A Kind of Small Crow: Part 4

I hung sideways, and it wasn’t very comfortable. The stealth suit had hardened where it hit the seat belt and the right armrest, so nothing hurt.

I turned my head to check how Courtney was doing. I’d heard her hit the door, but she moved, and illuminated by the dashboard lights, I could see her turn her head upward toward me.

“Are you okay?” She asked.

“I’m fine. Could you pass me the helmet?”

Attached to the guitar by a thick cable, the helmet had fallen past her legs when the van tipped over, and lay on the door.

“Uh… Sure.”

She handed it to me, and it wasn’t hard to grab. My head hung most of the way to her seat.

I put it on my head and heard the helmet seal while the readouts came to life near the top of my vision.

The guitar was at full charge, and wasn’t showing any error messages.

That was good because at just about the same time, I got my first view of Rook, the guy who had probably tipped the van over.

I saw him through the window of my door (now pointing upward toward the night sky)—just after I heard a thumping noise.

All black, Rook’s powered armor had been shaped to resemble a bird—mostly. Real rooks didn’t have arms that ended in claws.

He scraped a claw across the (also made of transparent aluminum alloy) window.

It didn’t break.

I pointed the end of the guitar at him,and said quietly, “Remember what I said about the armor in the back? Last chance to put some on.”

Courtney took off her seat belt, and climbed over her seat and into the back.

Rook hadn’t reacted when I pointed the guitar at him, but he seemed to hear something because he tilted his head as I talked. That he hadn’t reacted to the guitar didn’t surprise me—the windows were near impossible to see through from the outside—but hearing me did. I thought I’d insulated the van better than that.

Rook punched the window. It still didn’t break, but an opaque, roughly fist-shaped circle appeared where he hit.

I opened my seat belt, hanging on to the door’s armrest as I did it, and then dropping to the passenger side door.

“By any chance, is that the Rocket in there?” A relaxed, and thoroughly amplified, baritone voice filled the van.

“I can’t tell you how much I loved the original Rocket. He inspired me. Did you know him?”

The voice sounded like it had a British accent, or maybe a fake British accent? I had no way of knowing.

“A bit,” I said. Would it be better to talk with this guy?

Over the helmet’s communicator, Haley asked, “Rocket, are you okay? Do you need help?”

“I don’t know,” I whispered. “We’re talking.”

Several lightning strokes and thunderclaps in quick succession came from outside. It sounded like Vaughn might need help.

More loudly, I said, “Sure, I knew him.”

In the helmet’s readouts, a yellow dot appeared next to Cassie’s name, and her voice came over the team’s open channel. “I don’t know how they found me, but I’m getting attacked by mechanical crows. Need some help here…”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I guessed how. Even if he couldn’t break the encryption, he might have been able to figure out a way to recognize our communications. With enough birds, he’d be able to use triangulation and track all of us.

“And he trained you?” His voice seemed to convey actual curiosity—as if he’d been introduced to me for some reason.

“Partly, yeah.” Somewhere in the back of my head, I had the sense that two and three word sentence answers might not be the way to keep him occupied.

Without thinking, I glanced toward the back to find out how Courtney was doing.

She’d ditched her sweatshirt, and put on the shirt, but wasn’t quite finished with pants. Plus, she’d taken off her shoes.

I turned away. I’d seen more than I’d intended.

From above, Rook said, “Good. Then it might be worth taking apart your equipment after you die.”

And with that, he sank his claws into the door, and ripped it out of the van.

Pulling his great, black wings next to his body, he grabbed the edge, and dropped inside.

The only things that saved us from dying then were the van’s bucket seats. His lower claws hit the passenger side door, putting the driver’s seat at eye level.

To Courtney’s credit, she had the pants on by then, and she didn’t even try to grab her shoes.

Two steps brought us to the van’s back doors.

23 thoughts on “A Kind of Small Crow: Part 4”

  1. I hope for Nicks sake that Rook’s use of high gain mikes will backfire on Rook….there’s a couple of ways that might not be too smart when fighting the Rocket.

  2. If Rook is a fan of the original Rocket, there’s a good chance he knows about the tendency to use sonic weapons. Presumably, he would have protected his own armor somehow. Then again, maybe not.

  3. He most likely knows about the Sonic’s but i don’t think he knows about the guitars crazy lasers that can burn throw a battle ship. But i don’t think Nick will out right kill the guy. too bad this guy’s sounds like he deserves it.

  4. I’m more concerned that they’re abandoning the van, with all its tech more or less intact. And Nick can’t even set off the thermite failsafe (of course he installed a failsafe…) because the van is on its side at a gas station.

    Guess he’ll just have to blast it with lasers after the civilians clear out. BOOM!

  5. Psycho Gecko hacks into Nick’s armor using his patented “Hollywood Hackathingy,” an audio-molecular-vibratory device capable of moving particles through space…and hacking things that aren’t supposed to be hacked. In an attempt to goad Rook, he uses Rocket’s sonics to blast out the song “Surfin’ Bird”.

  6. Nick need to make that portable armour.

    It a cool cover but somthing like the UK cover of soon i will be invincible would be cooler.

  7. I do wonder what Nick’s miniscule self mind power potential is ( uncontrolled substances ). At this stage even the ability to survive on 4 hrs of sleep a night would be a boon with all the work he has lined up.

  8. Factoid: “transparent aluminum” exists. It occurs in nature, and can be made in laboratories.

    It’s called Sapphire.

    Synthetic sapphire, or “sapphire glass”, is used to a limited extend in high-test laboratory equipment where ordinary glass would not do. It is currently rather expensive to make, so it isn’t produced in great quantity…. but then again, so were rubies for laser crystals, once.

  9. Technically thats transparant alumina ( the oxide of aluminum ) the magnesium aluminum spinels have performance benefits though. Both are cheap enough to be used for armor now. They offer either a significant weight loss or an increase in protection levels over armored glass composites. What Nick seems to be using in the van behaves more like an metal than the ceramic like behavior of alumina crystals.

  10. Musket Gear Solid: Founding Fathers of the Patriots, 4th of July Edition

    Backstory: The Patriots may have been defeated by Old Snake, but the Philosophers, who really do exist even though we said they didn’t after the third one said they did, decided to bring use their secret weapon: a portal through time. Playing as Pink Snake, you are thrust through time and must go under deep cover, penetrating mysteries where no man has gone before, leaving a little blood behind you as you do. Go back in time and learn to use cover, as you’ll need more protection than even the city of Troy could provide…


    George Washington: 1st President of the U.S. Disgraced aristocratic war veteran of the French and Indian War. Humiliated by his loss at Fort Neccesity, he now gets his chance at revenge by fighting an insurgency against the very military he was so ineffectual in. Ended the war with a bad reputation for needing coats patched up due to near-miss shots and a really bad reputation if you’re a horse that wants to survive a battle under him. Only President to ever lead the military into battle directly when putting down an anti-taxation militia of rural whites. Didn’t want the office, but accepted the responsibility nonetheless. Was pulled through time, fighting and defeating Napoleon in a televised, squad-based battle on Spike TV in 2011.

    John Adams: 2nd President of the United States. Defense counsel for the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre. Gave the U.S. separation of powers and bicameral legislature so that the Legislative branch wouldn’t become self serving. Wasn’t a fortune teller. Was Christian, but had the now-infamous Treat of Tripoli ratified: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, -as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims)…”. His younger self was transported through time as well, at which point he became an actor under the stage name Paul Giamatti.

    Thomas Paine: Believed in redistribution of wealth due to the obvious advantages the rich had when buying up land. Put the revolution in terms the common man could understand. Was later abandoned in the midst of France’s revolution by President Washington while captured and sentenced to be executed during the Reign of Terror. Was a Deist who wrote a book criticizing Christianity. Vowed to “bring the Paine” to anyone who claimed to share his beliefs but really just used his name to lend credibility to their own whack-job philosophy that in no way resembled what he actually wrote about. This curse led to talking head Glenn Beck fleeing to Jerusalem in 2011 for a short time, at least until the zombie Paine caught up with him and he was forced to flee once again.

    John Hancock: Harvard educated showboating gloryhound, known for the size of his…John Hancock. Alleged smuggler, never conclusively caught. Bluffed British troops out of Boston after the Boston Massacre. Incredibly rich and vain for his day. Noted philanthropist. Freemason. In 2008, was portrayed by Will Smith in a biographical film about his life.

    Samuel Adams: An American brand of beer brewed by the Boston Beer Company and its associated contract brewers. The company was founded in 1984 by Jim Koch, Harry M. Rubin, and Lorenzo Lamadrid in Boston, Massachusetts. Based on sales in 2011, the Boston Beer Company is tied with Yuengling for the largest American-owned beermaker. (Copied from Wikipedia)

    Thomas Jefferson: 3rd President of the United States. Polymath renaissance man philosopher with jungle fever. While in office, would be accused of atheism. Edited his own version of the New Testament that removed everything supernatural, leaving only the moral teachings of Jesus the Nazarene. His personal library survives today, as the Library of Congress. Wrote the Declaration of Independence, including a scathing criticism of the King’s use of slavery, though not all his ideas made the cut. Coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” Believed in a civic duty to aid the state and vote, didn’t like bankers, industrialists, or financiers, felt the goverment was a necessary evil, supported separation of church and state, free press, individual civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, informed citizenry, and right to an education no matter circumstances. Was frequently and vehemently booed during the 2012 Republican debates.

    Ben Franklin: Mad scientist ladies man of the revolution. Single-handedly boned up enough support for the colonies in France. Liked older women. Probably liked younger women too. Invented all kinds of things (Franklin stove, lightning rods, bifocals, Pros and Cons lists), and made advances in various subjects (electrical experiments, charting the Gulf Stream, meterology, oceanography, advocated paper money in economics). Would have been hated by Joe McCarthy for writing “…as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.” Member of the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Printer and political cartoonist. Freemason. Christian, but known to be tolerant to all religions and wrote just before his death that he doubted the divinity of Jesus. Listen, I got to end Franklin’s section here, otherwise I could write a whole book on him. Oh wait, he did that first too as he wrote his autobiography. Invented spacecraft at one point and briefly surveyed the universe. His journal of these occurences was later avidly read by Gene Roddenberry and served as the inspiration for a sci-fi series in the 1960s.

    Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflected, except in any cases where the plaintiff is Psycho Gecko.

    Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Comment, of certain people, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained in history.

  11. DWwolf, for Nicks’ power check out the references to his childhood habit of disassembling things. He’s not just a geek, he’s mad scientist material.

  12. @Hydra

    That looks significantly less retro than I expected. Is it supposed to be the stealth suit?

  13. Nope. It’s the regular suit.

    Personally, I’d have gone with a slightly more retro look, but at the same time, it makes sense given that the original Rocket would have been working on it within the last 5 years.

  14. Jim, are you planning on selling the book? If so, hardcopy or epub format? I’d be interested in either, and maybe both.

  15. Selling is absolutely the plan. The moment it’s available, I’ll be letting people know.

    Oh… It’ll be available both in print and ebook.

  16. Okay, now I’m pissed!

    I’ve been cruising along in stealth mode, just enjoying the story; not feeling the need to comment. Everything I’ve felt like saying has been covered sufficiently by other posters, so I’ve laid off.

    Until now.

    Nick: Is this your first day?
    Have you forgotten EVERYTHING Lee taught you in the past ten years? You’ve just blown a chance at a first strike against a powerful, possibly equally strong foe who has promised to see you dead!
    Rook was standing on the door looking down straight into the muzzle of your laser! When he rips the door off, SHOOT. HIM. IN. THE. FACE!!!!

    Even if you don’t damage him, you dazzle him. Possibly overamp his enhanced vision systems, with luck blind him temporarily (or permanently)! At the very best, you startle him and give yourself more time and some cover for your escape! Remember, you’re not just covering your own escape. You have an innocent to protect. Think!

  17. — “When he rips the door off, SHOOT. HIM. IN. THE. FACE!!!!” —

    I hereby nominate Psychlone Ranger for Comment of the Week.

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