Before anyone could move, he nipped Philo’s shoulder, and lunged for me. I held up my arms, one forward in a block, and pulling the other back, ready to punch.
It bit my blocking arm, completely surrounding it from the elbow up, but that didn’t last. Warmth suffused my body, and a red glow tinged my view of the scene. The view from one of my spybots showed that the entire Rocket suit glowed red.
At the same moment, The Thing That Eats spit my hand out of its mouth, yelping in pain. Not wasting the moment, I punched it with all the strength the Rocket suit had, aiming a little upward.
It flew backwards over the cars, landing on the lawn of a two story building that appeared to be mostly mirrored glass and steel beams.
I gave the rockets thrust and flew after it, landing on the lawn as the creature leapt into the air. I had time to notice that my punch had left a bloody mark on the bottom of its face where my fist hit.
That was strange.
I’d never done that kind of damage against the Cabal’s elite soldiers. It was the only reason I’d felt comfortable going all out.
I didn’t have time to dwell on it though. Like Jaclyn and the Cabal’s elite, immortal reserve group, Adronicus was strong enough to jump at least a city block, and The Thing That Eats didn’t hesitate to use his strength.
The first leap took him past the row of factories we’d started in and over to the next street’s line of factories, warehouses, and mirrored office buildings. It landed on the green lawn of Grand Lake Beer Distributors, a mirrored building with no more character or interesting design than any of the rest of the buildings on the block—except for one thing. The beige, concrete sign in front of the building showed the logos of all the brands distributed. It included “Larry Beer!,” the brand Larry had created when he wasn’t in costume as the Rhino as well as many other craft beers.
The Thing’s second leap took him away from Grand Lake Beer Distributors into an empty field where the weeds grew as high as my waist.
With the new suit, I could fly near Mach 1, so it wasn’t hard to keep up with him. He wasted his speed going up and down while I could go straight.
The problem was that while something about the ward in my suit let me hurt him, the Cabal’s reserves were easily strong enough to crush the old version of my armor. The new armor was stronger, but I didn’t want to test its strength as the crash test dummy.
I could escape that by firing off a killbot, but I’d kill off The Thing That Eats along with its host.
Tapping my palm, I opened up my group comm connection. “Everyone, I’m trailing him. Should I fire a killbot? Because I’ll probably kill the host too.”
Camille’s reaction was instant. “What? No!”
The Thing took another leap. It took it over the field, across a stream and toward a line of houses.
Haley’s voice came over the comm. “I see your location. You… Might have to, if he starts eating people.”
Vaughn’s link went active. “I think you might have to even if he’s just going to bite someone. Philo’s looking pretty bad.”
The Thing’s next leap took it over several blocks, putting it far past Grand Lake’s borders technically. Practically, South Grand Lake was indistinguishable from the actual city except for a higher average income.
It landed in front of a gray, two story house located on a block of houses that were almost, but not quite the same. They might be a different color, have the garage on the opposite side, but basically they were variations on the same floor plan.
A woman in yoga pants and red sweater was opening the back door to her car and placing a baby in a car seat inside.
The Thing landed in the street, and turned its head toward her.
Not waiting to find out what its next step would be, I loosed the killbot along with a couple high explosive rounds in case it could sense the bullets.
The killbot reached it first. And failed. An error message appeared saying, “Did not penetrate,” as the bot exploded on the creature’s skin. That explosion was followed by two more, none of them doing any more damage than knocking the creature over and burning its clothes.
The woman shut the car door, started the car, and drove across her own lawn and over the sidewalk to avoid getting any closer to The Thing.
It had no desire to avoid her though, pulling itself up, and beginning to leap.
That’s when I hit it. I aimed myself at it like a missile, hands outstretched and balled into fists.
It did not, despite my fears, open up its mouth to swallow me. Instead, I hit it in the middle of the face, driving the back of its head into the ground. In a normal human, that might have killed them, but would have almost certainly knocked them out even if it did risk permanent brain damage.
Would that I were so lucky.
It hit the ground, giving a wheezing grunt, and I bounced off it as the street under it cracked.