Daniel’s dad continued, “Guardian’s giving the asteroid a quick once over, checking if the asteroid’s anything more than a big rock. We’ve got a few ideas as to how we can handle it if it’s just a dinosaur killer, but we don’t want any surprises.”
I’d set the suit to monitor Stapledon communications and the Heroes League team channel for activity. There wasn’t much of anything going on between our team. Like me, they were likely all listening to the Defenders. The Heroes League channel showed a lot of activity between Haley and Kayla at first. After that, Camille, Sydney, Marcus, and Chris all came online.
Chris? That was cool. Haley was calling in everybody. If Grand Lake had an asteroid with its name on it, they’d have a decent chance of taking it out between the League jet, Camille’s anti-gravity powers, and Chris to think things through.
If the people who were guessing that the asteroids were a feint were correct, they’d need everyone they could get. Fighting the machines had been too close, and who knew what the Hrrrna were like?
I wished I was there. I wished I had time to pay attention to what they were saying.
Resolving to pay attention to where I was, I checked the Stapledon feed. It was giving me GPS coordinates for our group to meet up.
We weren’t in anything resembling a fighting formation, more of a long line. I stayed at the rear, figuring that if we did get attacked, the stragglers might need a heavy hitter along with them. Granted, I wasn’t sure I totally fit that label, but given that the group at the back was Daniel, who was telekinetically carrying Cassie and Travis, and Bloodmaiden, who was (magically?) carrying Jenny, I suspected I was the closest available equivalent.
Of course, technically I was carrying Rachel, but if I had to stop and fight, Rachel would be fine.
Actually, Daniel told me, Jaclyn’s following below.
Checking everyone’s position via the GPS on the HUD showed that he was right. I’d noticed she wasn’t far away when we were crossing water. The spray from each of her steps had made her obvious enough.
Now that we’d made it to Long Island, she wasn’t as obvious. Even though most streets were empty, one person running didn’t stand out–not unless I looked for heat. Then she was very obvious.
With the sun low in the sky, and shadows increasing, covering the streets, people who could see well in low light conditions were going to have an advantage.
Over the Defenders channel, Mindstryke said, “Another complication. The big rock’s got a big engine attached to the back. Brawn’s thinking that the rock can maneuver if it has to, and may include bombs. As some of you are guessing, smaller pieces would be easier to handle, but harder to detect. Brawn’s going to inspect the engine, and try to figure out if he can take it over. It would make this a lot easier if he could. Oh, one more thing, we’re noticing that all the larger asteroids have a propulsion system attached.”
Brawn was Dr. Nation’s codename–the one he’d taken after giving up “Yellow Burrito.” I’d noticed that he hadn’t been at the retreat.
It was hard to read Daniel’s dad’s voice. He sounded calm despite the bad news. As things were, it sounded like the asteroids might be able to spontaneously change targets, or explode under some trigger condition, such being close enough to take out a spaceship.
Still, it would be great if they could just redirect the larger asteroids at a different target–like the sun, for example.
The GPS coordinates that we’d been given were for a building about a block away from Stardock, and the dormitories we’d stayed in. I landed, coming in as the last of the fliers, but not the last person.
Jaclyn jumped from the ground to the top of the old, brick warehouse, making a good guess about her jump. She landed almost at the high point of her leap. She hit the roof with a solid thump, but didn’t go through.
Lim’s voice came over the speakers. “Here’s the plan for now. Expect it to change. Accelerando’s in charge of the speedsters. Patriot Jr. continues to command the hand to hand fliers. Mystic take command of the mobile artillery. Night Wolf, you’ll have overall command. Pull in Rocket to consult on strategy and tactics. Your first objective is to find a good spot for Portal to open a gate for the rest of the Stapledon people. Assume that they’ll be ground based, and may not be able to take a solid hit from what you’ll be facing. Also consider that if we decide to blow Stardock without a fight, the gate will be your best escape route.”
Lim closed with, “Good luck. Agent Lim out.”
Though a dark gray mask hid most of his face, I could see Travis blink as Lim gave him command. Unless I missed my guess, he hadn’t known he’d be in charge either. I was pretty sure he’d been in charge of some group during our training sessions, but I hadn’t paid much attention to who.
Lim’s choices were interesting though. He’d stuck with Stapledon’s official procedure and kept upperclassmen in charge (where he could) by leaving Patriot Jr. where he was, and putting Travis in control of the whole group. Of course, technically Travis was first year even if he was an upperclassman, and technically Patriot Jr. had been in charge of the mobile artillery/glass cannon group when they’d been joined with ours. On the whole though, Lim had done the obvious thing, minimized the damage Patriot Jr. could do by putting people he trusted all around him–all Heroes League people too.
I wondered how people would take that.
Travis turned toward me. “Rocket, is there anything around here that might hide a gate from alien sensors? Bricks? Lead? Anything like that?”
I shook my head. “Technology that senses how sentients think is pretty common among aliens. Our building materials won’t do much to hide it. The Aurora Bees’ shield might, but when it’s running, it glows at so many different levels. It would be like hiding a candle behind a spotlight, you know?”
Shannon alias Shadow, former member of Justice Fist, and our local darkness generator might have been able to hide the gate, but she wasn’t here yet.
Travis nodded, and glanced toward Stardock. The ears on his costume were supposed to remind a person of wolf ears, but they made me think of Batman. Of course, as Night Wolf, Travis didn’t have a cape, so the comparison didn’t really work.
Travis turned back to the group of us. “Does anyone here have a reason to believe that they can hide people from aliens? I don’t care what it is.”
Bloodmaiden coughed, and everyone turned to look at her. “I can, but I’ll need blood–a little bit from everyone.”
Masks hid most people’s faces but from what I saw, people didn’t look enthusiastic.
Cassie snorted and gave a laugh. Travis nodded. “A little blood. Okay, we can do that. Are there any vulnerabilities I should know about?”
Bloodmaiden smiled. “Vampires. They won’t be fooled.”
“Right. Rocket, are there space vampires, and are they likely to be a problem?”
Scattered laughter came from the group.
I said, “None that I’ve ever heard about, but if vampires can smell what’s inside, the Hrrrna might be able to too. Horses have a good sense of smell.”
Bloodmaiden gave a quick smile. “It’s not smell, but it might not matter. You don’t have our kind of vampires here.”
Not sure where my questions should be going from there, I nodded.
Bloodmaiden took a pinprick of blood from each of us, feeding each drop of blood to her gem. When she was done, she said a few words, and a transparent, reddish rectangle floated above the ground.
“It will hide anything that stands underneath it,” she said.
I stared down at it. It was a solution, and better than nothing.
Over my helmet’s speakers, Mindstryke broke in. “Attention, everyone. We’ve got the rock. Brawn couldn’t hack into the control mechanism, but he did figure out where it was. Guardian opened a portal around the engine and a small part of the asteroid, and transported it into another place. Things are getting a little crazy here as the other asteroids have just accelerated, but we’ve got every reason to believe we can catch them. Mindstryke out.”
At almost the same time, Haley’s voice came over the air. “Heroes League, the jet’s sensors have identified a ship decloaking above Grand Lake–“