I happened to glance at the guy I’d been fighting as I flew away. He had blood dripping from his eyes. I’d hurt him for real.
Almost as gross, I glimpsed the damaged eye reforming out of goo.
We’d talked about what we’d do if they detected us, and agreed that we’d have to fight all out to escape. It wasn’t as if we’d be able to permanently hurt them. All of Prime’s reserves were nearly invulnerable, and they regenerated. It hardly seemed fair.
“What if we fight someone normal?” I’d asked.
Either Cassie or Travis had said, “If we fight all out, no normals will want to get anywhere near us.”
Without armor, I certainly wouldn’t want to.
Rising into the air, I checked where I’d last seen Travis and Haley. They were closer than I remembered, if higher up. Haley had moved back a tree, and Travis had followed her.
I could hear him shouting up at her. “He’s OK. Now move!”
She turned away, and leaped toward the next tree, grabbing a branch, and dropping to the next one down. The branches shook in her wake, and Travis did the same below her. The trees’ limbs sank under his weight.
If that had been all that happened, there wouldn’t be much to say.
The new Prime had changed strategy. He’d shouted something and everyone but himself and one other guy charged forward, running after Haley and Travis.
Worse, shouts from the direction of the factory told me that more were coming.
I wasn’t going to be able to stop all of them, or for that matter, any of them. All I could do was delay — at best.
I chanced a look behind me. A few peeled off from the group, and disappeared into the forest. Judging from the GPS readout, they were heading toward Cassie, Marcus, Rachel, and Jaclyn.
“HQ? Tell Cassie and everybody that people are coming for them.”
Something clicked once, then again. Then I heard Kayla’s voice. “More? Oh, no…”
Another click, and she’d closed the connection.
Meanwhile, Prime, and the guy with him concentrated on firing at Daniel and Vaughn. In that moment, I noticed their guns for the first time. I didn’t know what kind they were, but they were big enough that I doubted they were normally hand held.
Daniel blocked the bullets, but I could see strain on his face.
Then something whizzed past me, flying toward them.
Just before it reached them, it veered left, and exploded.
Someone behind me had a grenade launcher.
I tried to think of what I needed to do next, but there was too much going on at once. Too many people. Too many places to fight. I tried to center myself. What were we trying to do?
We were trying to escape.
What was stopping us? Travis and Haley couldn’t move fast enough. How could I help them?
I didn’t get to finish the thought. Prime’s people had jumped into the same tree Haley and Travis were in.
At the same time, I felt something slam into me from behind, and then the world exploded, becoming fire and heat, accompanied by a Christmas tree worth of blinking warnings.
I managed somehow to activate the auto hover, which handed the problem of how to get myself upright over to the suit.
I flipped end over end, but on the next flip, I felt the rocketpack’s burn pushing me upward. The next thing I knew, I hovered above the trees.
Below me, Vaughn aimed lightning at the people with guns. Even if being hit by lightning didn’t hurt Prime much, I doubted that it helped his aim.
I dove, aiming for where I’d last seen Haley and Travis.
As the rockets pushed me toward them, I saw that one of Prime’s people was in the tree next to Haley, and had grabbed her arm.
Travis pulled himself up from the ground in front of the same tree, surrounded by three men that were almost as big as he was.
Thanks to Travis’ and Haley’s hearing, I couldn’t use the sonics without hurting them more than I would Prime’s people.
I wanted to help Haley, but I couldn’t work out a way to fly into the tree without flying into a branch and being flung outward like some kind of human pinball. Deciding that I’d use the crash to slow down and get up to Haley somehow, I aimed for the guy on Travis’ left.
As if to illustrate some sort of combat related corollary to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, my approach changed the whole situation.
Haley moved her left arm, the one that hadn’t been grabbed, and struck the man who’d grabbed her in the neck with her palm. Whether she managed to stab through his skin with her dewclaw, or just knocked him over, he fell.
Travis simultaneously jumped over the men in front of him, punching the guy who had been directly in front of him in the back of the head. The man hit the tree with enough force that the tree shook, and bark fell.
Travis wasn’t finished. He hit the guy on the right hard enough to knock him ten feet sideways into another tree.
A blur of motion, Travis kicked the guy on the left (the guy I’d been aiming for) in the knee, causing him to lean his head into my punch.
It didn’t slow me down much, and I had to flip over, using thrust from the rocketpack to slow down.
As I fell to the ground, stopping around fifteen feet past the tree, the guy who Travis had punched into a tree turned to punch him in the rib cage.
I could hear bones break.