I couldn’t argue with her there. Jaclyn alone had a chance of taking out our entire team in a straight fight. Add in another speedster plus Travis, Rachel, and Mist for good measure…
We were toast.
That sounds defeatist, but it wasn’t. The funny thing is that what gave us a chance of winning was the fact that we were playing a game. Jaclyn might be able to kill any of us with a blow in real life, but here she had to decide how much she was willing to hurt us to win.
In front of me, Tara met each of our eyes in turn. “I think I know what they’re going to to do. Rocket, you’ve got a way to stop Ghost, right?”
I nodded. “I know how the original Rocket caught Ghostwoman. The technology should still work.”
Tara acknowledged me with a brief nod and turned. “Red Hex? Bloodmaiden? You’ve worked out a way to handle the speedsters. You won’t have more than instants. Can you?”
Samita and Amy looked at each other. Samita said, “My spell should buy enough time for yours.”
Amy grinned, and turned to Tara. “My working won’t hold them very long, but I’ll have enough time to unleash it.”
Tara turned back to me. “Your technology deploys instantly?”
I shrugged. “Close.”
Turning her head toward Rod, she said, “Troll and Rocket are our offense. Bloodmaiden and Red Hex will defend the flag. I’ll coordinate—from next to the flag.”
She talked about backup plans in case our first round of plans didn’t work, but judging from the first fight, ours could be over seconds after it began. Theirs had taken longer than that, but it couldn’t have lasted more than a couple minutes.
Tara went over details with Amy and Samita. Spells and magic devices involved a lot of details that we’d all be better off knowing.
I tried to listen in, knowing that being aware of their limitations wouldn’t hurt, but I didn’t get to.
An alert appeared in my HUD.
[The Coffeehouse Illuminati are invading Turkmenistan in force. Do you want detailed updates or summaries?]
I wrote back, “Summaries for now, and nothing during the fight—which will start in minutes.”
[I’ll keep that in mind. Current summary: They’re effectively executing the “Divide and Conquer” strategy I wrote for you, but since they are not you, I project a high probability of escalation.]
I wanted to hear more about that, and was about to ask for more details when the announcer said, “Contestants, please stand near your flags and stand ready to fight. I’ll begin the countdown once you’re in place.”
And that was all for international news.
We walked toward the flag, Tara running down final details with all of us. She turned from Samita and Amy to me. “Remember to release the Ghost tech before you leave.”
Ignoring the feeling in my stomach, I said, “Got it.”
The grass brushed against the Rocket suit’s legs. Since it was considerably more sparse and less green than in Michigan, we were mostly walking on dirt.
When we got to the flag, I considered turning on the phase blocker, but guessed that we weren’t allowed to until after it started.
Barely seconds after we turned to face the other team’s flag, the announcer started to talk. “With both teams in place, we’re now ready to begin. I’ll count down, and on ‘go,’ they’ll begin.”
I put my right hand on the belt pouch where the blocker was.
I took a breath, watching Jaclyn and Meteor. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if Jaclyn grabbed me. It was too bad I had to drop the device before taking off. Why hadn’t I turned the phase blocker into bots?
I clenched and unclenched my fists, dreading the fight.
“Go! Go! Go!”
I opened the pouch, pressed the button, and dropped it next to the stone pillar that held the flag pole. A blinking green light and my HUD confirmed that I hadn’t broken it in the process.
Then I took a step forward, starting the rocket pack at the same time. It roared, lifting me into the air, and warming my butt and legs.
I’d barely made it into the air as Rod shifted from his human look—fedora, trench coat and black mask to troll form. I say “shifted,” but there was no shifting. In one moment, he was a man, and in the next a troll stood in his place. Twice the size of a normal human, dressed in medieval clothing, and drooling from a mouth full of sharp teeth, Rod would terrify any sensible person.
Personally, I felt relieved he was on my side.
In the next moment he jumped, crossing most of the way from our flag to team three’s flag, passing over Jaclyn and Meteor who couldn’t have been more than fifty feet from our flag already.
The air around Meteor was already burning. I could only guess where she’d be next.