Flying in the winter is cold.
The full Rocket armor feels warm even in the worst weather, probably because Grandpa spent a lot of time flying during the winter. By contrast, Grandpa’s main focus when he created the stealth suit was for it to fit under clothes. Even after pulling the supplementary jacket, pants and gloves over the basic suit, the stealth suit still felt colder.
Adding a guitar to the mix didn’t make things any easier.
I’d thought far enough ahead to realize that I couldn’t hang it over my back with the jet pack and to arrange a way to hook it into the jacket on my front, but not far enough to stop it from moving around while I flew. The neck knocked against my chest and swung as I turned, hitting the bottom of my helmet.
By the time we managed to get away and get changed, we were fifteen minutes behind them. That would have been an insurmountable lead without the roachbots broadcasting their position.
As it was, I could follow them via the GPS readout in my helmet. Two dots followed the highway south, moving at about sixty miles per hour.
Funny that they’d chosen to take the two lane highway instead of the four lane freeway that ran roughly parallel to it. On the other hand, even without leaves the trees made it harder to see them.
Jaclyn or I could catch them in minutes if we wanted to, me because I could fly straight after them, Jaclyn because she could run at the speed of sound.
As I began to close, I decided to call everybody to find out if the people in the car had come up with a plan. I pressed down on the buttons on my palm until I found them in my address book and called, relieved that I’d managed to plug a cell phone into at least this version of the suit.
I got Jaclyn first and then pulled Travis into the three way call. Hopefully he’d figured out the cars’ phone interface. That way everyone could get into the conversation.
“We’re here,” he said as he picked up.
“Do you guys have any kind of plan? I can almost see them.”
“We’ve been talking about it,” Travis said. “I think our best shot is to send Rachel in to deal with the paralysis guns. After that we can probably take them in a straight fight.”
“How’s she going to catch up to them?” Jaclyn asked. “The last I heard Ghostwoman didn’t move very fast in the air.”
“That’s been a sticking point,” Travis said.
I cut in. “I can make them stop.”
“How?” Jaclyn said.
“Um… The power of rock and roll?”
Laughter came from the car.
Jaclyn said, “Oh, that’ll do it. How much power does rock and roll have these days?”
“Enough to melt a small hole in the side of a battleship.”
“Oookay then,” Jaclyn said, wind blowing in the background as she spoke. “It’s not really nuclear, is it?”
“Everyone keeps asking me that. No, but the battery design I used was really cool. It holds a lot of power. I took a couple of Grandpa’s designs and combined them.”
I paused, trying to think of the best way to explain the difference between the designs and why combining them had been a good idea.
“Sounds great,” Jaclyn said. “So we’ve got to time this so that Nick gets there first, the car gets there second, and I appear as soon as Rachel takes out the paralysis weapons. Is there anything more to the plan than that?”
“No,” Travis said, “but if anyone’s got an idea, I’m open to suggestions.”
We didn’t have any.
* * *
“I’m going in. Try not to look directly at the beam.”
We’d finally caught up with them forty minutes south of Grand Lake. Ray’s SUV and Gena’s truck were the only cars on the highway. It wasn’t a surprise. Most people didn’t travel much of anywhere on Christmas night.
We were out in the middle of nowhere. The nearest house sat a couple hundred feet back from the road, almost invisible because of the trees. Above me, the stars shone more brightly than usual in an empty sky.
I turned on the guitar, feeling more than hearing the hum as all of its components activated.
My helmet’s targeting feature superimposed a semi-transparent red dot in the direction the laser pointed — in this case out of my view since the end of the neck currently pointed in a direction outside my field of vision. I made a mental note to have video feed from the guitar appear inside the helmet one of these days.
Adjusting the guitar so that the neck pointed downward, I moved over the roadway. I dropped a little altitude, leveling off just below the tops of the trees on either side.
It felt a little like entering the Death Star trench, but I had a clear shot at the tires of both vehicles, leaving me to decide which to shoot first. Tactically, it would be better to shoot Ray’s SUV in front because then they’d both have to stop. Given the snowy roads, however, they could easily end up crashing into each other.
I wanted to capture them, not kill them.
I moved my hand down the neck and pushed down the pulse laser button, plucking the lever that activated it. Bright red light shot out of the end of the neck, popping Gena’s truck’s back tire, and turning a quarter of the rim to molten metal.
Who says skills acquired in video games are useless?
While the truck screeched to a halt, I aimed again, fired, and missed as the SUV started weaving.
Moving my hand lower on the neck, I switched to the beam laser button, knowing it would be slightly less powerful, but that it would stay on as long as I held the button down. Ray’s evasive driving prevented me from getting a precise shot, so I decided to go with imprecise.
I raked the beam across the SUV’s body starting just ahead of the left, rear wheel, slicing partially through the rim, and cutting across the tire. Ray jerked to the left just as I started, but only managed to have the beam hit lower on the tire.
It popped, coming partially off and beginning to wrap around the axle. A jagged piece of the rim fell off, bouncing down the road while the hubcap shattered.
The damaged rim left a trail of sparks as Ray braked, stopping some fifty feet from where I’d cut his tire. Weaving to avoid the shot had turned his stop into a skid that ended with the SUV blocking both lanes, but it stood upright.
As I flew past them, Ray and the other guy jumped out of the SUV, taking cover behind it and beginning to fire at me.
You would think people destroyed their tires with laser beams every day.
I gave myself some altitude and spun out of the roadway and above the trees.
That’s when I noticed that the distance between Gena’s truck and Ray’s SUV had to be at least two hundred feet. Rachel, Travis, Haley and Marcus would need to get past her to do anything. In the meantime, Ray and the other guy could do anything they wanted.
I wondered what Jaclyn would do when she saw what had happened.
What was the saying? No battle plan survives contact with the enemy?