The Nexus didn’t even seem to notice the noise.
A rainbow of colors swirled around the Rhino costume as it blurred toward them, changing it from gray, lumpy armor with a horn to sleek, bronze armor with a metallic sheen.
It still had a Rhino theme, but it was bigger, and had a long bronze horn with a sharp spike on the end.
The bronze armor stopped, and voice came from it. It sounded almost like Larry’s, but not quite, and it didn’t speak in English.
“Je suis le Bronze Rhino!”
Joe found himself holding his breath. After all this was over, he’d have to get Larry back from whatever world he’d been sent to. Well, he had the Universal Portal, so he had a chance—even if it wasn’t as good a chance as he wanted.
Figuring that even if he couldn’t save Larry, he could at least give the new guy what help he could, Joe flew past the Nexus’ back, still aiming the sonics at it.
It seemed crazy to keep on doing something that wasn’t obviously working, but if the last months of fighting had shown him anything, he’d learned that the sonics did more damage than even the Abominators realized.
He still wished he’d detached one of the sonic modules and swapped it for something more direct.
What could he have done though? He’d put the heavy weapons on the space version of the suit, and he hadn’t had time to take them off.
“Que se passe-t-il?”
The alternate Rhino suit kept on spouting French. Joe had no idea what that meant. He’d taken German in high school, learned some Dutch from his parents, and during the war he’d learned some French, but only swear words.
By that point, Joe had crossed from one side of the Nexus to the other, still bombarding it with sonics.
He decided to whip around the Nexus’ front. That would give the creature another target. Provided he didn’t get too close, he might distract the thing.
Curving so that he’d be too far away for the Nexus to easily catch him, he flew out above the empty landscape, keeping himself closer to the giant than alternate Larry and Freddie.
The sonics continued at maximum volume, experimenting with pitches, searching for strong resonance.
Strong beeps came from each sonic generator, each of them lighting up in the readouts above Joe’s eyes. They weren’t searching anymore. They’d both found something.
As Joe glanced toward the Nexus, the creature seemed unconcerned. Then the expression on the giant’s face showed pain.
His initial relief that he could hurt the damn thing didn’t last.
It aimed for him in a blur.
That, of course, was the moment where NASA finally put the call through to the rest of the League.
John’s voice came over the line, crackling as he said, “Rocket?”
Expecting to die, Joe didn’t have time to reply, his mind more on dodging than talking.
Beginning to twist downward, Joe heard, “Le nom de Dieu!” as streaks of light passed him, and the Nexus screamed, passing above him.
Turning his head to track the giant’s bulk, he watched as the creature hit one of the elevated highway’s supports.
The gray beam cracked, and shattered, knocking down the entire section of highway in a rain of concrete. Supports on either side fell over as the section fell inward.
“Rocket?” John said.
“Get Lee!” Joe shouted the words into the mic, hoping John did it.
Joe set the Rocket suit to hover, watching as the errors and warnings that were still scrolling from the giant’s damage to his chest ran down the readouts above his eyes.
Too busy staring at the piles of concrete for signs of movement, he didn’t even bother to read them.
He didn’t see any. It was too much to hope that alternate Larry had killed him. He didn’t want Mark to die, but at this point, he could live with it.
His plan had its own risks, and knowing Lee, it might be best left untried.
From behind him, alternate Larry’s voice said, “Putain, comment puis-je désactiver le traducteur?”
He sounded frustrated.
Joe recognized the first word he’d said, and hoped alternate Larry wouldn’t freak out because he didn’t have time to handle it.
Lee’s voice came over the phone. “Rocket, how’s it hangin’?”
Joe wasn’t sure what he thought of immortals keeping up with slang, but answered anyway. “The Abominator creation I’m fighting has one of your things. It pulls things out of other realities. Do you remember it?”
Joe didn’t say any more. He couldn’t believe Lee’s people were listening to every broadcast listening for him. From what Lee had told him, he couldn’t rule it out either. Worse, he was counting on that.
Ahead of him, the pile of concrete shifted. The Nexus wasn’t visible yet, but Joe knew he would be soon.
“Lee,” he said, “can you get down here?”
For a moment, the crackling of the connection was his only answer. Then Lee said, “I can, but you know why I won’t.”
A ten foot wide chunk of concrete fell off the side of the pile, making the Nexus’ left arm visible.
“You need to consider it. I’m telling you because this thing is capable of taking me out, and after that, I don’t see any reason for it to stop. Either everyone on Earth will be dead or swapped out with an infinity of worlds. Think about what they might bring here. Then ask yourself what happens to your plans then. Make your decision, and I’ll tell you when to appear.”
The other phone connection on Joe’s suit starting ringing. He didn’t take it. He’d have to switch lines, and he wasn’t going to put Lee on hold now.
Then he checked the connection. The blue light on the connection’s readout showed that it was a League connection.
It had to be Larry. Even though the suit was blasting out French, he was the only person on the planet with the necessary codes. Thinking about how divergent a reality that suit represented, it didn’t make sense that a citizen would know these codes.
A weight felt like it had been lifted off him. He would have felt even better if the Nexus hadn’t chosen that moment to push his head and torso out of the pile.