Free for some value of free—which in this case meant not fighting someone that could potentially kill me with a punch or, more likely, kill Kid Biohack.
I took a moment to orient myself. There’s no point in getting out only to fly into the path of a Mack truck. I’d come out on the side of the arena where I thought I would, a side with no obvious doors or windows except, of course, for the hole my bots blew in what would have otherwise passed for a wall.
This was convenient because there weren’t many people near. “Many” turned out to be a relative term though. From the huge crowd near the front, it was obvious they’d evacuated the building after the fight started. Knowing how many people the three arenas inside could hold, there had to be thousands of people in the intersection near the front.
Here there were less than one hundred people. Unlike the front of the arena which sat in the middle of gleaming restaurants and shops, the back stood among corrugated steel buildings that looked enough alike that they might have all gone up at once.
Either way, the people in the street did see me, shouting things like, “Is that a frog?” And, “Look, he’s carrying Kid Biohack!”
Then I heard a grinding noise coming from behind me inside the building. I gave the rockets more fuel, shooting upward while shouting, “Get back or you’ll die!”
The Grey Giant confirmed my fears as he used the hole I’d made in the door as a handle to pull the elevator door in and began to pull himself through the doorway.
Thinking that I owed the people a distraction even if I couldn’t protect them, I unloaded another barrage of boombots at his eyes and ears. Lowering his head to protect it, he lost his grip and fell backward, hanging in the elevator shaft.
Then I turned away, hearing Kid Biohack moan at my movement, but feeling like I’d at least done something. If I got high enough, the Grey Giant wouldn’t have a chance to take another shot at me.
Even though he’d fallen back, I hadn’t noticed any balance issues—though he’d been moving slowly. Maybe he’d changed back to human and then back to giant, healing himself but tiring himself? I wouldn’t know for sure without asking him and that wasn’t going to happen today.
Using my implant to operate my comm, I asked, “Are you all okay?”
Daniel’s voice came back over the comm, “We’re on the jet. How are you?”
“Gaining altitude. Come around and pick me up, but watch for giants while you do it.”
Between the streetlights and the arena’s lights, I could see that the Grey Giant had pulled himself out of the elevator shaft and stood in the street, staring upward, probably at the rockets’ glow. I weaved, angling the suit so that I changed direction enough that he’d have a hard time throwing a car at me if one came to hand.
He didn’t, standing below me and watching as the jet appeared above me, invisible in the darkness except for the light visible through its open door. Thinking back to watching Izzy’s view of the same sight over Turkmenistan during college, I stepped through, closing it behind me, and taking in the jet’s cabin.
Len Jones, otherwise known as Armory slept in one of the cabin’s chairs. Daniel sat next to him, still wearing his black costume.
Cassie and Yoselin sat in the front with Cassie flying the jet in the same red, white, and blue her father wore. Yoselin wore red, white, and blue as well, but where Cassie’s costume was light blue except for the US flag on her chest, Yoselin had a red triangle on one side of her chest (and back) with a star in the middle. Blue and white stripes extended out of it.
Yoselin’s costume also included hard plates over her arms, legs, and chest. Her helmet sat on the floor next to her chair. She gave me a smile as the door shut.
Lowering Kid Biohack into the chair behind Armory, I said, “I’m pretty sure he’s alive, but that’s all I’m sure of.”
Daniel stared at Kid Biohack and nodded, “He’s in some kind of healing trance. Kid Biohack may not look it, but he’s actively involved in fixing himself right now. You might find it interesting to talk about it with him later. It’s complicated.”
After strapping Kid Biohack in, I stepped around him to sit next to Daniel and behind Yoselin. Cassie turned back to ask me, “Do you want to take over?”
I shook my head, “Not unless you don’t want to fly it.”
Turning the jet toward Florida’s coast, Cassie said, “I like it, but if we do get into a fight, it’s yours. You know it better than I do.”
Yoselin turned back toward me, “I can move, but you don’t need me to, do you? It’s all implant controlled.”
I nodded, “Everything. It looks like a jet, but it’s more of a starship.”
“Oh,” she said, turning around further to eye the door to the engine room at the back of the cabin. Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that, but her father had to know already.
“Hey,” Daniel said, staring at Armory, “I’m finding something interesting here. Armory’s got mental protections by some telepath, but that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that it looks like his brain was reshaped around the phrase, ‘You should be getting paid for this.’ I can find echoes of it all over and it’s not in his voice. That’s not a technique telepaths use.”
Shaking her head, Cassie said, “Shit.”
I knew exactly what she was thinking of and what Daniel was implying, “You’re sure? Vocal manipulation only lasts for about thirty minutes normally. Either someone he knows is regularly repeating it and did that for years, or it’s an advanced technique like the Dominators might use.”