The armor-piercing bullets didn’t do much more than the normal ones.
They knocked Arik backward, some of them ricocheting off him, ripping his suit jacket around his left shoulder. A little blood dripped into the fabric. A wisp of smoke rose from the wound.
“Gunther,” Joe said. “Fire in the hole.”
He didn’t bother to add that the two of them would also be in the hole.
Joe pointed his left arm, clicked on his palm, hearing a whoosh as the propellant ignited, and launched the grenade into the wall behind Arik.
It exploded, fire exploding outward, the blast throwing Joe backward even though he expected it.
He hit the wall that it seemed he’d just pushed away from.
Even as he began to wonder how Arik was doing, a figure appeared in the smoke.
What was left of Arik’s suit had burned into charred remnants of blackened cloth. The parts that weren’t charcoal were actively on fire–as was all of Arik’s skin.
He didn’t look happy, but he wasn’t writhing in pain either.
Arik’s skin had had a slightly reddish tinge even before the blast, but now it didn’t seem to have much else.
Shouting something in a language Joe didn’t understand, the giant grabbed the arm of the Rocket suit, picked Joe up, and threw him, back first, through the stone wall.
He knew he should be doing something, but he could only wonder if Arik knew that his beard was on fire.
Dazed, he tried to think how to start the rocketpack, but didn’t manage to start thinking clearly until after he hit the ground.
Even then, he wasn’t thinking all that clearly. He didn’t recognize the voices that said, “Joe, are you okay?”
Staring up at the tower, he did recognize the flaming man who’d jumped out of the tower, and was falling toward him. Pushing off with his right hand, he rolled over, and stood up.
Arik landed. The fiery sword burst from his hand again, illuminating the night.
One of Albert Nakamura’s copies raised his rifle, and started firing.
Arik raised the sword, and in a single blow, cut him in half.
Both halves disappeared as M1’s started firing in the darkness, little flashes of light appearing all around the hill.
Ignoring the bullets, Arik turned, and ran toward Joe, sword raised.
Joe had enough presence of mind to start firing again, this time clicking the palm of each hand. Bullets flew. A grenade shot from the launcher, hitting Arik’s chest, and exploding on impact.
Joe didn’t look directly at the blast, but he saw Arik tumble backwards.
With all the flame, it was hard to miss. Unfortunately, Arik got up. Now burning even more than before, the flames around his body making him look almost twice his height, he pulled himself upright, ready to run toward Joe again.
Joe tried to come up with a new plan. Hitting him with a grenade made him flame more. Firing bullets at him didn’t do much.
He turned the suit’s loudspeakers to maximum, and blew the most obnoxious whistle he could manage.
And just in case, he got ready to press the buttons that started the rocketpack.
From the castle, he heard the sound of glass shattering, surprising him. The glass breaking itself didn’t surprise him much, but the fact that there was any left to break did.
Arik covered his ears.
Joe wondered what would happen when he had to take a breath, or when Arik got over his surprise.
It didn’t matter. A dark figure dropped from the tower, hit the ground, and stood up.
It shouldn’t have been able to move.
In the light cast by Arik’s flames, Gunther’s hideously burned body took a casual step toward Arik. By the second step, each hand held a sword.
By the third step, Arik had pulled his hands from his ears, and again created a sword of flame in his right hand.
From the widening of Arik’s eyes, Joe guessed he might be about to run.
He never got the chance.
Blocking the flaming sword by chopping into Arik’s forearm, Gunther stabbed him in the chest with the sword in his other hand.