The goobots did what I’d intended them to do—hit and explode into goo that covered her suit, and most important, the symbols that glowed on the armored plates, all of them.
I’d switched off direct visuals the moment I saw the glow, viewing her with a composite of sonics and thermal. She was a bit fuzzy, but goobots, much like hand grenades, didn’t demand precision.
After she fell, I asked my implant if it could obscure any symbols on her while allowing me to see the glow.
I felt it answer in the affirmative and turned my visuals back on. Noting a few spots where she still glowed, I fired off a few more goobots.
With that, I received another text from her, “If you’re reading this, they got me. I hope you’ve got people who can get their commands out of my head because otherwise I’m going to be working full time for the bad guys now. Don’t kill me unless you really, really have to, okay?”
The next text added, “I don’t know how they got me. I used your buzzer design, but I couldn’t keep it on me every second of every day. God knows I tried. My best guess is they got me before I started using it and planted commands that only needed to be activated with only a code word. I was with the Coffeeshop Illuminati for years before I saw through their BS. Another idea? They’ve got a way past your buzzer and you’re fucked. I know you’re smart, but don’t assume it works perfectly.”
This was the first person The Nine had gotten that I knew. While I’d never been able to completely trust her and she’d definitely worked against us at first, she’d been an ally against the True. She deserved better than this.
I forwarded her messages to Kayla, telling her, “Someone’s got to pick her up and get her to Kals, but I can’t right now. Maybe Team Hidden or Dark Cloak’s army of fae?”
“Maybe,” Kayla said, “I’ll check. It’s getting weird for them too.”
I wanted to ask how, but had to start paying attention to the fight again. In the seconds that had passed since I’d fired the goobots, Vaughn had literally blown both Live Wires away. He’d called up a wind that threw them into the T. Rex, hitting it with a flash of lightning, the sound of thunder, and a roar from the T. Rex that I felt through the suit.
It dove at the ground, trying to get at the human figures near it even though Bullet pelted it with force bullets large enough that it rocked back with every hit.
I didn’t get to pay it any more attention than that.
From behind me, Amy said, “Rocket, some help!”
With that I realized Amy and Cassie were keeping back the mushroom zombie horde with a combination of Cassie’s alien gun and Amy’s spear. Amy would throw the spear which would pass through a line of zombies causing them to shrivel and turn to dust. Meanwhile, Cassie fired shot after shot, each one leaving the zombie it hit burnt, many of them in multiple pieces.
If it were that simple, they wouldn’t have needed help, but every now and then the less damaged zombies or parts of zombie would release a cloud of spores. Seconds later, there were more zombies growing to full size and charging toward us.
If that weren’t enough, Meteor, who’d disappeared with most of the Coffeeshop Illuminati, came back now, aiming herself at Vaughn at more than 300 miles per hour.
Even though Vaughn was tougher than he used to be and wearing one of my nanotech based self-repairing suits, I knew it would hurt.
Even flying the Rocket suit, I couldn’t physically react quickly enough to block her from hitting him. I knew situations like this might happen, though—which was why I’d taken advantage of the fact that I could process information faster than a normal person.
I might not be able to move in time to aim my sonics at her, but I had time to fire off a burst of boombots even as I began to activate the jets and aim toward Vaughn.
Set on full burn, the boombots flew away with more speed than a human body could take, hitting Meteor on the right side. The heat and fire of explosions did nothing to her. She might not be immune to fire, but she was close to it. The boombots’ explosions generated more than heat and light.
They generated force, specifically force that threw her to my left which happened to be the direction that the mushroom zombies were coming from.
Lest you get the impression it was luck, it was less random than deliberately aiming Meteor at a cluster of mushroom zombies.
They didn’t seem to be able to infect people and few things kill fungus like fire.
She did better than I expected. When she hit them, a blast of fire exploded outward from her, burning them to charcoal—which was nice. If only I could get her to do that voluntarily, our lives would become so much easier.
As Meteor pulled herself up from the ground, discovering the 20 foot wide circle of blackened everything around her, Haley called me, “Does it look like Hunter’s shroom zombies are self-replicating? He said he was thinking about it last year at Stapledon, but he never said he’d done it!”
Ahead of me, near one of the baseball diamonds, the T. Rex went down, exploding into a cloud of spores.