Larry hit Rook with enough force that he felt it inside the armor. It wasn’t concussion-inducing force, or even particularly painful, but solid. He grabbed for a good hold on Rook’s armor, but missed the wings. The Frog suit’s claws scraped all the way down Rook’s sides, and for a second Larry thought he felt the armor give, but then it ripped out of the suit’s grip.
He fell, and hit the ground. It wasn’t a big deal.
The suit could easily take a forty foot drop. It was made for it. The hind legs hit first, absorbing the hit. The front legs followed, doing the same while all the legs adjusted position to balance. Larry hit a button, sending the suit after the glowing red dot that indicated Rook.
The suit twisted and turned quickly enough that Larry couldn’t remember if the suit was designed to prevent the user from turning so quickly he blacked out. If not, he thought, that would be something to add.
Rook hadn’t hit the ground, but he didn’t seem to be in good shape. As Larry turned, he seemed to pull out of a dive, but when he came around, aiming in Larry’s direction, he didn’t seem to be able to fly straight. The display inside Larry’s helmet showed a white line indicating where Rook’s heading would take him. The longer Rook flew in one direction, the more curved the line became.
Not that Larry stayed in one spot to observe. He set the Frog suit to close, and close quickly. As Rook’s line adjusted to point at Larry instead of just to his side, and as the suit’s guns fired, the Frog suit hopped twice.
By the second hop, he was nearly underneath Rook’s suit.
He could have jumped again, but he decided to give the crowd a good finish.
Leaning back, he fired the tongue gun. What appeared to be a giant black ball of spit shot out of the Frog’s mouth, engulfing Rook’s chest, and hardening.
Rook stopped firing as his beak dipped downward, following the line that now led from his body to the mouth of the Frog suit.
Larry didn’t wait. Grabbing the line in his hands as Rook passed over him, braced himself, and made a long, low jump.
The line tightened substantially while he was still in the air, pulling him backwards. He hit the ground, and landed on his back, sending showers of sparks as he was dragged across the concrete.
He didn’t even have time to mutter a curse before Rook slammed into the ground behind him.
Larry pulled himself up, and ran. The suit turned step into a ten foot leap. He reached Rook as Rook pulled himself into a sitting position.
The bird beak had bent a little off center. One of the wings had been twisted in a way that reminded Larry of a clothes hanger more than anything else.
Rook seemed to become more aware then, pulling up one arm, and firing the gun hanging under it.
The bullets hit the Frog suit’s legs. Larry hit Rook’s helmet with one of the Frog’s clawed fists, knocking him on his back.
Bullets sprayed everywhere. Larry ignored them, reaching down toward Rook’s chest armor, aiming for jagged rip where the Frog’s claws had made it through earlier.
“I surrender! Stop! I surrender!”
Larry stopped. He stood up and stepped back. “You got it.”
Over the loudspeakers, the announcer said, “It appears that Rook has surrendered. We’ve received confirmation from the referee. The Frog will continue to the next part of the tournament. Rook will not. Let’s give a big hand to the winner.”
He barely needed to say it. The crowd was already cheering.
Two members of the security team appeared along with a golf cart with a red cross painted on it.
One of the security guards helped Rook to his feet.
“Frog,” Rook said.
“You’ll lose next time.”
Larry watched as one of the security guards helped Rook to sit on the cart. “I’ll be waiting for that.”
The crowd continued to cheer even as the golf cart carried Rook away.
He went back to his suite by the same dark corridor he’d taken to the fight. He could have had the arena’s doctors check him over. He could have gone to one of the arena’s bars. Instead when one of the arena’s tuxedoed employees said, “Once the doctors check you over, I can take you around the luxury box suites. There are always people who want to meet the winners.”
Larry had shaken his head even though the guy couldn’t see it. “Nah. I gotta check the armor for problems. Just let me know when my next bout is, okay?”
He spent the next two hours in the suite’s workshop replacing damaged panels, and checking for hairline cracks. Lim was out, so he turned on the television for some noise, listening to the fights as they occurred.
Alexis won his match, fighting in what the announcer called the “July 26 Armor.” Larry wondered if he should ask what the name meant.
When he’d done all he could for the suit, Larry called Cheryl and asked when they could talk.
“I’m free for a little while. Let’s take a walk outside. Meet me near the front of the arena?”
“Sure,” he said.
He barely had the chance to hang up the phone when someone started knocking on the door. He left the workshop, and went into the main suite. Looking through the peephole in the door, he saw a tall, white haired man wearing a blue suit.
Worse, he recognized the man. It was Gerald Cannon—Man-machine himself.