Courtesy: Part 59

I had good reason to think Kals would be fine but I didn’t know if Alex had bothered to download and install the latest update. You could reasonably ask why that wouldn’t be automatic, but even my updates had the potential of going wrong.

You wanted to install when you had a backup suit available and not midway through a mission.

In that moment, though, I didn’t spend any time checking the update logs. I jumped for Jody and glancing behind at me, his eyes widened.

I couldn’t get anywhere close to his speed or reaction time in Stapledon and still couldn’t, but in this small a space, the difference mattered less.

I pushed off with my feet, grabbing for him, and catching his neck with my right hand. I wasn’t planning to choke him, but his neck was a more stable target than his arms or legs.

Choking him wasn’t a bad plan, but given the armor around his neck, the necessary force to get past it might also decapitate him.

He tried moving to the left, out of my grip, but I’d brought up my left hand by then, grabbing his left arm near the shoulder. He couldn’t go anywhere.

Now it was time to secure him—except… Alex hadn’t installed the update.

I learned that while discovering how far we’d moved. In the seconds Jody had since finding out he couldn’t hurt me, he’d caught up with Alex. I’d been too focused on catching Jody to realize it, but as I’d grabbed his neck, he’d stabbed Alex in the side, making a gash more than four inches wide—though I only saw it for a second.

Self-repairing armor made things weird. The cut in the armor healed up, leaving blood dripping from no obvious wound. Alex doubled over.

I pulled Jody back as he slashed Alex’s arm. Blood spurted as the armor knit itself shut.

Through Alex’s helmet, I could see his grimace. I wasn’t sure why he wasn’t healing himself, but then I understood that too.

We’d made it to the mound. It was off to my right in its multi-colored glory, intricate designs covering it, many of them growing brighter, dimming, and brightening again. Through my extra senses, I could feel that this spot was a hub with information going in and out.

Alex stumbled toward the mound, the energy around him different than it had been before. It wasn’t as simple as life energy versus death energy. It felt pointed, focused. It had a mission.

Jody might not have been able to sense it, but he tried to get away, moving back and forth, vibrating as I tried to hold him there, building up speed. As small as the distance was, I could feel his movements building up strength. With enough time, he would be able to get out.

I grabbed harder, trying to keep him in place.

Alex moved toward the mound, raising his hand toward the mound. Next to him the Bloodmaiden in Amy’s body watched, the Bloodspear ready.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, probably because my perceptions were halfway outside our universe. Maybe that was good, but of all the moments that might last forever, this was not one that I would choose.

Then Alex touched the mound. Despite what I expected, it didn’t go dark. The colors and their patterns changed, turning from a multitude of different colors to yellow. It pulsed, the shade of yellow changing from light to dark and back.

I don’t know if it was the distraction or that that Jody put out a burst of energy, but he slipped out of my hands.

Daggers in hand, he stepped toward Alex, obviously intending to finish what he’d started.

He didn’t make it. The Bloodspear reached his chest before he’d finished his first step. For the first time, I could feel someone else being absorbed by the Bloodspear. I knew that it could from personal experience, but this time I could feel a cool wind despite being inside the Rocket suit. Worse, I could hear Jody’s voice wailing.

I shouted, “Don’t kill him!”

Her accent impossible to place, the stranger in Amy’s body said, “I’m not. I’m taking enough.”

She pulled the spear out of Jody’s chest and he slumped, but kept on breathing. Around the same time, I heard a few notes of the transformation sequence Amy used to change into her Bloodmaiden form.

Amy, now using a US accent that had a hint of the South, said, “Dammit, if there’s anyone I didn’t want in my head.”

Near her, Alex pulled his hand away from the mound and stood up straight, showing no sign he’d been hurt except for the blood on his costume.

“It’s done,” he said. “It’s not all dead, but I touched off the chain reaction. Careful, though. We still might get attacked before this is all over.”

I checked above us for the humonsters. None of them were attacking anyone. The few I could see were lying on top of the nearest mounds as if sleeping or too tired to move.

Sean landed next to me, followed by Dayton who was running to catch up, “Jody’s not dead, right?”

“I’m pretty sure he’s fine,” I said, “Bloodmaiden?”

“He’s alive,” Amy said. “He’ll be tired for at least a day. Don’t expect much out of him, but… Look, I can’t be clear on this. It wasn’t me who drained him, but I don’t think he was forced to betray us just now. I think he did it willingly.”

8 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 59”

  1. I’m a little confused on how Jody got out of being held. Is he strong enough to overcome the grip of the rocket suit? There was the line about him building up momentum or whatever, but that doesn’t seem like it’d give the guy enough power to force the robotic armor to move, much less when someone’s actively fighting against him.

    1. Nick doesn’t know either and since we’re seeing the story from his point of view, it’s not obvious.

      However, there are hints when Jody’s power is used even in this scene. I tend to view Jody’s speed as based in the same area of powers as Rachel’s ability to turn incorporeal. Both can go slightly out of phase with reality. He can most easily manipulate his speed relative to reality. She can most easily manipulate being incorporeal, but they both have the potential to do what the other can do—even if it’s not completely intentional. So, Rachel can move faster-than-light with help from full-fledged Cosmic Ghosts even if she can’t do it herself. Jody, in extreme circumstances, might be able to slip through places he shouldn’t—like Nick’s fingers.

      Nick could have prevented it (unintentionally) as someone with proto-Artificer abilities, but he really was distracted and didn’t realize this was something that was either possible or that he could prevent.

      1. Oh that’s neat story logic, but I still think Nick would notice something like that, thus it should be described. If Jody squeezes through the grip of the rocket suit, when there’s an inch of clearance, and Nick is doing his best to hold on, that’s pretty noticable. Plus, this paragraph makes it seem like a matter of strength. So if it’s not strength, and Jody didn’t manage to get himself enough clearance to slip through the fist, it’d be immediately remarked upon. Or maybe not immediately, I guess it is a pretty chaotic scene.

        “As small as the distance was, I could feel his movements building up strength. With enough time, he would be able to get out.”

        1. I agree the wording here needs work. The logic in Jim’s comment makes sense, and it is Nick’s perspective. But the wording here talks about strength. It shouldn’t. We have seen previously that the naritive isn’t always Nick in the moment. Sometimes it is Nick telling the story afterwards. That could be used to better describe what happened without breaking the fact Nick wasn’t prepared for it and could have stopped it if he didn’t miss what was going on. (I enjoy the fact Nick has limits like this. So the facts of the story are good as is, but describing what is going on shouldn’t need an author’s note outside the story.)

  2. I knew Jody did this willingly. He got courted by Magnus and was probably looking for an excuse.

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