They both jumped at once, both of them aiming in my direction, no doubt guessing that if they could take me out, they could grab Master Martian or Daniel. Also, I was between Daniel and them.
Only as one hit me did I come up with the obvious, alternate possibility—that if one of them hit me, the other might be free to go after Daniel when he got past me.
How I managed to avoid dropping the SUV when the first one hit, I still don’t know. I understand it on the level of technology in that Grandpa had designed the suit to absorb damage and I’d expanded it with tech inspired by the jet’s inertial dampers, but I’m still amazed that I had the presence of mind to hang on as the Cabal soldier hit the suit’s chest, knocking the SUV and me backward.
If the guy had hit the SUV, it would have been ripped apart, but since he hit the suit, we moved maybe 20 feet and much slower than we could have.
At the same time, the other Cabal soldier, the one that jumped past me, never reached Daniel. Instead, Yoselin and Haley, who had been flying parallel and a little behind us, turned in our direction, Yoselin redirecting the soldier upward and sideways so that he shot over the rowhouses next to us, flying blocks away from the fight.
I hoped he wouldn’t kill anyone when he landed, but there was nothing I could do about it. I had my own problems.
The Cabal soldier who’d slammed into me hung from one arm over my left shoulder and started punching my ribs with the right arm while steadying himself by scissoring his legs around mine. The only bright side was that the Rocket suit wasn’t throwing quite so many error messages as when the woman’s beam attack hit me.
She’d taken out 30% of my armor’s repair capabilities in one shot. On average, he was destroying roughly 2.5% per punch around the abdomen—so I had 20 more punches to go before he punched through my chest. The bad news was that he punched a lot.
I started dropping to the street, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fight back unless I let go of the SUV, preferably without hurting the people inside. He didn’t stop punching. So by the time I hit the sidewalk, I was down to roughly 15 punches before my inevitable death.
By the time I let the front of the SUV slide forward and hit the street behind me, I was down to 12 punches. Intentionally letting myself fall backward, I let go of the SUV and as it accelerated away, I moved my arms downward, pointing my right arm into his chest and aiming the beam in the direction of his spinal cord. Thanks to the suit’s sonics, I could see it.
As the beam exited his back, another beam hit his upper back from the side, this one from Haley’s suit. He screamed and I threw him off myself and onto the street, pushing myself upward as Haley asked, “Are you okay?”
“Mostly,” I said, checking out the man on the ground.
He tried to move his left arm, but only seemed to be able to move it a few inches and without enough control to do much more than scrape against the pavement. If didn’t know he’d regenerate, I might have felt sick. As it was, I felt half-tempted to shoot him again to increase the time before he could get back in the fight.
Tara’s voice came over the comm, “It’s about to get better, but it will look worse. Flying away won’t help. Stay low.”
I was about to ask for more details, but I suddenly understood how it would “look worse.” More Cabal soldiers landed in the street, some of them jumping toward us from near Master Martian’s house. I recognized those guys. They were the ones with bloody costumes, newly regrown white flesh showing through the holes, some of them with goo from the goobots still sticking to their costumes.
Worse, of course, not all of them were coming from Master Martian’s house. Those were landing in the middle of the street, their costumes untouched by blood or goo, all of them with their game faces on and running in our direction.
The implant counted 22.
Despite what Tara had said, flying straight up sounded like the best idea, but knowing her, we listened anyway. Haley and I took off, following Yoselin, Daniel, and Master Martian down the street.
Before the group of us had even gone ten feet, more Cabal soldiers landed ahead of us, smashing through cars, hitting buildings on either side of the street, and some of them passed within a few feet of us, only failing to grab us because we rolled to one side or another.
My implant counted 14 more, making the total 36. I didn’t like those odds.
Becoming certain our best chance had to be flying sideways over to the next block, I began to say, “Up,” except that Daniel thought, Wait, at me.
At that moment, two dark blurred forms ran through the street, hitting the Cabal troops ahead of us, throwing them in every direction before they could do anything. They were moving too fast for me to make out any details, but I knew that Jaclyn’s older brothers helped the Liberators sometimes.
If that weren’t enough, a blue blur appeared in the sky above us and Izzy dropped down in time to slam into two Cabal soldiers who’d been jumping toward Daniel.
As crazy as that was to see, the big show appeared behind us. A dark cloud had formed above the Cabal and True grouping in the street. Though I expected lightning to lash out, that wasn’t what happened next.
A dark, cloaked figure appeared in the air near the rear of the group. I couldn’t see anything but darkness within the cloak, but I had a bad feeling I knew who it was. I’d last heard from Adam AKA Dark Cloak when he’d written us a letter after loosing a dragon and its vassals on the Stapledon program to distract us from preventing the Coffeeshop Illuminati from overthrowing Turkmenistan’s government.
It had been part apology and part warning that the government and some supers were controlled by a third force. He’d been in hiding ever since. I didn’t know where, but since he got his powers from the fae somehow, it might have been wherever they lived.
The figure opened its cloak, revealing inky darkness and not even a glimpse of a human body. Creatures poured out. From what I know, there are two basic sorts of faerie creatures—creatures of whimsy and unpredictable mischief on the one hand and merciless killers on the other, often both at once.
No two creatures falling from his cloak looked like another, but between the giant spiders, the toothy grin of a small dragon, the blocky, mismatched features of goblins, fanged beasts out of nightmares, and a small, red-capped gnome with beady eyes, I had a feeling they came from the killer end of the faerie spectrum.
The last I’d heard, Dark Cloak’s powers involved teleporting from shadow to shadow and invisibility. Adam, if that was Adam, had leveled up.