I didn’t know who’d figured out how to dissolve my goo, but knowing that this was connected to the Nine, my first thought was Rook. The guy seemed to have weird hero worship of my grandfather going despite being an example of everything my grandfather stood against.
I wouldn’t have put it past him to make a point of figuring out how to dissolve the glue after the last times we’d fought him. Cassie had disintegrated his leg. In the fight before that, I’d exploded his hand. He had every reason to hate both of us—except he’d been weirdly admiring both times we’d met.
All of that went through my head in a flash, most of it wordlessly. I had other things to deal with—specifically the fact that Prentkos was here to kill my uncle. It wasn’t that I’d come in with no plan, but my plan had been to slow the guy down with goobots long enough that Daniel could go into his head and put him to sleep.
So as long as I was alone my best chance to keep him away from my family was to grab him and hold him in place until Daniel, Haley, or maybe Amy could knock him out.
Well, short of killing him or beating him so badly that he couldn’t run away, letting the rest of the team handle him was the best choice. Unfortunately, the rest of the team wasn’t available for a little bit.
I had to slow him down until then.
Running out from behind the brown, brick building and passing the women’s bathroom with less than three steps, I felt like I was flying without even turning on the rockets. In a few more steps, I’d made it to the spot where Prentkos was spraying the last of the goo and pulling against it in a jerky motion that would have been too fast for a normal person to see more than a blur.
Whether because of the Xiniti implant or because of some side effect of Artificer DNA and their relationship with time, I could see every jerk distinctly even if I couldn’t move any faster than a normal human being wearing powered armor.
If I turned this into a wrestling match, he’d almost certainly be able to wriggle out of it, meaning that grabbing him wasn’t a realistic option. If I wanted to keep him around long enough for the others to catch up, I’d have to hurt him either by knocking him unconscious or breaking at least one of his legs.
From what I’d seen of him in Rook’s base, Prentkos powers seemed to be similar to Jaclyn’s—which meant that I could go all out without killing him. The only bad point being that he might still be able to kill me and follow it up with my uncle and maybe my mom.
As one of the last strands of goo stretched and broke, I reached out, punching him in the stomach—kind of.
He twisted and my gauntleted fist hit but didn’t sink into him so much as drag across his stomach, sliding off to the side. The force would have killed a normal person, but he wasn’t dead. Still stuck to the remaining few threads on his right side, he punched at me with his left hand. I could see it, but I couldn’t move enough to dodge it.
It hit hard enough to knock me back to the ground while he pulled on the remaining strands, grunting as he yanked at them again, and glaring at me.
Checking my inventory, I realized that I still had goobots. With luck, I might have more goobots than he could dissolve—which in this case meant enough to dissolve six goobots. Even though I’d been reinforced, I’d sent most of those for him even before my armor finished assembling.
I started with two goobots, aiming them at his legs. They exploded into grey strands, but he managed to dodge three-quarters of them. Even as they hit, he was already spraying them.
On the other hand, he had to deal with being stuck in two places instead of one or technically three because the leg hit joined the left and right legs with strands.
I’d fired at him from the ground, so I had to pull myself up to have any chance of catching him if he got out of the goo. I only barely made it back on my feet in time to see him detach the strands from his hand. Now only the strands between his legs kept him in one place and he’d sprayed even those in the time he’d had.
They weren’t going to hold for more than seconds.
I fired off another goobot. He caught it in his right hand and smashed it against the path before I could fire a follow-up. Then he stepped forward, ripping the weakened strands of goo with the motion of his legs.
I gave the rockets fuel and blasted toward him.