The seat must have been designed assuming that the Frog suit would have a load of missiles on board when it blew up because it shot him far into the air. He found himself far on the other side of the hangar as the Frog suit exploded.
Because it was behind him, he didn’t see the explosion directly. The afternoon became brighter, giving a reddish-white tinge to the hotels, sidewalks, and palm trees. Black smoke followed—along with flying debris.
Larry felt something small hit the back of the ejection seat, but managed to keep control of the seat’s flight. He redirected the seat lower, and flew down toward the hangar, landing in front of it.
He gave a passing glance to the earth elemental’s body as he got out of the chair. It covered the runway in a pile of smoking rubble—dirt, rocks, and gravel. Its head and limbs were still intact even though its body had lost its shape. That bothered Larry, and he stopped to make sure that it wasn’t moving. After a moment, he was satisfied, and he stepped toward the hangar.
He couldn’t see much inside. It was dark, and the black smoke made it appear even darker.
His ability to see in the dark lost with the Frog suit, Larry called inside. “Are you guys okay in there?”
“Never better,” Lim shouted. Cheryl laughed.
“I think it’s down. Let’s get out of here before Armory comes back.”
“Are you sure about that?” Cheryl asked. “I thought I saw it twitch.”
Larry glanced back toward the body. It wasn’t moving.
“Pretty sure,” he said.
Cheryl stood up. Larry could make out her shape in the dark. She’d been sheltering behind the pressure washer—understandably. Rocks littered the hangar’s floor.
The sound of jets came from above, and then Alexis landed, his armor showing scrapes and dents from the fight.
Alexis opened up the helmet. “Good job, my friend. I didn’t have the right sort of weapons along to finish it off. I’d prepared for the arena, but not war.”
Larry shrugged. “I got lucky. I knew I wasn’t really here for the games.”
Alexis opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a clattering that reminded Larry of the sound made by pouring a bag of rocks onto the ground.
Both of them turned toward the noise.
The elemental’s head was changing, reshaping the gravel into a humanoid shape. From behind, Larry heard Lim’s voice say, “Down!”
Larry dove as a stream of pressurized water hit the elemental, scattering gravel. At the same time Lim’s gun made a strange, highly-pitched shriek while Alexis’ airguns made thumping noises.
Larry had protected his eyes with his arms, so he didn’t see what happened, but the head shattered. Bits of rock and gravel flew everywhere.
When he pulled his arm away, the head was nothing more than rubble, but the creature’s tentacles still had a defined shape. “Tell you what guys, you want to take this to the beach?”
* * *
The Heroes League’s jet appeared about the same time they stepped foot on the sand. It slowed, coming to a stop in the air, and then descended toward the beach.
Alexis nodded toward Larry, “And now I can go. I’ll contact you about the other matter when I’m ready. Give my regards to the Rocket.”
“Good luck,” Larry said.
Alexis waved as his suit propelled him into the air, and flew across the water, carrying one of the security guards’ suits.
Lim sighed. “So now I’ve got to report that Cuba’s got Armory’s tech. No one at the Bureau’s going to like that.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much,” Larry said. “Armory probably didn’t put his best stuff into suits for security guards. I figure Alexis got just enough to keep his bosses out of his hair. Betcha Alexis could have duplicated that suit in a couple months without reverse engineering. He’s a damn good engineer.”
Lim gave him a sidelong glance. “Are you willing to say that on the record? Because if you were, that would mean I’m not responsible for letting a hostile power get away with tech that furthers their powered armor research.”
“Sure,” Larry said, “no big deal.”
Streamlined and silver, the jet lowered to the ground in front of them. A door opened in its side, and they climbed in.
Joe sat at the controls in full Rocket armor—one of the classic suits—golden with an “R” on the chest. His wife Romy, in her white Ghostwoman costume, sat next to him, manning the weapons console.
“Quickly, please,” she said. “The Dixieland Defenders unit is evacuating the island, and we’d like to be gone before they show up.”
“Evacuating?” Larry asked while adjusting his chair and pulling his seatbelt on.
“Geoforce sensed that something’s setting up an earthquake.” The Rocket said it absently while pressing the buttons that shut the hatch, and raised the jet’s altitude.
“Damn,” Larry muttered. “The earth elemental isn’t dead yet? I thought we got that thing three different times.”
The Rocket laughed. In a warmer tone, he said, “Well, that’s magic for you.”
Lim paused, seatbelt in hand, and stared at the Rocket, and then got back to his seatbelt.
Larry knew the stare. He’d felt like that himself the first time he’d met the Rocket, and probably a few more times even years later.
Cheryl finished buckling her seatbelt. “Excuse me, sir, but why don’t you want to wait for the Dixieland Defenders?”
The League jet whipped around, and gathered speed, gaining more altitude, and heading for the mainland.
“Oh,” the Rocket said, “after a few years you know how these things are going to go. The island’s full of criminals, so there’ll be a fight. Geoforce will have to use her powers to keep the island from sinking before the civilians get off, but in the end, it’ll work out. So if we get away now, we can skip all of it.
“I’m retired,” he said, reaching out and giving his wife’s hand a squeeze. “The young folks can handle this one.”