You notice the weirdest things in moments like that. For example, I noticed that (at least in the helmet’s sonar) the heavy duty version of Rook’s armor didn’t actually have a straight beak like a rook might. Its curved beak reminded me more of an eagle’s.
Not that this was the kind of moment best used for criticizing Rook’s grasp of bird anatomy.
I fired off more roachbots—the exploding kind this time. They zipped around the corner almost instantly.
With any luck, I could try an EMP from the inside if they made a crack.
The explosion gave off waves of sound that made the dome ring like a bell, and gave Izzy a great picture of everything going on, but my helmet didn’t do as well.
It wasn’t much better than viewing an explosion with my eyes. The helmet filtered the light, but even if I hadn’t been around the corner, I wouldn’t have seen much.
As the light and sound both dispersed, I could tell the suit had fallen backward.
Sonar wasn’t as good at details as I wanted, but the armor appeared to be smooth, and in one piece.
All I’d managed to do was knock it on its butt, and it was pulling itself up.
I decided to give myself the best possible chance, and ran around the corner, pointed the sonics at it, choosing the selection of frequencies that often destroyed computer parts and other electronics.
The armor didn’t show any signs of computer problems as it stood, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Sometimes they took time to show up.
The best thing I could do would be continue to stand there, and let the suit continue to try new and related frequencies based on an algorithm Grandpa had created.
The Rook suit raised an arm toward me, and I dove sideways—allowing the corner to shield me.
It didn’t do a very good job.
Bullets ripped through the wall, leaving a collection of holes.
I wondered how Jaclyn or Izzy would stand up to them, and simultaneously wished they were with me. That sort of hit was exactly the sort of thing that could break the Rocket suit’s seals.
I thought about turning on the rocket pack and flying down another spoke somewhere else in the dome. It was a good idea, but I was only facing one person here, and what if there were more suits of armor like this one in other spots?
I went with another option.
“Hey,” I said, “we could talk about this.”
I wasn’t sure what I planned to say after that, but it was worth a shot.
A woman’s voice, amplified by the suit, filled the hall. “We can talk about your surrender.”
“That’s not what I had in mind. I was thinking. Are you a mercenary, one of Rook’s followers, or uh… his girlfriend?”
She started laughing, and it was real, unforced laughter.
When she was done, she said, “Let’s go with mercenary. I don’t date clients, thank God.”
From around the corner, I heard a footstep. She was still moving, if not very quickly.
“OK. What would it take to hire you?”
She took another small footstep, and said calmly. “You couldn’t afford it.”
I wondered if she knew Lee at all, but didn’t spend long on that. She was going to come around the corner, and then she’d probably damage the suit enough that nerve gas could get through.
I went with the obvious even though I didn’t want to use them up—the goobots—all of them.
I didn’t wait for her to come around the corner. I let them fly.
The series of popping noises made me think of popcorn. As late as it was and as long as it had been since supper, my stomach felt empty.
Stifling the distractions in my head, I started the rocket pack, and launched myself into the air, taking a wide turn around her.
She didn’t even try to fire.
Thin lines of goo covered the suit, covering the ends of the gun barrels that hung underneath her forearms. She swayed, but the powered armor barely moved, the motors making strained noises.
Part of me wanted to call people on the comm, and let them know that the goobots were the best thing I’d done with roachbot tech in a long while. Another part of me mourned the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to take a look inside Rook’s lab—at least not the one for creating suits.
Cassie wasn’t there, and neither was her sword.
I landed at the far end of the lab, and the start of another room that seemed to have a lot of equipment. It deserved a better look than I’d be able to give it while flying.
Skidding a little as my feet hit the floor, I spent the first few seconds trying not to fall. Then I realized that this new lab had people in it—lots of them, all in Rook suits. Some stared at screens. Others stood at attention.
One of them pointed through the plexiglass windows at me.
I’d found the control room.