I gave them a few moments, and that was a mistake.
Remember how I’d protected myself by phasing out enough not to hear? It’s great for avoiding control by super-powered slavers, but not so good for hearing what’s going on.
My fear was that they’d take Julie’s gag out, and she’d start telling me what to do. What I didn’t think of was that they’d take her gag off, and she’d immediately tell them how to turn off the bombs and open the door.
I don’t know if that’s what happened, but as I was about start my final countdown, the door opened, and the Blues walked in with Julie.
She stood with them, trying to order everyone inside the circle to do something.
Not that I had any idea what.
I faded out of visibility and flew over toward the circle, becoming visible, but not tangible in a spot directly inbetween the circle, and the door.
“This is your last chance,” I said. “I’m going to blow this place up whether you leave or not. One…”
The Blues looked at each other. Julie said something.
Julie shouted a command, her face reddening as she screamed.
I started floating toward the wall. I didn’t move my body at all. I held myself as if standing, and willed myself forward, looking unnatural as I flew. Or so I hoped.
You’ve got to pay attention to these things. That’s one of the things Nick doesn’t notice. He thinks a fight is just a fight. He misses that any time you’ve got an audience, it’s a performance.
If it had been a play, my part would have been named “Your Inevitable Death,” and if I played it well enough nobody would have to die.
I kept my expression calm and focused on the wall, Julie’s gun ready in my hand, and it worked. They bought it.
Julie started running for the stairway as one of the Blues tried to attack me. His struck at me, his hands a blur of blows that would have killed me if I’d been solid.
A year ago, I might have freaked out. After a nearly a year of working with Lee, I stayed calm and stayed intangible.
Well, mostly calm. I held on by taking deep breaths, but not obvious breaths, okay?
In a moment, the flurry of strikes ended. The man stepped back, and all at once, the Blues ran for the stairway too.
I continued on through the wall into the domain of jury-rigged computers, gas cans, and concrete. I was alone, giving me time to think. Did I really want to blow up the building and risk killing people?
I took a breath, reminded myself that they were slavers, and that the Blues would kill Tara and her father the first chance they got.
That was enough. I could go through with it.
Once through I had a new question to ask myself. What can should I shoot first? The basement had an embarrassment of riches in that department—provided you redefined riches to mean gas cans.
I chose the nearest, pulled the gun out, and fired, steeling myself for the blast.
Which didn’t come. The gunshot ripped a hole in the side of the can, and knocked it over. Gas spilled on the floor.
I tried to think of a good way to light the gasoline. I didn’t have matches or a lighter. I’d quit smoking years ago—after Grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Could the flash from the gun’s muzzle do it? I doubted it. I didn’t see anything metal that I felt comfortable wacking against the concrete in the hope I might get sparks. Besides, to create sparks that way, enough of me would have to be phased in to hold the metal.
Annoyingly, my grenades were on my utility belt, and my belt was back at the Stapledon program’s underground base. Mentally I cursed the stupid requirement that caused me to leave it, my costume, and my own weapons at home.
Avoiding trouble because you didn’t look like you were looking for trouble made some sense, but if you found it anyway, you were so screwed.
I flew back through the wall. No one, but our people were in the basement. Good, but we probably didn’t have long before they came back down.
Then I looked at the bluish-white glow around the circle, and wondered how the hell I was going to explain all this since Samita had obviously blocked sound.
As I landed next to the circle, Sam stepped forward, breaking the circle.
“I shot one of the cans, but it didn’t explode.”
Sam wrinkled her nose. “That’s why it smells like gas.”
“Yeah. We’d better get out of here—like now,” I said. “They won’t be running right back in here, but if it doesn’t blow up soon, they’ll be back.”
Tara stepped out with Travis and Rod. “We’ve got fifty-three seconds before they come back in.”
I looked at her. “What? How do you know?”
Tara shook her head. “Forty-nine seconds.” Pointing to one of the corners, she said, “Travis, if you take out the beams right there, we’ll be able to exit out the side door of the back room. They won’t see us because they’ve moved to get away from the blast.”
When Travis didn’t instantly move, she said, “Thirty-eight seconds. Go!”
He went, changing from a big guy who was muscled like a football player to an even bigger guy with fangs, and clawed hands and feet.
Stepping next to Samita I asked, “Who gave Tara the brain transplant?”