What sucked most about the figures flying after me was that they were gaining.
We’d planned for aerial pursuit. We’d even planned for the possibility that I might be attacked while still on the ground, and a few other possibilities that meant that everyone in the League was out here somehow.
Unfortunately, the Rocket suit made me the fastest flier, making it necessary to pass Daniel and Vaughn’s position for them to be able to help.
I changed direction, stopping my ascent, and aiming myself south.
The people chasing me gained even more ground because of my course change, but I didn’t have to travel far.
Barely a second had passed when lightning burst out of the forest below, outlining the two people following me.
Vaughn got ‘em, Daniel told me.
As I started to reply, I got a call over the communicator — Kayla.
“Ni — Rocket? How do I use your robots? I’m looking at your positions and everyone just started moving.”
Next time, I decided, I’d loose a bunch of roachbots all over so that the person back at HQ could have eyes everywhere and I’d train them how to move them. Now, however, was a lousy time for me to work technical support.
The trouble was, she’d noticed something. Once I’d flown off in a big obvious way everyone else was supposed to sit quietly, and then slip away one by one.
Lee had told us that Prime’s people were mostly strong, near invulnerable, regenerating types — near impossible to beat in hand to hand combat, but distinctly lacking in intelligence gathering abilities.
Except, Daniel said in my head, if they’ve got any telepaths at all, knocking out their telepathy blockers goes both ways.
Right, I thought, and if any of Prime’s regulars have latent telepathic talent, the Impregnator’s probably converted it into an actual working power.
I glanced at the GPS readout from my communicator. Everyone on the ground was moving — which meant that all our great backup plans that were supposed help me get away in the face of near unstoppable opposition had just put everyone else in danger.
Then the communicator readout showed that someone had sent a red — Haley.
I slowed the rocketpack, and did a complete 180 degree turn.
“Rocket,” Kayla asked, “are you listening?”
“I’m going back,” I said.
From the dots on the GPS readout, I could see Daniel and Vaughn following behind me. They could keep up for short distances.
Leaves blocked my view of what was happening in the forest.
Travis’ and Haley’s dots moved a lot. Cassie’s, Marcus’ didn’t move as much.
Rachel’s dot appeared inconsistently.
Finding a clear spot between trees, I dropped through, hovering just below the tops.
I didn’t see them at first, but then Travis jumped, moving from one tree to another like a squirrel. Haley followed, but unfortunately, it wasn’t just her.
A group of Prime’s people ran through the forest after them. Large, muscled, and carrying guns, they had the look of Prime’s reserves, the people Chris and Larry had bombarded with missiles just to stun them.
Exactly the people we didn’t want to meet — especially if they’d been through the Impregnator.
“Prime,” one of them shouted, “Over there!”
For a moment, I looked to see if Prime was there, head somehow reunited with his body.
Back when we’d been eavesdropping, one of them had mentioned a “new Prime” and I realized that the guy leading the group looked familiar.
It was the guy whose leg Cassie cut off.
The last time I’d seen him, the leg had grown back, but hadn’t been as muscular as the other.
They matched now. In fact, he looked bigger all over.
Oh, and the guy who had been shouting, “Prime, over there!”
He was pointing at me.
Well, okay, not just me as Vaughn (in his black, weirdly strapped suit), and Daniel (whose black and silver costume didn’t seem especially mystical) had just appeared on either side of me.
Vaughn didn’t even wait to find out what would happen next. He opened up with lightning bolts.
Painfully bright light filled my eyes. Thunder shook the trees.
When the blue afterimages faded, chunks of dirt had been blown out of the ground, a small tree had been blackened, and the new Prime and his people were pulling themselves off the ground.
Though their clothing looked a little burnt, and one of them patted out a fire on his camouflage pants, none of them ran away.
“Oh man, ” Vaughn said, “we are so fucked.”
The new Prime nodded at the people on his left and gestured toward us, “You, get them out of the air.”
To the short guy on his right, he said, “You, get her.”
Haley climbed higher in the tree.