When the laser hit, Rook’s armor glowed, reflecting the light, but not entirely. In fact, not for very long at all.
The laser drilled through, and light came out the other side.
Rook screamed, and I stopped firing, backing up, pulling my shoulder away from the claw that had pierced almost all the way to my skin.
Rook took a step toward me, but nearly fell over, his leg wobbling.
I tried to think of the next step.
Obviously the laser worked against his armor, but I couldn’t shoot him with it till he died, could I?
I didn’t want to kill anybody.
At the same time, hadn’t he just said he wanted to reverse engineer my equipment once he killed me?
He stumbled backward.
I still didn’t have a plan.
Over my helmet’s communicator, Travis shouted, “You’ve got him. Take him down!”
Were they still here? I thought they’d gotten away. On the other hand, with the intersection full of cars, and probably backed up due to the fight, they might not have been able to get far. Plus Travis wouldn’t leave anyone behind if he could help it.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice Rook’s wound was filling with goo. It wasn’t biological goo either. The laser had to have cauterized the wound.
In the yellow light of the gas station’s florescent bulbs, the goo appeared to be green. It struck me that it might actually be blue.
The stuff hardened, and then a layer of black goo hardened over it.
So, gross. Really, really gross, but also kind of cool. If I’d just seen what I thought I’d seen, Rook’s suit included some kind of healing (or possibly just preserving) gel as well as a liquid that plugged holes in his armor.
That was pretty cool.
I wondered what it would take to get a sample. The roachbots might be able to manage it. What I ought to do is come up with roachbots with the exclusive purpose of taking samples.
That would make situations like this much simpler.
Rook steadied himself, and peered in my direction. “The guitar has a laser? The power it had to go through… How can you possibly fit it in that small a space?”
His voice sounded distant, disconnected.
Was he on drugs?
From my right, Courtney said, “Rocket, come on.”
She’d already made it a few steps away and stood between the two rows of gas pumps.
I needed to do something. I aimed the guitar toward him, the targeting system showing a small plus sign as it crossed his chest, moving toward his other leg.
I never got the chance to fire.
His clawed arm moved too quickly for me to dodge it, and hit the guitar, breaking the neck in half.
His other arm reached for me so quickly that it was little more than a blur.
Except it never hit.
Instead, a brown, plastic trash can hit him in the head. Courtney had picked up one of them and swung it.
The can broke as it hit, chunks falling to the ground along with a plastic bag full of wet paper towels, wrappers from McDonald’s, and other garbage. He stepped back.
One of his wings flexed, extending to hit her, throwing her backwards. She hit one of the concrete pillars that held up the canopy.
She didn’t get up.
Had he killed her? I tried not to think about it.
“Rocket,” Travis’ voice came over the comm, “we’re coming to help.”
“Shit, man,” Vaughn said. “Help me too.”
Automatic gunfire sounded over his speaker, and from across the street by the Lakeside Lounge.
I hit a button on the palm of my glove and shot into the air, the lower half of the guitar dangling uselessly by the cable attached to my helmet.
I had to ditch the thing.
Rook’s wings stretched out, and I heard the roar of jets below me.
He shot upward—not as quickly as I did at first, but the helmet readouts assured me that he was gaining speed.
I grabbed the cable, pulling it up until I held the body of the guitar in my hands.
Part of me didn’t really believe he’d destroyed it, but another part of me had an idea about how I might get rid of it.
As Rook flew closer, I hoped it was a good idea.