After Azalea tossed her back into her cell, Martina waited about thirty minutes. She wanted to be sure all of her body parts were working correctly. She was exhausted and in seven kinds of pain, but she knew she could function.
She used her teeth to pare down Azalea’s Wazgretco scrunchie to just its wire. After she finished, the wire was about the length of an extended paper clip. She curved the end of it, like a fish hook.
She began working her wrist cuffs. After about five minutes, she heard the blessings of angels: click. With her hands free, using the wire to work her ankle cuffs was infinitely easier. About a minute later she heard the next click.
Her left foot was a little less sore than her right. Okay.
She dumped the contents of the bucket in the corner – wretched – and placed the bucket bottom-side-up in front of the steel door.
She stood on the bucket briefly, to test her weight. The bucket didn’t buckle. Now she placed her two hands on the bucket’s rim and did a bit of a handstand on top of it, like a circus performer.
Martina brought her legs around and Wham! kicked the door’s outer window with her left foot. The impact knocked her off balance and off the bucket.
She did another handstand on the bucked and kicked the window again. Wham! She fell off again. Had she made any impact? She stood and looked. Yes. A very tiny dent. The steel of the window was probably quite thin, though it did hurt her foot.
Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.
Finally the steel door’s window popped open, causing a single beam of light to enter into her cell. The window was too small for her body, but hopefully that wouldn’t matter.
Martina thought: what were they thinking? Most doors were keyed to your ring’s specifics, which were in turn keyed to your fingerprints. They wanted the theatrics of a medieval dungeon? Well, now they were going to pay the price.
Martina stuck her arm out of the little window. She could barely reach the lock at hand-level, but barely was enough. She put the little wire in the keyhole and began twisting. Do not drop it, she told herself. Remember the training. Put your chi into your fingers and do not tremble.
As she twisted the wire in the lock, Martina heard noises coming from beyond the walls of the room outside the cell. It sounded like thumps, bo strikes, even gunshots. It sounded like a battle.
Arrgh, this lock-picking was stretching her already-bruised arm. Martina felt as though she were hanging on one gymnasium’s ring for extended minutes.
Finally, the sweet, sweet click. And it opened outward, thank God, so all she had to do was push out her weight.
Now Martina was in the lit room from before. The bos were gone. She tried the room’s only door. Locked by the more standard retina-scan method. Well, nothing to do but try to break it down.
Suddenly, it popped open! Martina bounced away, off the wall, ready to strike until she saw…Goldberg?
“Oh, you’re here!” said Goldberg.
“Goldberg!” said Martina. “Well, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”
“You’re more like a sight with sore eyes. What the hell happened to you?”
“Long story,” replied Martina.
“That’s because you don’t know how to tell it,” said Goldberg. “Let me give you an example of brevity: the others are in a fight. We have to help them.”
“You call this a rescue?”
“I’ll call it a missed cue if we don’t go now,” said Goldberg, handing Martina a bo and ushering her out the door.
The two of them ran out of the room, into the big warehouse where Martina had been before. A few broken windows let in daylight, making it easier for Martina to look at the whole operation. She saw the overturned furniture and smashed tiles of a melee, but not the melee itself.
“Did you see Rhodes?” Martina asked. “Or Azalea?”
“No.” Goldberg ran to the corner of the warehouse and said “Fastball special. Break that corner window at the top.”
“We can’t leave. Rhodes and Azalea may be here. We have to find them.”
“No, Maciel, we have to go.”
“Goldberg, you don’t get it. We kill Rhodes, we end the war. Right here, right now.”
“No, Martina, you don’t get it. Your closest friends are outside, being beaten to death, because of you.”
“Oh, come on, how many people could they be fighting?”
Goldberg moved his eyebrows as though to say let me show you. Martina leapt into his waiting hands, and in the 3/8ths g he threw her hard and high enough that she only had to cover her head as it smashed open an upper window. Goldberg used his bo to parkour up the corner and joined Martina on an outer ledge.
Martina wasn’t expecting the next thing she saw: a jam-packed city block, almost like a street fair or farmer’s market or something. Instead of shopping for candles, however, these people were attacking her friends. Martina saw Chee, Sapolu, Al-Basani, and Wittgenstein each surrounded by what looked like dozens of civilians. Pìhuà. Rhodes had a lot more supporters in New Jerusalem than Martina liked to believe.
“Hey, nut-sweat!” Martina leapt into the fray, throwing herself on top of someone swinging a chain at Al-Basani. She knocked the chain-swinger flat.
“Hey, thanks,” said Al-Basani. Fending off two other attackers, she tapped her ring. “Chee, Maciel’s here.”
“Got it,” Chee replied immediately and breathlessly. “Proceed to rendezvous point.”
As Al-Basani instructed, “Follow me, Maciel,” Martina felt a steel rod hit her between her back blades. Good thing she was moving, because it was probably aimed at her head. She turned around and wrapped her legs around the attacker, cutting off his oxygen supply.
“What are you doing?” asked Al-Basani. “We have to go.” Lida Al-Basani pulled Martina off of the person’s neck with one hand, set her bo vertically on the ground with the other, and executed a minor pole-vault out of that portion of the crowd.
As they landed, Martina spun her bo to keep a few of the rabble away. “We’re running from a fight?” Martina asked her.
“We’re completing a mission,” answered Al-Basani. “Proper vault now.” Al-Basani did a true vault, bouncing off a building like a billiards ball, landing on an old, rusty brown vehicle. Martina recognized it; she followed her with a similar vault.
Now Martina, Chee, Sapolu, Goldberg, Al-Basani and Wittgenstein were gathered around the brown car, even as citizens continued to attack with fists, knives, blunt objects, and the occasional gunshot. They fended off the crowd as they watched Sapolu push through to join them. Chee gestured, and the old 21st-century car morphed into one of their hovertanks.
“Chee, wait,” said Martina, even as she swatted away a nunchuk. “Rhodes may be inside. Besides, we can’t let ourselves be chased away by Rhodes’s thugs.”
“They’re not Rhodes’s thugs,” said Wittgenstein. “Well, not really. Most of these people are just residents of the ghetto. It didn’t take much to mobilize them against us.”
“All the more reason,” said Martina, “we shouldn’t run away.”
Sapolu used his massive body and his bo to give them some breathing room as Wittgenstein and Al-Basani jumped into the hovertank. Chee said, “Get in there, Maciel. That’s an order.”
Martina looked around at the teeming hordes. She looked up to the warehouse rooftops, three stories tall. On top of one, standing alone, was unmistakably Azalea, looking unmistakably smug.
No way, Martina thought. I am not going to let her get away with this. Martina vaulted her way to Azalea’s building, barely noticing the people in her way.
Chee shouted, “Maciel!”
“Martina, wait!” Sapolu yelled. “What if it’s a trap?”
Azalea saw Martina coming, and ran out of sight. Martina used a nearby building to parkour up to the roof. She saw Azalea two roofs away and bolted after her. Now it was a roof chase.
Martina had heard Sapolu’s voice. A trap made sense. The dungeon door, the scrunchie with the wire, the Wazgretco cuffs that people can remove. Well, so what, Martina thought. When someone traps you under tables, the best move is to turn the tables.