Taking control of the direction of the flight didn’t work.
He had directional jets on his arms and legs. I had the rocketpack on my back. After a few moments of struggle, we established that he could change direction more easily than I could, and that tumbling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour made us both dizzy.
I powered down the rocketpack, and decided to concentrate on trashing his suit.
Putting pressure on the neck didn’t cause noticeable stress. The suit’s designer had kept the major systems inside the armor, so I couldn’t just rip them out. Judging from what I could see, the suit’s weakest points would likely be the joints, but hanging on Jack Maniac’s back wasn’t a great position to put a lot of force into an attack.
We were above downtown Grand Lake when I let go, but the second I was off his back, he started flying south.
I made the rocketpack pour out a pile of thrust, but lost ground at first. I never learned what his top speed was, but he definitely accelerated faster than I did.
That was bad, because I had a good guess where he was going.
I began to close with him again, but not quickly enough. I recognized Man-machine’s house just as Jack landed on the lawn.
The lights were on in rooms on both stories.
Jack ran straight toward the front door, axe raised, ready to chop it down.
I didn’t bother to land. Diving, I held out my arms and aimed for his back.
The push did exactly what I intended. It knocked him forward, face heading for the ground. He hit a lawn gnome next to the steps of the wraparound porch, shattering it.
I made as tight a circle as I could in the air, losing some momentum so I could land on the lawn myself.
My right foot went six inches into the lawn. By the time I pulled it out, Jack had gotten up, turned around, and pointed the arm with the hanging gun at me.
It didn’t fire.
The anti-electronic sonic blast had done some good after all.
He turned away from me, ready to trash the door with his axe, and turn this into a hostage situation.
From the darkness, a voice said, “Hey, jerk. I don’t know why you’re here, but she’s not home.”
An inch wide red circle appeared on Jack’s chest. It had that intense quality laser light often has.
I followed the light back to its source and recognized Chris, now in his exoskeleton, standing next to the corner of the house. He pointed the laser rod mounted under his right arm at Jack.
Jack charged Chris, running down the wraparound porch with the axe.
Chris shot him.
The red bolt didn’t take him out, but it did melt partway through the armor. Lines of molten liquid dripped down his front, and smoke floated upward in front of his face.
Then Chris multiplied, generating five copies of himself, all of them with an odd shimmery quality. Then he moved, and they all moved around him.
Thanks to Man-machine being such a perfectionist, the original suit shimmered like the rest. I couldn’t tell where the original was.
Jack couldn’t either.
He stopped for just a second, then charged the group of them, swinging his axe through one of the wooden pillars that held up the overhang without even noticing.
The group of Chris’ turned around and ran away, crashing through the wooden railing on the right side of the porch, running into the side yard, and then turning to run over to me where I stood.
That felt a little weird.
I stood among his holographic illusions, trying to figure out which one was Chris while the group of them pointed their lasers at Jack.
He definitely wasn’t faster than Chris was — at least not on the ground. Jack stood at the end of the porch where Chris had broken the railing, still turning his head to face us.
“Hey,” I said, pumping some power into the speakers, and setting the sonics for the standard Rocket voice. “Surrender, and things will go easier for you.”
“Can’t hear anything in my right ear, or I might listen.”
Jack walked through the front railing, cracking the wood, stepping through the flowerbed in front of it (not that there were any flowers yet), and then started to run at us.
Knowing that even if Chris’ exoskeleton could take a lot of damage, the costume protecting most of his body wasn’t much better than my stealth suit, I ran out ahead of him — well, where I thought he was. I avoided the holograms as if they were real people mostly. I may have walked through one.
Jack raised his axe, obviously aiming for my head.
I raised my arm to block it, only to see him rising into the air.
I couldn’t see his face behind his helmet’s fake hockey mask, but it didn’t take much to realize that he wasn’t under his own power. First, the jets on his legs weren’t firing. Second, I felt sure he wouldn’t aim himself at the pickup truck parked across the street.
He smashed into the side of the cab, making a more than human sized dent, the impact completely destroying all the windows.
From above me, I heard Sean’s voice shouting, “Got you, you bastard!”
Jack pushed himself away from the truck. It rocked a couple times.
Jets of flame sprouted from his feet and he shot in the direction of Sean’s voice.