice was flat and emotionless. There wasn’t even a hint of command authority.
Delph, get me a direct link to Brian.
I can’t. All his comm ports are active, Delph said. I tried to establish one when he let Cyan’s flyers die. She was just as confused as I was by Brian’s actions. Delph probably knew Brian better than I did. For an AI, she was incredibly perceptive about humans.
Knock one of them off.
Don’t you think I tried? Delph replied, frustration leaking into her voice. Before I could say anything else, Rajesh entered the combat zone. I couldn’t see the thin man under his avatar. The archangel looked like a Renaissance painting come to life. I let Maestro take command. Destabilizers needed to be handled carefully. I felt Maestro make micro-adjustments as he lined the weapon up with Rajesh. An instant before Maestro opened fire, Brian shot across the sky at Rajesh. Maestro cursed as I grabbed control. I didn’t care. I didn’t know what Brian was doing, but I wasn’t going to shoot him. Maestro would just consider Brian collateral damage. Maestro is ruthless like that.
“Cyan Two, hold,” Brian ordered as he engaged Rajesh. Brian easily deflected Rajesh’s spear thrust. He closed and slammed a hammer blow across the archangel’s face. Unperturbed, the archangel flew back and spun the spear as a shield. Brian closed carefully. He was taunting Rajesh, but they were too far for me to hear the words. Rajesh attacked again, slashing with the flaming spear. This time Brian sped back away from the attacks. Something about the fight was tickling my instincts. I’d seen Brian fight more times than I could count. Even against more powerful foes, he wasn’t this cagey. It was more like Brian was sparring with Rajesh.
Veils dropped and a dozen demis surrounded Rajesh. I recognized their leader. Kate. I suddenly realized what just happened. Brian coordinated with his Irregular girlfriend to spring a trap. Okay, that was an interesting turn of events, but what was the point? Brian could’ve taken Rajesh apart if he had tried. As the Irregulars attacked, Rajesh shot into the sky. They chased, but they weren’t fast enough. Rajesh brought his hands into a prayer motion. He was summoning. Maestro lined up the shot.
“Kevin, don’t,” Brian said, every bit of command in his voice. Before I could ask, the new avatar formed. It was huge – at least twenty meters tall. I didn’t recognize the multi-armed form. Delph quickly supplied the missing information.
Shiva. I recognized the name.
Rajesh never used any Hindu gods, I protested, despite the angry blue god in front of me, He always said it was blasphemy.
He’s obviously changed his mind.
“Kevin, I need you to engage Shiva,” Brian said, “That’s what he used to kill Team Gold.” I wanted to ask how the fuck he knew that, but there wasn’t time. If this avatar was that powerful, I needed to kill it fast. Maestro gleefully took control and reoriented towards the huge form as it floated towards Manhattan. Maestro took a few moments and then unleashed the destabilizer. The orange beam struck the Shiva avatar dead center. Perfect.
Elation turned to dread. The avatar didn’t even stagger from the beam. It just turned and looked at me as if I was a mosquito that just bit it. One of its hands waved towards me. Fortunately, Maestro didn’t have the incomprehension plaguing Delph and me. He leapt down as the crane disintegrated. It was like a wind just blew the massive structure to dust. Maestro reconfigured the nannites as we landed. Rolling, Maestro brought the destabilizer back up and fired again. Once again, the beam merely annoyed the avatar. We sprinted as Shiva laid waste to a quarter of the port. Massive cargo cranes and the even more massive cargo ships crumbled under the assault. How the hell was the most powerful weapon in the Liberation arsenal not doing anything?
No, the destabilizer’s doing something, Delph said. It just has a limited effect before the avatar dissipates the alien energy with its own. We sprinted across the port. Two of Artemis’s wolves appeared. Maestro formed a particle pulse pistol as the wolves attacked. Two careful bursts and the wolves disappeared in flashes of energy. Okay, the destabilizer wasn’t enough. We needed something stronger.
Tell Liberation to open fire with the guns on the tower, I told Delph, Those’ve got to have enough juice behind them. I felt her dive into the comm network.
Maestro, let’s lead that thing into our own trap. Maestro doesn’t giggle with glee. He’s incapable of doing that. Still, I could feel the impulse in the AI. I reminded him to try and limit civilian casualties. I’d been in this business too long to think this fight wouldn’t cause some. We jumped over the port’s wall and onto one of the low buildings around the port. I expected Maestro to fire again, but he leapt to another building just as Shiva unleashed another wave of destruction. The port wall and damn near half a block worth of buildings were wiped away.
Maestro slid across the roof, bringing up the destabilizer again. He fired and caught Shiva in one of its arms. There was a small hole in the forearm where the beam lanced through. So, it could be hurt. Unfortunately, that little bit of knowledge made Shiva take us more seriously. We sprinted as Shiva lashed out with another wave of destruction. Two city blocks and part of a third were leveled – along with God knew how many people. There was no way the RFC managed to evacuate everyone. The screams of the hurt and the dying filled the air as we sprinted towards Liberation Boulevard. That wide main thoroughfare led right to Freedom Tower. It would be a perfect place for Liberation to open up with the alien cruiser’s weapons.
Landing in the middle of the street, we paused. Shiva sneered as it floated towards us. Maestro hit it again with the alien weapon, just to keep its attention on us. A five-meter-long blade appeared in one of the avatar’s hands. Yeah, it wanted us dead, and it wanted to make damn sure we were dead. Just a bit longer, and the cruiser would—
They’re not going to fire, Delph told us as she popped back into our consciousness. Maestro immediately sprinted back towards the tower.
They wouldn’t say, but from what I could delve out of their systems, the Freedom Tower staff may not be sure the guns will fire.
Just wonderful. The sword came down. Maestro jinked, and Shiva dug a trench down the center of Liberation Boulevard. Water sprayed into the air as the underground pipes were severed. The blow was close enough that damage alarms blazed in my HUD. The top layer of my armor was gone. Including a lot of the nannites I used to form weapons. The destabilizer was still working at least for a few more blasts. Then it would have just enough power for me to slag the thing. The thought spurred an idea.
Maestro, get us to one of the gun mounts on Freedom Tower. The nice thing about sharing my mind with the AI’s is they immediately know what I’m planning. Vocalizing orders was redundant. Maestro was already aiming us towards the tenth floor. He still had the schematics of the cruiser from when we boarded it during the last battle of the alien war. A monomolecular blade formed in our left hand as Maestro leapt up the side of the Tower. Shiva’s blade tore apart the main entryway as the avatar tried again to swat us. As we landed on the nondescript outcropping, Maestro sliced away the facade. Just underneath the concrete was a small turret that once housed an anti-missile laser. This was going to be the tricky bit.
Delph, can you give us a distraction? Delph didn’t answer. She was busy ordering her children in the dozens of drones hovering over the combat zone. The drones dove at Shiva en masse. The goddess avatar looked confused by the attack from all sides. The look was like someone caught in a surprise rain. I wasn’t expecting the swarm to damage the avatar. I just needed it not looking at me for a few moments. I left Maestro to position us as I opened up with my demi power. There was a reason I could control a cybernetic body cludged together with human and alien tech, along with the two AI’s in my head. I was a machine whisperer. They did what I needed them to do. In this case, I reached directly to the nannites coating my body. I felt the alienness of the nannites as I coaxed them into a new form. It was intricate and unlike anything they had a pattern for. I was improvising, which was dangerous when dealing with nannites and alien power sources.
Kevin, she’s attacking! Delph screamed in our shared mind. The nannites weren’t formed perfectly, but it should work. Maybe. Hopefully. Snapping the last bit into place, we were flooded with power from the alien cruiser. Maestro channeled the power through our cybernetic body and into the destablilizer emitter – which he augmented with more nannites. Instead of the standard five-centimeter beam, we were now firing a fifty-centimeter beam – with all of the power inside Freedom Tower channeled into the blast. I poured repair nannites as fast as the Freedom Tower’s energy tore through my systems. Ten seconds lasted an eternity.
Shiva vanished in an explosion of energy. I was flung off Freedom Tower and down the boulevard for probably two or three blocks. Every fucking alarm and warning was blazing in my head. I was pretty sure the destabilizer melted into my arm. I looked around wondering why none of the Praetorian or RFC units around the tower had come after me. If to retrieve the alien blaster if for no other reason. Instead, I didn’t see anyone. Shiva’s death didn’t have the same destructive power as its attacks, but it was nasty enough. Bodies, vehicles, and building debris were scattered around like a giant’s discarded toys. The Tower lost a good bit of its facade, but the avatar’s destruction hadn’t even scratched the warship’s armor.
Kevin, as bad as this is, it may be a good time to escape, Delph said.
Escape? Rene said they wanted me on this contract, I answered, my mind feeling muzzy from the strain. Fucking biologics.
Yes, but do you think they wouldn’t take advantage of our current state to take you apart? Delph asked in reply. Okay, she had a point. Maestro, the ever-helpful bastard, put a course into the HUD. It wasn’t a direct course back to the American base, but it would get me there fast enough. Which was good, because I wasn’t sure if I had enough nannites or power to repair all the internal damage. I plucked the Liberation comm unit off and staggered down the Boulevard.