Counterattack: Part 2

The stealth suit didn’t have as much hardware in it as the regular Rocket suit, but it could sense damage. The damage readouts showed a “2” in red.

“2” meant that at least one bullet had passed the jacket’s outer layer, and into the inner gel layer, but had stopped before going through the layer I could wear under clothes. Passing through that layer would have been a “3.”

A “3” meant that I would be visiting the hospital soon, if I were lucky.

I pressed the button that released, and retracted the grappling hook’s line.

Both my hands were full, so I activated the rocketpack through the mouthguard in my helmet, sending me upward.

Meanwhile, I tried to find the sniper.

Haley’s movement tipped me off. When she had dropped to the sidewalk, she ran around the corner of an old, five story, brick building, jumped to the second story, and started climbing.

He stood on the flat roof of the building, wearing the same black armor as the people we’d fought on Tuesday. He kept on firing at me for a few more moments after I started flying, but not for long.

As I turned back downward, diving toward the roof, he stopped, and started running toward the middle of the wall on the right side of the building — the side where the fire escape hung.

I adjusted my flight path, aiming for him, not completely sure what I’d do when I caught him.

He only made it halfway. Deciding that I’d only drag him across the roof if I tried to tackle him, I aimed for his upper back, clipping him in the right shoulder.

That didn’t sound like much, but I was moving at seventy miles per hour.

He fell forward, completely out of control, holding his hands out front, but not really stopping when he hit. Because of the angle I’d hit him at, he flipped over, landing on his back, the gun banging around, hitting his face and his arms.

He rolled a few more times before stopping on his stomach, and managed to get the rifle into his hands, sitting up and trying to point it at me. He had long, bloody scrapes down the length of his left forearm, and the gun wobbled.

I’d circled around, and touched down by then, momentum from my flight carrying me forward across the roof toward him.

Maybe he would have been able to fire at me, but he didn’t get the chance.

His body jerked forward, then fell backward, landing on the roof, and then slid away from me at high speed, bumping and shouting as he went.

Haley stood on the other side of the building, leaning backwards, the claws on her feet gripping the roof. She held a grappling hook in her right hand, pushing the button that retracted the line.

He tried to bring his gun to bear, but he crossed the roof before he had the chance. She leaned over, brought her left hand down on his neck, and he stopped moving.

Letting go, she stood up and sighed.

Using the armor’s internal phone, I called the police.

* * *

After the police took him away, we got back into Night Wolf’s car, drove back to HQ, changed into our clothes, and went to visit Lee.

We took my dad’s SUV, and parked in the dirt parking lot behind the martial arts studio. By the time we got there, it was around nine at night. The sun had set, and the second evening class was letting out.

We waited as people left. It was the typical crowd — a mix of little kids and adult men and women, some of them still in their white uniforms, most of them carrying duffel bags filled with sparring gear and equipment.

A few recognized me, and said, “Hi.”

I’d been in the class for my first two years of training. After that, Lee had moved me into his “advanced class” — which meant that more often than not, I was the only student. Except some nights, we were joined by men and women who were very serious about training. I assumed that some of them had to be capes in their civilian identities. Some must have been official law enforcement. A few might have been mercenaries, and others, villains.

I had no way of knowing for sure. They didn’t talk much.

The only reason it mattered was because I needed to talk to Lee before tonight’s advanced class showed up (if there was one).

When the League practiced with him, Lee almost always used the upper level of the building. Tonight, we found him in the lower level, talking with the few students left. Aside from being better lit, the first floor looked a lot like the upstairs — a sanded wooden floor, mirrors on one wall, a heap of floor pads for practicing falls.

Eventually, Lee caught my eye, and gestured that we should go upstairs. He joined us a few minutes later.

We told him what happened.

“Who do you think he was with?” Lee asked.

“What’s left of the Cabal.” None of the other options seemed right.

Lee nodded. “That’d be my guess. It seems like just the right mixture of competence and incompetence.”

“Incompetence?” Haley sounded surprised. “He could have killed us.”

“Sure,” Lee said,” but it’s not because he knew what he was doing. The Cabal’s people don’t keep up with military techniques. Powers have always allowed them to overwhelm the opposition. They were effective a couple days ago, but that’s because they know how to use their powers tactically. Chances are that this guy has one ability and it’s something like… I don’t know… night vision, or maybe he reacts quickly, even if he can’t run quickly. That kind of thing. A military sniper would have had a spotter along, a different kind of gun, and likely would have attacked from far enough away that you’d have no idea where he was. Whereas even if the Cabal knew their tactics were crap, they’d assume that their abilities would make up the difference. It’s worked for them in the past.

“Frankly, I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did. When you guys exposed them this fall, you destroyed them, and whoever’s left hasn’t adjusted. Of course, they’ve been run by the same inbred group of near immortals since the Roman Empire. They don’t change easily.”

“You seem to know them pretty well,” I said.

“Well enough,” Lee said. “I’ve worked for them once or twice.”

9 thoughts on “Counterattack: Part 2”

  1. I like this posting and it’s true good military tactics can do amazing things. Never underestimate a trained soldier and his rifle!

  2. Hg: Yeah. Tearing out the spine would have been Haley from the evil Star Trek universe. And she’d have a goatee.

    Eli:Technically, the layer of gel is part of the jacket that goes over top of the part of the stealth suit that can actually be hidden, but you’re right, it was close. There’s something to be said for redundancy when it comes to protection.

    IC: Right, the converse to that is of course, not expecting superior technology/powers to carry the day by themselves.

  3. It’s not the size of your, ahem, superpowers, it’s how you use them.
    One of the biggest things I like about this story is how reality keeps popping up like this.

  4. The action sequence of the Rocket heading after the sniper and then Haley taking him down was absolutely brilliant. Extremely visual, exciting, and it suited their powers tactically. Great writing!

    I love the idea that having superpowers would make people lazy about ordinary skills because they figure the powers compensate. It totally makes sense and I applied it to demons in “No Man an Island” at one point, but it’s not something you see often — most comic characters are capable even when they don’t have their powers, which doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it’s someone who trains all the time, like Captain America, Batman or the X-Men. (Hello Danger Room!)

    I like how the Rocket and the team might be able to exploit that Cabal weakness since they’re training with Lee.

  5. Pyroarcher, Mazzon: Thanks.

    Mazzon: I try to make things feel as realistic as possible despite the setting…

    Gavin: It’s good to know that worked. I’m always worried about the resolution of a cliffhanger not living up to the setup.

    As for superpowers, making people lazy… I tend to assume that many people will be as lazy as their circumstances allow them to be. If you’ve got constant challenges when you’re learning skills, you’ll probably be forced to develop. If things come easily, you might not…

    The cool things about teachers (ideally) is that they create challenges that hopefully encourage people to develop the right habits.

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