Too quickly for me to see anything but a blur, Travis punched the guy in the face—if you could call a beaked helmet a face.
His punch hit the right cheek, denting it, and twisting the beak. The helmet made a crunching noise, and bent backward. It didn’t seem to bend further back than a human head could, but it didn’t seem to be capable of bending forward anymore.
Not that that mattered. Travis’ punch had knocked the guy backward.
He nearly hit me, but I moved just as he tripped. He landed on the ground between Vaughn and me.
Pointing both arms at Travis, he started firing. How he expected to hit, while unable to bend his head in Travis’ direction, I wasn’t sure.
He may have been working on the theory that if you fired off enough bullets in the right direction, you could hit anything eventually.
If so, he was wrong. Travis dodged, jumping to his right while dripping blood from his chest. I wondered how deep the holes went.
I didn’t have to think about it though, because the guy on the ground changed targets, pointing his guns toward Vaughn.
He started firing before I could do anything, and Vaughn stumbled sideways.
If I’d been in the full Rocket suit, I could have fallen on top of the guy without any real fear, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t even try it.
I opened up with the sonics.
The guy on the ground didn’t even seem to notice.
That was pretty wild, given the amount of noise they were putting out. Rook must have insulated the helmet against sonics.
I couldn’t believe he’d have insulated the suit against the sonics’ effect on electronics. That wasn’t well known.
He pointed his arms toward me.
The guns spat out bullets. A few caught me, and I stumbled backward.
I kept the sonics on him, letting the sonics try frequencies according to Grandpa’s default algorithm—more or less randomly, but noting and coming back to the frequencies that seemed to get the strongest response.
It wasn’t the quickest way to go, but it’d get there.
I made a point of stumbling in the direction of the guy’s feet. With his neck stuck, that could only make it harder on him.
That left me heading in the direction of the Verizon store at about the same time I noticed that the flunky Haley shot with a missile had gotten up. Even though it was long after closing hours, the lights in the store were still on.
So, when he stood up, it was obvious.
And I had a choice, keep on firing at the guy on the ground outside the store, or go after the guy who no one else had noticed yet.
I didn’t give it much thought. I pointed my arms at the guy in the store, giving him a double dose of sonics, hoping that whatever they’d figured out from hammering the other guy would help.
Small shattering noises came from the shelves around the store.
A puff of smoke came from the suit’s shoulder joints. It had done something.
Not enough though—the guy raised his arms, pointed them at me, and then…
They didn’t fire.
Unfortunately, the guy behind me still could.
He did, and I stumbled forward as bullets hit the back of my helmet, the rocket pack, and my pants.
I felt them only dully through the stealth suit, but they still hurt a little.
Where was everyone else?
I shouldn’t have worried.
The shots stopped with the screech of metal being torn apart.
I glanced behind me to find that Travis had somehow grabbed the guy, and was literally ripping the armor off him.
When I turned back to the flunky in the store, however, I found him leaping toward me, claws outstretched.
I jumped sideways. The claws on his feet sunk into the parking lot.
In his moment of hesitation as he pulled them out, I remembered I still held the roachbots’ controller, and that I’d set things up so that they were almost ready to be used.
I aimed the controller at the flunky (formerly, the “lying on the floor of the store” flunky) so he appeared on the screen, and pressed “swarm.”
“Rocket, move left or right,” Haley said, “I can’t fire with Travis there.”
The flunky stepped toward me, claws swinging. I stepped backward, but not quickly enough.
They caught, and ripped a chunk out of the jacket’s sleeve.
I was terrified for a second, knowing what could happen next, but then came the buzzing.
Roachbots landed on him, covering his helmet, squeezing into cracks in the armor, and then started to explode.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I added “move roachbot user-interface into the stealth suit’s helmet” to my list of projects.