In my peripheral vision—which included almost everything behind me—Samita opened up a box and threw the dirt inside it into the air. It hung in the air like a cloud, and then in one burst dispersed, spreading across the entire field.
That’s when things got weird.
All the grass on our side of the field drooped, and spread across the ground, covering the dirt in green. As it did, the green became darker, and shinier—like glass, or ice.
Jaclyn and Meteor both fell. For the little that it’s worth, Jaclyn did better, turning her initial stumble into a jump that threw her into the air. She landed only ten feet past our flag, but it didn’t matter. She was still traveling at two hundred miles per hour. Along with Meteor, she slid past our flag pole and toward the obstacle course—depending on the angle. The ground wasn’t level. It wasn’t impossible that they’d slide into the parked cars off to the side of the course.
If that happened, I was more worried about the parked cars. Jaclyn would definitely be fine. I hadn’t seen much of Meteor, but I had seen her run through a brick wall, so…
Rocket pack blazing, I aimed for their flagpole, hoping that I’d get there quickly enough that they wouldn’t have time to react—not that I was supposed to handle it alone.
Rod made it nearly to team three’s flag in his first jump. His second jump brought him directly in front of it.
Not that he was alone there. They’d left Travis and Mist to guard the flag.
The moment Rod landed (throwing a cloud of dust in the air), Travis leapt for him, grabbing his shoulder, and swinging onto his back. Then he hit Rod’s neck with the palm of his hand.
I knew what he was doing. I couldn’t see it, but just like Haley, Travis had a poison claw that extended next to his thumb. He had to have stuck it into Rod’s neck.
Rod didn’t fall over. Instead, he grabbed Travis arm and flung him past the flagpole.
It was a long throw—more than one hundred feet—and Travis took it in stride. He didn’t smash into the ground. He turned it into a controlled series of flips—not that I kept watching.
Mist attacked, turning into well… mist and surrounding Rod in a fog. Hovering above them, I considered diving, and grabbing the flag. I was only supposed to do that as a last resort, but if Rod couldn’t see, I thought it qualified.
Unfortunately, during practice Rachel had phased her taser gloves through my armor and taken me out.
Sure, I couldn’t see her now, but that was true the other time too. I suddenly wished I had another phase blocker to drop here. Why hadn’t I thought of that before the game?
I turned down the thrust, lowering toward the flagpole, deciding that it was worth the risk.
Except that’s when Rod reached out, his massive troll hand grabbing not the flagpole, but the stone pillar that it had been placed inside, and throwing the pillar into the air.
The flag went with it, of course, leaving me to do my job—which I’d nicknamed “Operation: Catch the Snitch.” It would have helped if we’d ever had a chance to practice.
The pillar and flag flew past me in the air, the flagpole slipping out of the pillar as they flipped end over end in the air.
I aimed for the flag, missing the pole, but catching the flag itself—which was great except somewhere above me the pillar reached its highest point, and began to fall down.
It hit me on the back of my leg, causing me to shoot upward until I got control. I hovered in the air then, getting my head together.
What I saw then did not make me feel better. A roiling, red and white mist covered our team’s side of the field. That’s not what was wrong. That was things going completely as planned.
The fact that a thirty foot circle around the flag didn’t hold any fog at all wasn’t a problem either. That was wide enough that Tara felt she had a chance of responding to a speedster appearing at the edge of the circle.
Don’t ask me how.
No, what was wrong was that Rachel was smart. She hadn’t gone within ten feet of the pillar and had her intangibility blocked. She’d stayed outside that circle, but also outside (or above) the mist, and she’d been busy.
Strands of black goo covered Amy’s armor, entangling her arms and legs. More of the same covered Samita’s red robe, but it had taken more shots—at least three. Different spreads of goo covered her left arm, her right, and her legs.
As I watched, Tara ducked behind one of the blocks of stone. How she’d recognized when to do it with Rachel being invisible, I had no idea.
That wasn’t the worst of it either. Jaclyn and Meteor weren’t slipping any more. Meteor wasn’t a major threat because she wasn’t moving very quickly, but even so, her fire was burning away any fog near her as she walked toward the flag.
Jaclyn, however, jumped straight up into the air, getting high enough that she had to see where the flag was. Worse, after that she turned around, ran further back and—
I didn’t wait to see what she was going to do. I aimed full thrust toward our side, crossing the boundary and landing near our flag—in time to find Jaclyn landing nearby, her feet sinking inches into the ground from the force of her jump.
Over the loudspeakers, the announcer was already shouting, “Team two wins!”
Jaclyn shook her head. “I knew you were hiding your real tactics during the practices. Nice job. I didn’t see that coming.”
Rachel appeared, and floated down to the ground. Though a white mask hid the top of her face, I could see her smile at me and then Tara. “Your plan?”
Tara shrugged. “Everyone played their part.”
“It was mostly hers,” I said.
I missed Rachel’s reply because a message appeared in my HUD.
[The Coffeeshop Illuminati are currently attacking Turkmenistan’s metahuman leadership in a variety of places including two private homes, the presidential palace and a hidden bunker. This news has yet to reach anyone not directly involved.]