The bounce threw me into the air. Unlike Haley, who had the reflexes necessary to land on her feet, I had the reflexes necessary to slam into the road, and didn’t want to.
I tapped my palm, giving the “hover” command, a command that told the suit to calculate the best way to kill momentum and bring the suit upright. The world blurred around me as the rockets fired in a pattern I couldn’t have come up with on the fly.
Instead of bouncing off the Thing, flipping in the air, and flying off in some random direction dictated by the way my arms and legs flailed in the air, the rockets shut off for a moment. Then as I began to flip over they fired, stopped, and fired again. By the time they were done, I found myself fifty feet in the air, and about thirty feet past the Thing.
I’d ended up facing away from it though, so I swiveled around, adding a little height and readying the lasers, only to find that it had darted between the houses or something.
I released a few more spybots, flipping through their individual views to see if I could find the Thing, called Kayla to see if she could check their cameras too, and told everyone else what had happened.
Then I gave myself a little more height. Maybe that way I’d be able to see it dart from behind one house to another.
I didn’t see it, but then I gave it more thought. The Cabal’s reserves were as strong as Jaclyn or stronger in some cases. That meant that even if they didn’t have Jaclyn’s reflexes, they had speed, something I knew, but hadn’t fully thought through the implications.
Even without jumping, it’d be able to cover a block in seconds. If it changed back to its host’s body, I might not instantly recognize it.
I needed to cast a wider net. I needed to get more bots out into the field.
Fortunately, I had more. I had two floating pods. One of them carried materials for a Rocket suit. The other contained replacement armor bits and bots of all kinds.
It loosed the spybots, and even more came online. I had no way to watch all of them even with Kayla’s help, but maybe we could at least find him by checking the recordings.
I stayed in the air, hovering, searching through the bots’ video and the suit’s HUD, and wondering where everyone else was.
I was about to ask over the comm when I noticed a hawk. It may even have been an eagle. Whatever it was, its brown feathers had a golden tinge and its wingspread was wider than the Rocket suit was tall.
It didn’t take much to conclude that it wasn’t a normal hawk. I’d seen hawks while flying in the Rocket suit and they mostly didn’t care that I was there. The ones that did care avoided me. I’d always assumed that it was because the rocket pack sounded like a jet or was simply noisy.
This bird flew around me twice. For a second, I worried that it might be about to land on me, but on the second time around, the bird rearranged itself in the air, wings reshaping themselves into arms, the hawk’s stubby legs and talons becoming longer.
Moments later, a woman floated in front of me. Her formfitting dress was dark brown, but decorated with gold, and thicker than a “dress.” It made me think of armor. I didn’t recognize the material, but it gleamed like metal in the noonday sun.
A sword hung by her side without a scabbard. I couldn’t identify the blade’s metal, but it looked more like silver than steel.
The woman herself wasn’t human. As tall as the Rocket suit, she was thinner than humans could be and still be healthy, but her golden eyes were alert, watching me. Thinness and the color of her eyes weren’t the only clues that she wasn’t human. Her pointed ears got that point across. The streaks of gold in her brown hair were a hint too.
“You lost him,” she said.
“I’m working on that,” I said.
“Of that, I’ve no doubt,” she said. “Please stop. Your own government has passed this problem over to the North American Council of Wizardry, and as a member of that council, I’m telling you that we will handle it.”
As amazing as it was to know that there was a North American Council of Wizardry, its members appeared to live purely for the purpose of telling me to stay out of their business.
“You haven’t,” I noted.
Her eyes narrowed and her cheeks colored. “I’m well aware of it. I’m also aware that you are touched by some queer form of blood magic. Let it be known to you that there are those of us charged with hunting those who use blood magic to extinction.”
Keeping in mind Tolkien’s line about wizards being subtle and quick to anger, I decided that this might not be the time to complain.
Trying to sound more earnest than hardnosed, I told her, “I’m sure you’re aware of the source of the blood magic, but you need to be aware that the Heroes’ League will intervene if people are in danger.”