I leaned forward, and dove toward where Haley crouched on a branch. Prime’s people pulled rifles off their backs, and the short guy crouched, preparing to jump, aiming upward at her.
I maneuvered myself into an upright position, hovering a little below Haley and above Travis.
In the meantime, the short guy had left the ground.
Not much taller than Haley (who was around five feet), his physique could have doubled for a body builder’s — only smaller.
He flew over me, and landed in the tree.
Overbalanced by his weight, the branch dropped downward, dragging nearby branches with it, one of which hit the back of my helmet.
It didn’t hurt, but it distracted me long enough that I didn’t notice that Prime’s people had their guns out until they started firing.
A couple bullets hit my chest, knocking me backward into the branches.
I held up my left arm, and blanketed them with sound, a single, painfully loud note.
They stepped backward, but only stopped firing when Vaughn’s wind knocked them backward.
To my left, the man assigned to catch Haley dangled from a branch.
I pointed my left arm at him, and fired another blast of sound.
He dropped, still trying to grab branches as he fell.
Hitting the ground didn’t take him out, but it didn’t help him either.
His feet hit the ground, and more wind blew him over. I made a mental note to compliment Vaughn on his control when this was over. I barely felt the wind moving up where I was.
Taking my eyes off our opponents, I decided to check on Haley.
Sensibly, she’d already jumped from this tree to the next, and even as I saw her she ran up one branch, jumped and landed on a branch from the next tree down the line. Travis wasn’t far behind her.
Even as I thought we might be able to leave, I realized that one of Prime’s people had jumped for me.
I tried to press the button on my palm that would have sent me higher, but I couldn’t move quickly enough. The force knocked me backward into the tree.
I shut off the rockets with the tongue control, and we fell, hitting branches all the way down.
He hit more than I did.
Unfortunately, even hitting the ground didn’t do much to him. He grabbed my left arm, and kept on pounding me with his right, setting off error messages in my helmet.
Not to mention the fact that it hurt.
I tried to move my arm out of his hold except he would not let go. Worse, he managed to flip me over, and sat on top of me, still keeping my left arm under his control and pointed away from his body.
They all knew about the non-working sonics in the right arm. They had to.
In the middle of that realization, I also got my first good look at the guy’s face. He had a bald head and a goatee. He looked like he was in his twenties, but given their regenerative powers, he could have been born in the middle ages.
“Let’s see how hard this is to break,” he said.
He pounded the middle of the Rocket suit’s chest plate, sending off even more error messages, many of which included words like “danger,” and “fatal error.”
Seeing those messages any other time might have caused me to freak out, but not that time because even as all those messages appeared, a couple disappeared — the error messages for the right arm’s sonics.
At that moment, I had a sudden realization. All the time I’d been working on things, I’d been assuming that my new arm had been the problem, and while I’d done some limited testing of some of the systems in the chest area, I hadn’t done much.
Sometime during the fight where the right arm got melted, the chest had to have gotten damaged too. It wasn’t the arm at all.
I may have laughed at that point.
The guy stared at me. “What the fuck is your problem?”
I almost asked him to do it again, except that was the best way to make sure that he wouldn’t, and I kind of wanted him to — assuming he didn’t crush my chest.
“Actually,” I said, “it tickled.”
Growling, he pounded the chest again, bringing up whole new error messages, some of which included the word “critical.”
That wasn’t good, but I’d had my fingers on the right arm sonics’ button. As his hand came down, my right arm pointed up at his head.
The sonics went off at maximum possible volume, rattling my armor.
He let go of my left hand, and I hit him again with more of the same — except the right hand sonics had stopped working again.
But that was okay, since I’d stopped trying to use them.
Instead, I used my right hand to poke him in the eyes as hard as I could manage.
While he shouted, I pushed out from under him, shot back into the air, and tried to figure out who to help.