The door shattered.
I stumbled, and nearly fell as I dropped to the sand behind the house. Between my rush to leave and the stealth suit’s additional strength, I’d overshot the steps.
I nearly hit the grill of the white, Ford Bronco parked in the driveway. Dodging it, I twisted, and turned left into sand and knee-high, dune grass.
Then I started running, tapping on my palms to increase the suit’s energy output. The artificial muscles in the suit amplified the motion of my muscles, but they worked because Grandpa had figured out how to make them release energy in response to the pressure of being used.
Normally, the helmet’s computer regulated how much energy the suit used, adjusting to increase efficiency. Without the helmet, I had to set it, and I set it to the maximum.
I’d probably use up a month’s worth of energy in a day at that rate, but if I won, it would be worth it.
And if I didn’t, it might not matter.
Behind me, I heard metal hit metal with a clang, and crack.
I turned to look, and saw Ray exit the house, followed by Gina. Gina turned behind her, looking back through the shattered door, and into the house.
Whatever she saw, she didn’t stop. Ray pointed toward me, and they both ran across the sand after me.
Ray had changed.
He looked a lot like Gina.
Not exactly like her. He wasn’t female, but like her, he’d grown another foot, and grown a bodybuilder’s set of muscles.
Another major difference was that her clothes fit. She wore a white wifebeater and camouflage pants.
He wore a newly shredded blue, button down shirt, and tan khakis–the stuff he’d been wearing back in our meeting.
He must have just touched Gina. That was probably good news. It meant that if he’d copied the powers of any of Prime’s people earlier, they’d worn off, and he couldn’t will them back into existence.
From the way her shirt had been ripped on the back in combination with the blood, I guessed the she had to be the one Sean hit with the truck. I’d also guessed that she must regenerate, but at least she wasn’t invulnerable.
On the other hand, Ray carried a pistol, and Gina had grabbed a rifle.
That wasn’t good news. I wondered if I’d passed some level of hassle where Ray had decided to kill me instead of capturing me.
I took the mask back out of the collar of the stealth suit, and pulled it over my head. It wasn’t as good protection as the helmet, but it was something.
Barely jumping over a log, I ran past the next cottage. It was newer, and bigger, with aluminum siding colored three different shades of the same pinkish-tan.
Not that it mattered, but the folding chairs and a big, black, propane grill on the deck reminded me that I needed a new plan now. Imagine if someone had been grilling.
I’d gotten Ray away from Mom, but now I needed to take him out, and not just him, Gina too.
Not that I had the slightest idea how.
I needed to figure it out soon though, because if I kept running past cottages, we’d run past one with people soon enough. And then we’d have a brand new hostage situation. We’d get the same thing if I ran next to the road, and if I jumped down to run by the beach, they’d be able to take potshots at me from the top of the dunes.
I jumped off the dune I was on, landing near the middle of the next.
I ran upward, using the gait I always used while in a Rocket suit, one that maximized my stride. It was a lot longer than when I wasn’t wearing any suit, but there was a trick to it. You had to get the rhythm right because it was as much a jump as a step, and if you ran like normal, you’d only connect with air.
I made it to the top, three, maybe four strides later, and chanced a look back.
They weren’t doing as well.
Gina had finished a leap as long as the house on top of the last dune, but messed up the landing, falling forward, and landing on her face.
Ray seemed to be imitating my running style, but not as fast as he could be. His strides never got as long as mine, and sometimes he stumbled.
I had to be able to use that somehow, but it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t as if I’d be able to make them stumble off a cliff. Beyond the question of how I’d manage it, despite all of the dunes, this part of Lake Michigan was distinctly short on cliffs.
Besides, if I outran them, they’d run back to the house. I had to go back there for Mom–not to mention my stuff.
Then I thought, “Maybe I should double back now?”
It made a lot of sense.
Without Ray around, I was willing to bet that Gunther would get past the magic quickly, and then I’d have help.
I turned right and started running down the dune, toward the road, and decided to cross it, and let them wonder if I were heading for the woods on the other side.
Well, that was the plan.
I’d run down the dune, kicking up sand with every step, but as I neared a big, leafy tree about ten feet from the road, I heard a muffled thump behind me.
Knowing better, but unable to stop myself, I looked back.
Gina had landed most of the way down the dune, almost knee deep in sand, but she hadn’t fallen this time.
Pulling her legs out of the sand, she jumped again.