Russ brought his hands up to his eyes while Cassie dropped the cleaning liquid and mop, grabbing the sword’s hilt with both her hands and yanking it away.
Russ made grab for it as she stepped back, but stopped when she pointed the blade at him.
Eyes watering, he jumped sideways out of the building and into the parking lot, colliding with an old Chrysler Caravan that had been parked in a handicapped spot. He left a human sized dent behind and a shattered passenger side window.
Then he started to run, each step carrying him a good twenty feet or more.
I ran to the window and activated the rockets, letting them carry me across the parking lot.
He’d already made it to the street despite smashing into another car on the way. He stopped at the corner of Jefferson Street and 48th — just past the destroyed SWAT team truck and the Box.
The ambulances, at least, were gone.
Police stood behind their cars, guns ready, blocking Jefferson just a little past 48th and blocking 48th just a little north and south of Jefferson. Two helicopters hung in the air. Though labeled with the word “Police,” one looked military. A sniper pointed a rifle out the open side door.
Predictably, the other one came from NBC News 10.
Lt. Van Kley’s voice blanketed the area in the flattened tone of a person using a loudspeaker.
“This is the police. Surrender. We can and will use deadly force should you attempt to pass the perimeter.”
He jumped into the air, easily giving himself enough force to pass over the police cars.
I opened up, giving the rockets all the fuel I could, and hit him in the back in midair. Then I aimed the both of us toward the street, and hoped he’d be a good landing pad.
For a second, I worried that I might kill him when we hit the street, but, then I remembered that he’d damaged two cars accidentally, and walked away unhurt.
At that point, I worried that hitting the street might not be enough, but, I didn’t have long to think about it.
Hitting the street hurt. Even in armor and using Russ as my pillow (or perhaps because he was my pillow), it still hurt. My rib, the one the doctor had just recently declared healed, twinged.
The street cracked where we came down, but we didn’t stay in one place. We both bounced, tumbling and bumping almost parallel to each other. When we finally stopped, I tried to stand up and nearly fell over.
When my head stopped spinning enough that standing wasn’t a challenge, I checked out what Russ was doing.
He wasn’t doing anything.
He wasn’t dead. I could see his chest rise and fall, and, when I say I could see it rise and fall, I mean I could see his chest hairs.
Our skid down the pavement had ripped the front off his Iron Maiden t-shirt. The back of the leather jacket lay partially under his legs, connected only barely to the rest. The cut Cassie made on his pants had already ripped down to the knee when he started running, but lay mostly around his knees now.
Except for the nick from Cassie’s sword, his body was unscratched.
A Box rolled out of the crowd of police vehicles and stopped next to me. Two men in body armor jumped out, one of them carrying what looked like metal briefcase. The other carried a very big gun.
The first man opened the briefcase, taking out what looked like a cross between a hypodermic needle and a jackhammer.
The man with the gun pointed it at Russ.
Putting the hypodermic on Russ’ skin, the man said, “This gets through just about anything.”
He pressed the button on the top, and, with a noise like a gunshot, injected Russ with what I assumed to be sedatives.
After he was done, he turned toward me and said, “Are things taken care of inside? That’s our next stop.”
“They were when I left.”
“Great.” He looked back down at the body.
“Do you know what that stuff is?” He pointed at a liquid dripping out of the jacket and pooling next to Russ’ body. In the Box’s headlights, it looked blue.
I had a feeling it wasn’t Romulan Ale. I said, “Uh… It might be the stuff that gave him powers.”
After pulling plastic gloves out of the briefcase, he dug a cracked, metal flask out of a pocket inside the leather jacket’s front and put it in a plastic bag.
“Here’s one for the Feds.”
* * *
Two hours later, I sat in League HQ’s lab, cleaning crud out of the Rocket suit. With all the food I’d stepped on or fallen into during the fight, I wanted to get it off before it turned crusty or messed with the suit in some way. Not that wetness should have been able to do any real damage, but you never knew.
Haley had gone home to do her algebra homework. Cassie sat on a stool next to me. I’d put the Rocket suit on a stand and held a soap and water filled sponge.
She’d showered and gotten into jeans and a sweatshirt. I wasn’t completely sure why she hadn’t left, but I suspected it was more because she’d be bored at home than any interest in the suit.
“I need better equipment,” she said.
Or possibly she had something on her mind.
“I don’t know. The sword’s pretty cool. Well, when you’re holding it, anyway.” I looked up from the suit. I’d just managed to the get the majority of the ketchup off the arm.
“Right,” she said.
“I could modify it so the power turns off automatically when anyone else picks it up.”
She nodded. “A good idea, but it doesn’t solve the problem. When I punched that guy, he didn’t even feel it. I need some way to hurt people like that without chopping them to pieces.”
“I could look up what sort of things your dad’s utility belt used to have, but I’d have to look at the schematics. I doubt we have any spares.”
Cassie smiled. “Yeah. Dad was hard on equipment. Didn’t he destroy practically everything your grandpa ever made for him?”
“Except for the sword,” I said.
“Which could get us all killed,” she said. “Do you think it’s worth it?
“What’s worth what?”
“Nearly dying at the hands of the monster of the week. I know you didn’t, but you could have. So could Haley. I mean, God, just one second of looking the wrong way…”
“It worked out though. You got it back.”
“It didn’t have to. I’m okay with getting hurt if I make a mistake, but I’m not okay with all of you getting hurt.”
“We all make mistakes. I wasn’t watching him either.”
“Yeah,” Cassie said. “I’m not going to make that one twice.”