Joe decided to put Lee on hold with a click, and took Larry’s call.
“Rocket?” Larry’s voice came over the suit’s internal speakers. “I don’t know what half this stuff does, and I can’t turn off the translator, but this suit’s got amazing weapons. You want me to hit him again?”
The Nexus struggled to pull its legs out of the pile. It wasn’t going easily. He barely seemed to move one piece of concrete when another fell back into the hole he’d created.
Plus, something about the giant’s balance seemed off.
“Follow my lead,” Joe said, and hung up.
Because not everyone had radio phones, he could only hope Freddie would do the same.
One of these days, he told himself, he’d design the League communicator watches like Dick Tracy used in the comics.
For now, he had more pressing issues to deal with. He pointed his arms at the Nexus, shouting, “Don’t move. We’re all armed, and we can hurt you. You know this.”
The giant looked up toward where Joe hovered, and then down, past him toward Larry, and where Joe bet that Freddie stood.
When it saw Larry, it shuddered.
Joe stared at the creature’s armor. Cracks spread from half a dozen pockmarks and a hole in the abdomen. Larry’s new armor’s weapons had hurt the thing.
His plans to disassemble the armor stopped cold as he thought about what that meant. Wherever that armor came from, they were experienced at fighting Abominator technology, and designed their weapons to compensate for it.
He couldn’t know for sure, but judging from the wear, the armor Larry was wearing was his alternate’s day to day armor.
It was an unnerving thought.
Not that he had time to think. He had to talk, and do it now.
“Mark, you need to take control. Simply preventing it from hurting us isn’t enough. Swapping out the Rhino’s armor with armor that has the potential to kill you isn’t enough either.”
The Nexus had stopped struggling with the concrete, and stared at Joe.
“I know why they chose this device for you, and I think you do too. It’s the ideal compliment to your own foresight—which I can only think you’re not using. Use it now. If you’re anything like the people who can predict the future that I know, you can see all the side effects of each of our actions, and follow them.
“I made a phone call a few minutes ago. Follow the possible consequences, and don’t stop with the most likely.”
He clicked back to the NASA connection, and turned off the external speakers. “Lee, are you there?”
Lee spoke without the usual edge. “Joe, our deal didn’t cover this, but let’s call it a freebie. You want me to appear, I’ll step through. Remember, this is your world, and you might not like what happens next.”
For this to work, Joe knew he had to seriously consider it.
When could he risk Lee’s people’s attention? It was worth it if they had no other realistic chance to win. Despite what Larry had done, Joe doubted one suit of armor would be enough. They’d hurt it, but not much. He could see the cracks in the armor smoothing out, and the pockmarks with them.
If the creature won here, what would the Xiniti do? He didn’t know them well yet, but their orders were to keep anything dangerous to their civilization from leaving Earth, even if it meant burning the planet to a cinder.
From what he’d seen of them, they’d do it without hesitation.
That was worth the risk.
Ahead of him, the Nexus twisted, pulling its legs from from the pile of concrete. The creature took to the air and aimed for him, closing.
“Lee,” he said.
Before he finished the sentence, he felt a telepathic connection forming, and an infinity of realities appeared in his mind, all of them a little different, but in a significant portion, he said Lee’s name, and asked him to appear. In many of these realities he did appear, and the Nexus died. Sometimes it went harder, sometimes easier, but in the majority of infinities (if that made any sense) he died quickly.
Sometimes after this, and sometimes before the battle was even over, other things began to fade into reality, disquieting, disturbing forms much like the serpentine shape Joe saw Lee wear when he found him.
In most of those futures, humanity died soon after, and the ones where they lasted longer than that were worse.
He didn’t finish the sentence.
The connection began to fray as the vision ended, and in this universe, the Nexus disappeared into swirling light, different pieces of him fading from view as he flew.
By the time he would have reached Joe, nothing was left but words that had been telepathically delivered to his mind, “It’s over. I’m in control.”
Joe found himself hovering above an empty, dirt lot, staring upward at thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage from when the Nexus hit the highway after Larry shot him.
Over the NASA line, Lee said, “So what do you think, was it a lucky break, or exactly how it was supposed to go?”
* * *
I stared at the report. It wasn’t much like what I remembered Grandpa telling me at all. He’d reduced everything to a paragraph.
“Fought amalgam of Mark Simmons, the prescient who warned us of the Abominators, and an Abominator AI warrior humaniform. Fought it with the assistance of Yellow Burrito, and the Rhino. The Rhino’s powered armor appears to have been swapped with an alternate version during the fight. The alternate appears to have been created to fight Abominator tech in some universe where Quebec is the dominant power in North America. Abominator construct was ultimately defeated by pushing Mark to assume control of the body. Lee suggests this may have been Mark’s goal. Simmons disappeared at the end of the fight. His location is currently unknown.”
I hadn’t fully understood the story at the time. Among other things, my grandpa hadn’t explained why Lee appearing instantly on Earth would cause the end of the world, but he’d hinted that Lee had enemies, and that it might attract their attention.
I checked the time on my phone, and wondered where Courtney was.