I saw the blade go into my chest straight through my armor. I’d protected against that, as had Rook the last time I’d seen him. Much as I had, he’d upgraded. Right now though, his weapons could go through my armor whereas mine couldn’t go through his.
I needed to get a sample of that blade or ideally the whole device so I could study the mechanism—assuming I survived.
The police didn’t like it when you took supervillains’ stuff. Loss of evidence due to treasure hunting supers had resulted in supervillains going free instead of a conviction before.
Fighting supervillains isn’t a video game—though it might be nicer if it were. I’d take points off my health any day over a sword penetrating my chest.
The good news being that my armor’s built-in defenses against mono-molecular blades did some good. It stopped the blade from going further in than a couple of inches.
He pulled the blade out as I felt a wave of dizziness and stumbled. It struck me that I might be going into shock.
In my HUD, error messages about the breach scrolled past followed by more about countermeasures and the release of internal flesh goo to fill the wound and give the body time to repair itself or at least prevent me from immediately bleeding out.
Ahead of me, Number Eight smiled, recognizing that he could stab me while I wasn’t thinking clearly.
If that was his idea, he was right. I felt like I was about to faint. I could only guess how much blood I’d lost or if he’d managed to hit a large blood vessel or a lung.
He pointed his cane higher, intending to go for my jugular. He wouldn’t need to go too deep for a killing blow there.
I needed to get out of here, but there was no safe place to retreat to for any of us.
He lunged forward and I managed to bat the cane sideways. I tried to grab it, but I couldn’t make my hand move fast enough. He pulled back the moment I hit it and I was wobbling too much to keep up.
“What did I hit?” He held the cane between us, ready to lunge again, adding, “I hit something. You’re just about to fall over.”
Behind me in the laundry room, Uncle Steve said, “Joanie, get out of there!”
Mom didn’t say anything. My Xiniti implant on the other hand requested, “Permission to release nanobots to assist your body in repair.”
My mind flashed back to when we’d killed the Xiniti in the battle on Manhattan Island. He’d been full of cybernetic parts. I’d assumed that they’d been installed Darth Vader style, but remembering how the implant had burrowed into my body as a little ball and created an interface with my brain, it might be the installer.
Waking up to find my body riddled with alien cybernetics that I didn’t understand sounded like the beginning of a horror movie.
I thought back, “Only temporary help. Just fix stuff.”
As I did, Number Eight lunged again and I tried to knock it back, catching the blade on my left forearm for my trouble, and starting the error messages going again—including one that notified Kayla that I was injured.
The blade was thin enough that I didn’t feel pain from the cut and the armor adjusted to close the hole. That was the good news. The bad was that if the implants’ nanobots had started work, I didn’t feel any better yet.
A drop of blood dripped off Number Eight’s blade. “Another cut,” he said. “How many do you think it will take to finish you off? It can’t feel good in there right now, can it? It has to be dripping inside. With enough small cuts, you can kill anyone.”
Without looking at her, he added, “You’ll see your son die in front of you and then your brother—unless you get in the way. Then you’ll die earlier.”
As he talked, he moved from one side of me to the other, looking for an opening, a moment where I wouldn’t have time to block his thrust.
Uncle Steve said, “Joanie, get out!”
Though I didn’t have the energy to pay much attention, I noticed that my mom’s mouth had turned into a thin line. Something small dropped out of her sleeve and into her hand.
Number Eight saw his opening and lunged. He moved almost faster than I could process it, but I did, knocking the cane to the side again, my head clearing enough to realize that I should have counterattacked every time I struck his cane. I could have made my own opening.
I didn’t have to.
Not looking at my mother turned out to be his mistake. He stepped back from my blow. He was strong, but the Rocket suit was stronger. As he struggled to keep his balance and his hold on the cane, she stepped in, her hand and the knife in it translucent. The knife sank into his back, traveling through his armored jacket as if it weren’t there.