Almost as he hit the floor, I stepped on his cyborg arm, and not in the casual, “I’m holding it down and I’m not going you move it,” sense. I stepped on his arm more in a, “finishing move,” sense.
My booted foot hit with enough force to shatter concrete and armored forearms along with it. The armor around Rook’s forearm bent and cracked, revealing machinery, wires, circuit boards in reinforced protective cages, and below the forearm the barrel of Rook’s Abominator energy weapon with its batteries and tech that made my implant activate and all but scream for attention.
Electricity arced as my foot connected parts that had never been intended to connect, shorting them out. Bits of concrete next to his arm shot into the air, some of them hitting my armor, others hitting Rook’s face, and the rest scattering across the nearby floor.
I stepped back as quickly as I’d stepped forward, aware that Rook or one of his henchmen might have something else ready. I also noticed that I’d been partially wrong about Rook’s lower leg. It hadn’t all been disintegrated. The booted foot remained on the floor where it had been hit.
It was still smoking.
Rook’s henchmen rushed forward, but they didn’t attack. They grabbed him and backed away, glancing behind me where Cassie had pushed herself off the floor and held her sword in one hand and her gun in the other.
I didn’t know if she could use both of them at once, but knowing her, she was probably training to make it work. I couldn’t deny that it was intimidating.
I fired off a burst of goobots, hitting them again. It wouldn’t hold them long, but it might hold them long enough.
I gave the room another once over. Ryan, Russell Hardwick, his two Protection Force guards, Art, and Zola were still stuck—except Art had shifted back to his human form. Zola was still panting and trying to cut through the goo with her claws.
I’d have to apply another coat of goo if she started to get anywhere, but she couldn’t move much. Everyone who could be a problem had been sprayed with goo. You could argue we had the situation under control.
As it happened, Russell Hardwick disagreed.
“Do you know who I am?” He’d pulled himself to his full height, as much as it was possible when covered in sticky goo, and met my eyes.
“Kinda,” I said. “You’re someone who’s going to jail for collaborating with the Nine. I’ve got recordings of you where you say it at least three different times.”
Next to him, Ryan said, “Shit. We’re screwed.”
Hardwick glared at him. “Quiet.”
Cassie started laughing. “Ryan’s right. Listen to that man.”
At the same time, Art started muttering, “Oh no, oh no, oh no… Zola, change back, okay? You’ve got to change back.”
She hissed at him.
Victor, who was also stuck to the floor, said nothing, jaw clenched tight, his face pale. The broken collarbone had to hurt a lot.
In the meantime, Dr. Griffin was walking toward us from the far end of the room where she’d been hiding. She didn’t seem to be scared anymore, though. She was walking toward us with her cellphone in her hand.
She put it into her pocket and said, “Agent Lim says congratulations. He’s been watching since you started streaming.”
Hardwick’s eyes widened and so did mine. I hadn’t forgotten that I was streaming, but hadn’t thought about it in a while. I’d configured it to have a delay of twenty seconds, figuring that would be long enough if I ever decided to broadcast a fight.
I also hadn’t forgotten that Lim had sounded like he was on the run from the Nine when we’d last almost talked and that he’d mentioned that he had someone on the inside that might help me.
Dr. Griffin appeared to be that someone. That was good. I’d been a little disappointed that she’d seemed to be involved with running the birthing chambers. That she’d been working for Lim made some sense.
I checked up and down the room again, making sure that none of the people I’d hit with goobots were getting free. They weren’t—though the newly born True hadn’t been sprayed by the bots at all. They were lying on the floor near the wall, still unable to control their limbs fully.
For a moment, I thought that this might be it, I could let go of whatever energy I had flowing through me and fall unconscious if I had to. I wasn’t sure that I dared to yet—not until Izzy, Daniel, and everybody showed up.
As if on cue, Izzy and Daniel floated in through the hole Cassie had cut in the ceiling. Izzy descended first. Over six feet tall, muscular, and wearing a blue costume, she must have already swept the room with her sonar. It put mine to shame, but that was only the tip of the iceberg as her abilities went.
The world didn’t have a Superman, but she was close enough for me.
Daniel, my best friend from childhood on, floated down after her, wearing a black and silver uniform. Between Izzy’s physical strength and his psychic abilities, we were one hundred times better off than we’d been a second ago.
My telepathic connection to Daniel became solid as soon as he came in range. I thought over to him, Glad you’re here.
His words came to me over our link, Me too, but I’ve got some bad news. We’re about to be attacked.
Rook started laughing and just as he did, small, humanoid robots with metal, crowlike wings shredded the nearest garage door in the room. At least twenty of the robots swarmed in, some on foot and others in the air.
Izzy screamed, holding a long, painfully clear note that turned more than half of the first wave of robots into shattered bits of metal. Twenty more followed them in.
Cassie aimed her gun’s beam into the middle of them. I pulled more power out of nowhere. It was clear that I’d need it—except something didn’t feel quite right.
Nick? What are you doing?
Trying to control the energy, I couldn’t spare any of my concentration to respond and so I fell into the same inky darkness that swallowed me before.