They’d be here in seconds, and at the speeds they were moving, we’d have no chance of outrunning them. My modifications to the van would help with off-roading, but not with speed. And yes, I’d made it so the van could fly a little, but the conversion took time, and we couldn’t fly that fast or that long, and at the speeds our pursuers were moving, we’d never outfly them.
We had absolutely no chance to escape.
I pulled to the side of the road, and put on the brakes. The van’s tires rumbled as we crossed the white line.
When we came to a complete stop, I pressed the screen, starting one of the protections that I’d built into the van.
The boring one. Boring but vital.
Plates covered the windows, making the van completely dark inside. The monitor on the glowing dashboard allowed me my only view of what was around us.
Haley clicked open her seatbelt, and pulled off her coat, and shirt—which was less distracting than it sounds.
I’d taken off my own seatbelt and stood up, happening to notice that she was taking her shirt off out of the corner of my eye, and looked closer only to realize that her uniform was under it.
She caught my eye, and said, “Seriously?”
I would have responded except that’s when we took our first hit. Heat, a crackling noise, and a sound like thunder came from above us—and not just once, again and again.
Amazingly, the roof held. It wasn’t completely a surprise. I’d designed it with energy weapons in mind, but I knew it couldn’t hold forever, or possibly more than a few minutes. It all depended on the power available to the lasers outside—if it were lasers.
I stepped on the block of ceramic that would become my suit, touched it with my hand, and felt myself sink into the block.
The suit took form around me, but before the helmet completely covered my face, I said, “Haley, could you—“
And then the helmet completely filled in, cutting me off. I wouldn’t be able to say anything until the power turned on. I’d been trying to say, “fire off a missile or something?”
It might make whatever was outside back off. By whatever, I meant whatever big, flying, futuristic alien devices that happened to be trying to kill us right now.
I’d seen them briefly on the monitor. They hadn’t looked like human technology. The question was whether they were robots or alien powered armor. Personally, I was betting on robots.
Haley had pulled off her regular pants, and pulled the mask over her head. Maybe she’d heard me, or maybe she’d made the necessary connections on her own, because she leaned over the driver’s side of the dashboard, silhouetted in the monitor’s glow, and touched the screen.
The van shuddered as two missiles shot out of it, followed quickly by two explosions—which was pretty cool, provided they’d just hit our attackers and not passing cars.
Just when I started to feel completely frustrated and useless, words flashed across the screen, and all systems were ready and reporting to the HUD.
Ready to do something, I prepared to send a red alert to the League except… then I noticed that the red alert signal was already going. Haley had set it off.
That was cool and all, but obviously, it still took too long to get the suit on.
Too long or not, however, I could finally move.
Since the van was supposed to be a mobile storage shed, I’d put a lot of roachbots inside. I activated all of them.
Haley turned away from the monitor as I took a step toward the back doors.
She’d changed. Her hands and feet had turned to grayish claws. Her eyes, slitted like cat’s. She even stood a little taller. I’d never measured how much.
“I’m thinking,” I began, “that if I shoot out the back door, I’ll draw a bunch of them after me. Once I do, I can have the roachbots attack, and I’ll likely take out a few by surprise.”
Haley walked into the back with me and opened a drawer of the cabinet on the wall. “And what are you thinking I’ll be doing?”
“Well, you’ll have options. I can take a few hits from them, but you can’t, so I’m thinking the best thing you could do is start the rest of the van’s defenses going, or make for the trees. Chances are, we’ll get help soon.”
The roachbots had been exiting the van quietly as we’d spoken. I had multiple feeds to see around us, and all the bots contributed to the suit’s view of the landscape.
Our attackers had backed off when the missiles hit. They circled at a distance, all of them streamlined, but none with wings, reminding me of submarines or maybe fish. Okay, so plainly meant to operate in an atmosphere, but also obviously using gravitics instead of jets or rockets for propulsion.
Judging from the bulges in the machines skin, I guessed that their weapons either extended as needed or never needed to exist outside of the main body.
Even though each appeared to be as large as the van, I didn’t see any signs of life. No windows, steps, or handles blemished the machines outer shells—machine being the operative word.
“Sure,” Haley said, still trying to find something in the drawer.
“You’ll stay?” I’d been worried she might fight them with only her costume for protection.
Then I realized something else. “You were just saying that.”
“Yep,” she said, and pulled a particle accelerator rifle out of the drawer.