Pressing the buttons on his palm, Joe made the suit turn upright and hover. As the Nexus flew toward him, barely slowing down and raising his arm, Joe wondered how good an idea this would be.
Bright shifting colors raced toward him, and passed to his right, quickly followed by the Nexus himself.
Joe turned in place in the air. It had seemed difficult the first time he’d tried it, but after more than thirty years in the Rocket suit, he barely thought as he did it.
The Nexus turned toward him, turning upright in the air and pointing the bracer at him.
Turning on the suit’s PA, Joe broadcast, “Mark, I know that somehow you’re in there, and that you can control this being that you’ve become. I don’t know what the Abominators told you, but they lost. They can’t hurt anyone you care about, and they can’t hurt you. I’ve been told that the Abominators on Earth were the last ones left. There’s nothing to fight for. Relax. It’s over.”
The creature’s face broke into a smile. The colors around its bracer grew in size, surrounding his entire arm in a blurred rainbow without warning.
Joe didn’t have time to move, knowing the strike would come.
And then it didn’t.
The colors faded in a bright pop. Nexus’ face contorted in anger. Joe barely had time to feel relief before it leaped straight at him, moving faster than Joe could dodge.
He tried, managing to step to the right, but that only meant that a fist several times the size of his own brushed across his armored chest instead of punching it directly.
It was the hardest hit he’d ever felt in the Rocket armor, and that included a direct hit from an artillery shell.
He rolled across the ground, his armor buzzing and beeping error messages. From the pattern of the beeps, significant damage to the suit, probable structural integrity problems.
Joe gave a laugh as he rolled to his feet. He barely needed diagnostics to tell him that.
His chest hurt. Had that thing broken a rib? Well, it wouldn’t be the first.
Still dizzy from the speed of the roll, he looked toward where he’d last seen the giant.
He hadn’t moved, but blinked when Joe met his gaze. In the back of his head, Joe wondered if this was such a good idea. He had a plan, but it assumed that Mark had more control over the thing he’d become than that.
One more hit to the chest, and the creature’s hand would probably go through.
Joe turned off the buzzing and beeping with a palm click. Wishing he’d known Mark at all, or had any idea what motivated him, he pushed himself to go forward with the plan.
“Mark,” he began, thinking that if the giant attacked, he at least had more distance.
The giant didn’t give him any time to go further. With a scream, the creature flew forward, racing toward him. He gave the rocket pack as much thrust as he could, betting that it could catch him anyway.
He bathed the giant in sound from the sonics, hoping the weapons’ algorithm would find something fragile that would resonate, something that mattered.
It didn’t seem to affect him.
Nexus aimed upward with more speed than Joe expected, altering his path. Joe had spent too much time at this to be unrealistically hopeful. At the speed the giant was traveling, combined with his maneuverability, he’d catch him sooner or later.
All he could do was hope that Mark had more influence than he seemed to. That, and the possibility he could salvage the plan.
Twisting in the air, he managed to avoid the giant’s first pass.
Still above the empty lot, he aimed for the elevated highway, flying in the direction where it was mostly built.
A glance behind him showed the Nexus turning to follow.
Except then Joe heard an explosion, and orange cheese covered the Nexus. Gooey strands lead from the bridge to the street below, catching the Nexus in the middle.
Freddie stood on other side of the lot, dressed in his Yellow Burrito costume. All yellow, and textured to look like a burrito shell, it was at least functional as armor even if Joe thought it looked silly. Still, the red wig with fake vegetable bits did a good imitation of salsa.
The burrito gun he held was shaped like a burrito crossed with a rifle.
The giant struggled and the strands jiggled, pulling at the concrete above and below. There wasn’t any question in Joe’s mind that the giant would get free.
It gave him time, and that might make the difference. He slowed, coming to a hover above the bridge. It wouldn’t be able to see him directly, but from what he’d seen of the creature so far, he felt sure it knew that he was there.
He started dialing the League on the line that piggybacked on NASA’s communications. With any luck they were done meeting with the Xiniti by now.
Houston didn’t put him through instantly, but he hadn’t expected them to.
“It’ll take a minute,” said a man’s voice.
Joe didn’t recognize the voice, and grunted an acknowledgement.
Down below, the Nexus had pulled the arm with the bracer free, the bracer glowing with swirling colors. A jerk and a twist of his body pulled its chest and the other arm free.
It aimed the bracer at Freddie, but he jumped sideways, and the surface of the ground where he’d stood turned into black rock with glossy spikes.
Freddie fired another exploding cheese blast, but this time the Nexus aimed the bracer, and as the multi-colored light hit the strands, the cheese changed to dust.
The giant pulled himself free of the rest of the cheese all at once, not even looking in Joe’s direction. He turned to follow Freddie as he ran toward the nearest building, floating downward.
When he was about half way to the ground, he whirled in the air, aiming the bracer toward the bridge. Joe followed where he pointed, seeing the blur of Larry in the Rhino armor.
Joe aimed himself toward the giant, flying at maximum speed and turning the sonics onto their highest setting. He didn’t seriously hope to hurt it, but it might be enough of a distraction for Larry to avoid getting hit.
Mark might admire the Rocket, but he might not make the same effort for everyone.