The cabin and indirectly the Rocket suit felt like an oven. Then the fans came on, the air conditioning running stronger than it would in any normal van.
I felt the mech begin to sink even as error messages began scrolling down the screen on the dashboard. Tapping on the screen, I learned more details. The dragon’s breath hadn’t destroyed all of the gravitic panels. It had burned through a spot in the mech’s body which happened to carry electricity to the one of the panels. This was good news. The van’s self-repair systems could handle broken conducting material fairly quickly. Repairing even a small section of panel would be slow. Replacing one would be impossible.
So that was the good news. The bad news? We were falling.
The mech automatically gave all the gravitics more power to compensate, so we stabilized after a second. Unfortunately, we weren’t moving much–at least in a controlled way. The force of the dragon’s breath combined with the gravitics, and our momentum left us moving parallel to the cliff, but with the head of the Catmecha facing the cliff, and the right side of the cabin highest in the air.
I activated the maneuverability jets, pushing up the left side of the mech, but also pushing further left, and away from the dragon.
Damage to the gravitics threatened the start of a vicious cycle in which we got hit, losing our ability to move, making it easier to hit us, finally ending in a smashed Catmecha and our overcooked bodies.
I didn’t want that, and Haley didn’t either. She’d switched from the laser to firing off bullets and bots because the laser had been damaged by the blast.
Using better than human speed to fire off more than I would have been able to, Haley kept up a constant stream of glowing projectiles as I monitored the repairs.
In the meantime, Artaxus had fallen off the wall as he flamed at us, twisting enough that he’d managed to land on his feet instead of his back and shredded wings.
He loosed flame in our direction, but we must have been too far away. The blast dispersed before it reached us.
Almost at the same time hundreds of glowing streaks converged on the dragon. Goobots exploded all over his head, covering eyes, nose and mouth. Artaxus tried to clear them away with his claws, but the goo didn’t come off easily, sticking to his claws, and sticking his claws to his snout.
The rest of the bots turned out to be paintbots—with glow-in-the-dark paint. Haley had hit the dragon all over, turning him from a dragon with black scales that let him blend into the dark to a dragon covered with a glowing rainbow of multi-colored paint splotches.
“Don’t you have any killbots? Or even exploding bots?” Haley stopped firing.
Staring as the dragon struggled to free its claws from the gooey strands that held it to its face, I shook my head. “No. I didn’t think I’d be taking it into battle against anything real. The worst I thought I’d end up using it for is a really hard training session.”
Haley sighed. “So we’re stuck. We don’t have anything that will really hurt him.”
“I wouldn’t say that. I’ve got a few killbots in my armor. If I opened a window, I could use them on the dragon. Oh… Plus, the mech’s claws and teeth are made to work like Cassie’s sword.”
“Are you serious?” With my helmet’s 360 degree vision, I could see her eyes widen.
“The only problem with that is that we’d have to take him on directly to make it matter.”
At that moment, the mech made a pinging noise. On the screen, both the laser and the gravity panel went from being red to green, and then disappeared from the list of damaged sections.
Travis’ voice came over the comm. “Rocket? Night Cat? Are you okay up there?”
“We’re fine,” Haley said at the same time I said, “We’re all fixed as of now.”
“Great,” Travis said, pausing a little longer than I found comfortable. “We’ve been leaving you alone because we’ve got our own problems, but right now we’ve got almost everyone inside, and it looks like you’re our best shot at running interference. Izzy’s willing but tired, and I think they’re going to try—“
Below us, Artaxus must have had some way to coordinate with the faerie troops under his command because at that moment, he leapt, making it halfway up the cliff in one jump, and pulling himself halfway on to the ledge where the park stood, crushing the railing at the edge. Still glowing with the paint, he appeared to have gotten his mouth cleared of the goo even though it still coated his head.
At the same time, the dragon’s army rushed into the fog. Goblins had spears or bows in hand. A couple of trolls carried enormous axes, held ready to slice anyone in their path. I had no name for the rest of the creatures. Afterward I’d have to ask Samita—assuming we all had an afterward.
The army wasn’t our problem. I opened up the rockets on the mech’s back, and dove for the dragon.