Wind hit me, and a lot of it. It wasn’t a well considered blast either, throwing me toward the bleachers.
I hit the force field hard. Unsurprisingly, I could see it coming at me better with sonar than I would have with my eyes. With my eyes it was almost transparent. With sonar, it was simply a wall.
The field gave a little as I hit it, but not much. I bounced off, and since I was still pointing in the direction of team one’s flag, I kept on going.
Aiming toward the flag in its stone pillar, I moved away from the force field, and over the edge of the stone arena we were supposed to stay inside. Not coincidentally, I also happened to be directly above the stone ball track.
I say “not coincidently” because the moment I crossed over the track I saw a ball rolling in my direction. That wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t as if balls could fly, and I was well above the track—except apparently, it wasn’t that simple.
The ball hit something and shot upward at exactly the right moment—when it would be at the right angle to hit me, but too close for me to dodge.
It hit my chest, throwing me upward, and into a tumble. The ground, and the sky alternated from one to the other, blurry gray stone to blurry gray sky.
Not sure if I could think straight enough to avoid hitting the ground, I clicked the “hover” command on my palm. Then the rocket pack started turning on and off, not thrusting except when my tumbles pointed me upward.
Soon I found myself hovering above the arena. It hadn’t taken long.
All the same, it didn’t change the fact that Slugger and Gordon had already reached our side of the arena and were fighting with Rod, Samita, and Tara.
I also knew I couldn’t pay attention to it, and would have to trust them to handle it.
I dove toward their flag, wondering how Sean, Stephanie and Blue Mask would try to stop me. Of course I didn’t just dive.
I also opened up on them.
I’d loaded up the Rocket suit with non-lethal ammunition—basically goobots and nothing else. The ten goobots I’d used against Gordon would have been excessive under normal circumstances, but today I had goobots to burn, or more to the point, not burn. If I wanted to burn things, I’d have been loaded up with high explosive rounds.
Not that it would have been a good idea.
Stephanie had been standing between me and the flag, strange symbols all over her suit blazing. I couldn’t see the symbols, but the suit’s thermal cameras supplied enough detail to the HUD that I could tell her devices were warm.
The HUD also showed a brief notification that I’d been hit with a sonic attack, but there was no detected damage so far. Unfortunately the sonic attack had been within the ranges I often used to attack people’s technology.
Stephanie never saw the bots coming. One moment she stood with her suit awash in the glow of multiple devices. The next saw her covered with goo. Strands ran down her body and stuck to the stone floor below us.
Blue Mask had been standing next to Stephanie. Well, I thought he had, but he didn’t get hit. Steel flashed as he batted the goobots out of the air, sometimes slicing them in half with his sword.
That’s when I realized that I could barely see.
The grey dust Sean had ben controlling completely surrounded me. Worse, the dust wasn’t any easier to see through with the sonics, radar, or thermal imaging.
I guessed that it had to be magnetite, but powdering iron would have the same effect.
That’s the moment when the suit reported that there had been some damage from the sonic blast after all. It had damaged the fuel control mechanism. It didn’t say which part, and I made a mental note to remind myself to write more fine grained error messages in the future.
All the same, I told myself, I could still fly, so whatever had happened, it couldn’t be that bad.
Naturally, that was the moment when the fuel cut out, giving me the notification, “out of fuel.”
Except for the fact that I was falling, this was no big deal. The armor would repair itself with the exception of a few parts, and the fuel control mechanism wasn’t one of the exceptions.
I hit the ground on the other side of the flag, skidding and bumping, until I finally hit one of the rectangular stone barriers.
Barely visible through the dust, Blue Mask charged me, sword drawn. Sean stood next to the flag, teeth clenched, probably concentrating.
The suit gave me a notification.
Self-repair processes halted