On my right, Mateo pulled out his sword while I considered my options. When Working Man told me I couldn’t be the Rocket on this team, I’d put most of my work into my motorcycle and only a little into my costume.
On a practical level, that didn’t leave me with much beyond strength to work with. I’d worked up a paralysis gun, but I doubted that vampiric watermelons would have a similar enough nervous system and brain to be affected by it.
That left physical attacks. I ran forward until I was just in front of one of the big ones, raised my right leg, and stomped downward with as much strength as I could.
The melon opened its mouth wide as my foot neared it and while a part of me wanted to pull it away, I steeled myself for whatever pain might follow and tried to kick through to the street.
If the watermelon’s rind were any more protection than that of your average watermelon, I didn’t notice. Of course, I didn’t make a practice of stomping on watermelons in normal life or in training.
My foot broke off greenish-white teeth on the way down, crushing through to the red center of the melon all the way to the asphalt. The melon squirmed around my leg, trying to get away.
Not sure what else to do, I kept my right leg still and brought down my booted left foot on the left half of the melon, smashing it and leaving only rind and red watermelon slush.
Off to my right, Mateo slashed one of the larger watermelons in two, searing it, his blade glowing with white light. It fell limp on the ground.
Another bounded toward him across the ground with bounces that brought it higher with every bounce, the final one aimed at his head. This was a big watermelon. I didn’t know how many pounds it was, but it could easily have been more than forty.
He hit it in the air, scorching the whole fruit and cutting it in half at the same time. It fell to the ground, dead (or undead?). Either way, it stopped moving.
I didn’t have time either to appreciate his skill or the effectiveness of my brute force approach. Even as I tried to dodge it, two of the smaller watermelons hit me, one in my stomach, the other to my face.
I fell backward, hitting the asphalt. My costume took most of the impact. I felt the fall, felt losing my balance, and a dull pressure when I hit the ground.
That didn’t change the fact that having a watermelon open its body, enveloping the helmet you’re wearing, blocking your view of anything but its red flesh dotted with black seeds, is disquieting. If that weren’t bad enough, I felt something enclose both of my legs at once, biting down on my shins and calf muscles at the same time.
At once I realized the obvious—one of the big ones must be trying to eat me.
Despite a moment of fear that it might be able to get through my costume, I also grinned because I knew something the watermelon didn’t. I knew that I’d cheated a little when Working Man told me not to put any Rocket tech into my equipment. I hadn’t given myself a rocket pack, but I had given myself rocket boots.
They didn’t qualify as weapons normally, but in this situation, they did.
Before turning on the boots, I enabled one of my costume’s few features, making parts of it close to frictionless. Then I turned on the boots.
I felt the final chomp of the watermelon’s teeth against my legs and then felt it explode around them as I fired off a burst of flame and shot across the pavement, sliding off of the marketing firm’s parking lot and onto the church’s.
The initial burst of momentum threw the one on my stomach off and good riddance, it had begun to jump up and down. The one on my head stayed on longer. I guessed that was because it covered about three-quarters of my helmet and protruded in the front.
Whatever the reason, I knocked it sideways after I made it to the church’s property—which became interesting for another reason. It hit the asphalt like butter hit a hot frying pan—frying, spattering, and finally burning.
The last embers burned out as I cut off power to the outer layer of my costume, allowing it to stop sliding. I pulled myself up to see Mateo bat one of the smaller ones onto the church’s parking lot with the flat of his sword—where it immediately started burning.
I ran forward to join him, blocking one as it leaped for him and seeing him dispatch another with a slash.
With that, they were done. I didn’t know if we’d killed all of them or if a few had retreated, but they were gone.
I walked closer to Mateo to find him watching the one he’d thrown toward the church. It was still burning.
“Consecrated ground,” he said. “It isn’t very ecumenical of me, but it still surprises me that a UCC church property counts.”
I looked over his clothes. They were clean. If any watermelon splattered onto him, it left no sign. Despite its period of near-perfect smoothness, my costume still had bits of watermelon on it—not to mention seeds.
“I’m still surprised at how quickly you turned fruit ninja,” I said.
Mateo grinned under his mask, “Fruit swashbuckler.”