If we’d been spinning faster, maybe he’d have hit the guy on my arm and then been clipped by the guy hanging onto my legs from behind.
That’s not what happened, but even as we lurched sideways, the suit continued to spin. The guy hanging onto my right arm didn’t let go, but I heard him shouting at the guy who’d tried to punch me and ended up punching him. I could hear muffled noise through his helmet even though I couldn’t make out the words.
The puncher, meanwhile, had bounced off us and was trying to stabilize himself upright in the air and trying not to send himself flying in some random direction.
He had my sympathy—a little bit of it anyway. If he weren’t trying to hurt me, he’d have had more. I’d been in that position many times. I didn’t have much sympathy to spend though because the guys hanging onto my arms and legs made it easier for everyone to punch me—not just the first guy and a couple more were closing.
We were heading upward at a fair pace because I’d already set my suit to push upward as hard as possible despite the drag. Thinking about the guy hanging on to my legs, I adjusted the rockets to throw out as much heat as possible. It wasn’t as efficient, but bearing in mind that he was hanging on underneath the rockets’ blast, it made his life worse—hopefully to the point that he’d let go.
At almost the same time, I turned on the sonics at full. The two guys who’d grabbed my arms had pulled them into their bodies such that my hands were next to their stomachs. If they knew about my killbots, they were trusting that I wouldn’t let the bots cut through their armor and explode inside their stomachs—not to mention what my lasers would do.
To be fair, they weren’t wrong. I wouldn’t.
Instead, I set the sonics at frequencies that resonated most strongly with elements of the human digestive system, causing problems that would be felt at one end of the human body or another. Rook, or whoever had worked on their armor, may have hardened it against sonics, but it was one thing to resist sonics from a distance and another when they were held next to your armor.
I made a point of pressing my forearms against them so that the sonics would touch their armor, making a better connection, allowing as much of their armor as possible to conduct sound vibrations, turning it into a kind of intestinal surround sound.
My first hint that it was working came when they both groaned. Then they started making noises that reminded me of my cat coughing up a hairball as well as childhood stomachaches and being sent home from elementary school after making a disgusting mess on my desk.
To be fair to my would-be captors, they didn’t instantly let go. They tried to keep control of both of me and their own bodies’ rebellion. After a series of horrible noises, they let go, first with one hand and then with both to fiddle with their helmets—which from what I could see were not leaking at all.
In many situations that would be a good thing, but not this one.
I didn’t see more than that because when they let go, I shot upward, freed of their weight along with that of the guy who’d been grabbing my legs. He’d let go as did—less because he couldn’t hold on, I suspected, but out of surprise.
Despite that, I wasn’t fully free of them. Except for the two with vomit filled helmets and the three I’d taken out with goobots, they were all chasing me. Leading the pack were the two I’d just left behind and now nicknamed for personal convenience “Puncher” and “Leg-man.”
It amazed me that I could tell the difference given their identical suits, but it wasn’t me. It was my implant—which also helpfully labeled Jared Curtis. He was the third closest out of the fifteen behind me.
Now that I did remember that he’d been courtmartialed for stealing an alien artifact from supervillains, I wondered if he had it on him.
I needed to decide where to go next. Over the comm, I asked, “Do you need help?”
I couldn’t see Vaughn, Haley, Tara or the Protection Force people who’d followed them into the forest. The constant movement showed they were alive though.
“No,” Haley whispered, “Do you?”
“Doing okay,” I said before thinking about it. Was I really doing okay?
I’d taken five out of the fight and I was on the run from fifteen more. Only moments ago, four of them could have taken me down, but I’d escaped. That was “okay.” Now I had to take out the other fifteen.
Maybe that wasn’t okay?
No, I decided, I might not be knocking them out of the sky right and left, but right now I controlled this part of the fight. I was ahead of them and they weren’t gaining.
As an experiment, I stopped flying straight up, turning sideways to fly toward Hardwick Industries. Even losing a little speed there, they were still behind me. I could use this to pick them off one by one if I did it right.
It bothered me that I hadn’t seen Rook’s crowbots show up again, but flying over the clearing around the buildings made it that much less likely that they’d surprise me.
From behind me, Jared’s voice boomed, “This is your last chance. Surrender! I’m authorized to use lethal force and, if you don’t listen, I will.”
A flash of light caught my eye. Alone among the Protection Force suits, Jared’s had acquired an eerie purple glow. Thinking back to what I knew about him, I wondered if the artifact he’d stolen had some practical use in fighting and if he’d somehow gotten it back.
The purple glow began to ripple around him and it struck me that he’d begun to gain on me.
Over the comm, I said, “I might not be okay.”