Ignoring the voice in my head, I said, “Let me get this straight. Surrender or die, right? If we surrender what happens then? Do we die anyway? Are you going to hold us for ransom, or what?”
Addressing the voice, I asked, What can you do? And make it quick, I’m in the middle of something.
“No stalling. If you don’t make your choice, you choose death.”
My luck to run into the one super-villain in the world who noticed when you tried to get him talking.
“Yeah, well, if you kill us, you’ll never know where the people we freed went.”
“We’ve got sensors that show they’re still in the room. Got that? No more talking. You have until two. One…”
And then I could barely think. It’s not that I wasn’t thinking. I had too much to think about. The thing I’d been talking to telepathically (or the thing that had been talking to me)? It was a talking gun. Because that’s what every advanced combat force wants, right? A gun that can make conversation.
In response to my question, it had jammed its whole freaking history into my head–including stats on its common uses, best firing angles, and effectiveness in different atmospheres and gravities ranging from Earth’s oxygen/nitrogen mix to vacuum.
I saw it held by humans, beings that looked like humans, but not quite, and another race with grayish skin and five limbs (though that wasn’t their only form).
Abominators. Dad told me how the League fought them once. Damn.
I wasn’t asking for an epic. All need to do is shoot some people. And why are you talking to me anyway?
YOU BEAR THE CITIZEN’S MARK.
I don’t even know what that is.
YOU DON’T NEED TO. IT’S WOVEN INTO YOUR VERY BEING. SIMPLY BY TOUCHING YOUR MIND, I RECOGNIZE YOUR STATUS AS A PRODUCT OF THE WORKSHOPS OF ARTAXUS THE UNHALLOWED, SCION OF THE EIGHTH LINEAGE SIRED IN THE IMAGE OF MAGNETUS THE PURIFIER.
IN AN EARLIER AGE, I WOULD HAVE BURNED YOU DOWN IN THE SERVICE OF MY CREATOR—METRICITUS THE CHOSEN, SCION OF THE SIXTH LINEAGE OF MAGNETUS.
NOW? LET US WORK TOGETHER TO TURN THESE UNFINISHED CREATURES TO ASHES. AN ALLIANCE OF THE LAST REMNANTS OF RIVALS! HA! IT WILL BE GLORIOUS.
If they all talked that much, the Abominators must have died from being windbags.
From the doorway, the glowing man said, “I what?”
He’d walked a little further in since I’d last paid attention, and the Nine’s men followed him, but not too closely.
“I surrender. You’ve got us.”
“Don’t think I won’t kill you if this is a trick.”
“No trick. He’s got us, right?” I looked over at Rod.
He sat down on the desk he’d been using to hold himself up. “He’s got us.”
Glowing man nodded slowly. “Then where’s the girl and the kids we’d imprisoned?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “They’re invisible.”
That would have been the moment for me to jump back, and grab the gun off the shelf in the back of the room. It would have, if Rod hadn’t been there.
I’d have been able to make the jump. It was maybe twenty feet from us at max, but as hurt as he was, the glowing guy could grab Rod before I made it.
I thought maybe I could tell the glowing man I’d left something important back by the shelves, but what were the chances he’d let me get it?
There had to be some way, but my brain froze. I couldn’t think of anything.
The man said, “OK, invisible people. The game’s up. Become visible or I torch your friends, starting with Mr. Troll here.”
Before Rod and I went into the hall, I’d told Sam to use lightning if she had any left. She didn’t then, but when the man began to lift a tendril toward Rod?
A thunderclap shook the room, shaking the shelves, while the light blinded everybody.
Still seeing spots, I jumped over a desk, and ran for the shelves.
It sat on the fifth shelf—a little higher than my head. Made of the same shimmery blue-green metal as their power impregnator, it didn’t look like the weapon of a legendary race of tyrants.
It looked like an accessory for Space Soldier Barbie.
I picked it up, and I could feel its shape adjusting to fit me as I pulled it up to my shoulder.
DIE UNFINISHED MONGRELS! I WILL BURN YOU WITH THE HEAT OF A THOUSAND SUNS!
Oh, shut up, alien death machine.