For the crowbot, it turned out that even that brief contact could take it down. The beam didn’t cut the wing off, but it cut through far enough that the wing broke because of the stress that flying through the air put on it.
If it had been further down the wing, maybe it could have kept on flying, but it broke off near the body. The crowbot flipped over a few time and then disappeared into the trees below.
As it disappeared, I turned off the laser beam, knowing that running it sucked power and might start fires. I’d turn it on when I had another good shot—assuming that the I was able to. It felt like whatever I’d done to hit Jared had sucked the power out of me.
At that thought, I remembered something I hadn’t been aware I’d learned from the Ghosts. I could pull more energy in—temporarily. If I did it too often, I’d get more tired than I would have been if I never did it at all.
She’d explained to me how it worked—sort of, It was more like implanting the necessary memories directly in my brain—much like what the implant did. I hadn’t had the chance to think through the most efficient way to use it. The one thing that seemed obvious was that using it as little as possible seemed like the best choice.
It was just that I might not be able to—not if I kept on missing because I was too tired to react quickly enough.
Not sure what to do next with all of that, I decided to concentrate on what was in front of me, or technically, below me.
Rook’s two henchmen and his crowbots were heading straight up at me, a smart move, but one that meant that he was going at this with his head and not his emotions. He’d be okay if the bots or henchmen got me instead of killing me himself—while I was having to remind myself that if I went down to help Haley and the others now, I’d only allow Rook to focus his whole force on the group of us instead of spending half of it to get me.
“Everyone okay?” I asked over the comm.
Haley said, “Busy,” and something crackled in the background followed by the roaring of the wind.
Not wanting to distract her or anyone else, I kept on flying upward watching everyone’s positions in my HUD. Rook might not be following right behind me, but as long as he was, I could keep him away from everyone else.
Plus, if I kept on moving, maybe I wouldn’t have to find out how well Rook’s version of Grandpa’s monomolecular blades worked on my armor.
Watching as the distance increased, I found that I almost felt a little disappointed that Rook appeared to have made his suits slower than mine. Guessing that they might head down toward everyone else if I got too far away, I stopped going straight up and began to circle back toward Hardwick Industries.
That gave them the chance to make up the distance and they took it—all of them, including Rook.
They didn’t just turn though, I felt them start to do something. It felt the same as whatever Abominator tech Jared had been using. Giving the area around me a look through my helmet’s internal screen, I learned that Jared hadn’t reappeared.
Instead, I noticed that Rook and his henchmen’s right arms, the ones where their hands had been amputated, glowed with the same purple light that Jared’s had. That confirmed my suspicion that Rook had some influence on Protection Force’s powered armor because he’d also gotten a more than casual look at Jared’s Abominator artifact.
I knew that he’d tweaked it somehow before I knew how. I felt power build and as it released, jagged purple bolts that reminded me more of lightning bolts crackled and hissed toward me.
Not having any better ideas, I concentrated, trying to use the same source of power I’d used before, which if I understood things correctly was somehow me. In what felt like the same moment, all three bolts hit me at once, power washing over the suit. I could feel the heat through both my external armor and the stealth suit in its present role as my flight suit.
Errors, alarms, and notifications crossed the bottom of my HUD, informing me of low-level damage across 73% of my powered armor. My armor wasn’t all of it either, I struggled to keep my eyes open. Even though I’d been hit, I knew that whatever I’d prevented would have been worse.
At the same time, worse than falling asleep in the air didn’t get me much, and now I barely felt like I could move. Recognizing that I wouldn’t be able to do anything if I let myself feel this way, I opened myself up to energy from another source, one that I’d have to experiment with later.
A cool feeling went through me, almost like it might feel if it were a wind. I didn’t feel more powerful, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I was about to lose consciousness.
Even as I let myself enjoy the moment, Rook’s amplified voice seemed to go through my armor.
“How? How did you prepare for that? I thought you might have some counter to Abominator technology, but that wasn’t from the Abominators. I made it. It took me months to make it work. How did you know?”
I couldn’t know for sure, but now he sounded personally invested in the idea of killing me.