He lay on the road. Then he pulled himself up, and limped to the side.
He sat down in the front lawn of an old white house that hadn’t been painted in at least twenty years. Most of its paint had flaked off the wood.
With luck, no one lived there.
I sat down in my seat, putting my seatbelt back on, and setting down the guitar.
It didn’t look like his regeneration was instantaneous–which was good. We needed the breather.
It was also unbelievably useful data. Whatever properties of his body protected him from the missiles and physical blows didn’t work against lasers.
That meant we had one more way to hurt them if we had to–assuming it worked the same way for the rest of them.
An image of his upper thigh appeared in my mind–reddish and blackened skin. I clenched my jaw. I didn’t quite feel guilty about shooting him–he was probably planning to kill us–but, part of me hoped I hadn’t permanently maimed him. And I wondered what would happen if he went into shock on the lawn back there.
I decided not worry about it. Much.
From the back seat, Rachel said, “He’s still down. Thank God. For a second, I thought I might have to… Nick, are you okay?”
“I think so.”
Haley glanced over at me. She reached out, and clicked the button that closed the roof.
Then she clicked on the car’s communicator. I’d patched it into our new system when I’d worked on the phones.
“I should turn up the volume and find out what’s happening. Lee called me just after they took you away in the jeep, and it sounded like he had a plan.”
“Tell me about it,” Rachel said. “I had to report back all the time, and the communicator doesn’t work when I’ve phased out, so I had to float up to the roof to talk.”
Watching Haley turn the volume up, I asked, “Why’d you turn it off?”
“When you got in the car, and he started chasing us, it got distracting. It hasn’t been off long.”
Sean’s voice came over the car’s speakers, “Pull back? Why do I have to pull back? They don’t have to–”
Alex broke in, “Because he said so, asshole.”
Sydney only said, “Sean.”
“The Power,” Sean began, but ended with an “Ahhh–” followed by a thump, and more moaning.
“Someone put a spear through him, ” Lucas said. “I caught him before he hit the ground, but it’s close to the heart. Paladin?”
“I’ll take him.”
Lee’s voice came over the comm–except it wasn’t Lee’s. It was Gunther’s. I could hear an old voice with a German accent. We’d all been trained by Gunther, hadn’t we? “How far can you bring him back? If there’s a next wave, it’ll be mechs, and I’d wanted a second EMP.”
“I can handle it. Give me five minutes. Paladin out.”
Gunther said, “Good. Where’s Night Cat?”
“Here,” Haley said, pressing a button on the dash. “We got him out.”
“Good. Join up with Flame Legion. Night Wolf–”
“Wait, what about our parents?”
“Accelerando hasn’t reported in yet, but, Captain Commando and the girl with voice powers are with her. We know where the hostages are. It’ll work out.”
Haley held her hand over the talk button as if she intended to ask another question, but Rachel said, “Don’t. I saw the number Ray called the last time he stopped the executions. I passed it on to Kayla. She got it to… the little kid?”
Rachel looked over at me.
“And Carlos found the rest of the numbers and their locations. Jaclyn can handle it.”
Haley turned the car down a dirt road. “I know she can. I just wish I were with them.”
As we passed rows of corn, Gunther’s voice said, “Night Wolf. Blow the radio station to hell. Then herd them toward us.”