In my HUD, Sean’s square started blinking. He wanted a private chat. Oh, great.
I let him talk anyway.
His voice came over the connection as a shout, or if it wasn’t a shout, it had the tone of one. “Are you trying to make me look bad?”
I muted him. Then, thinking better of it, I cut our connection entirely. There was no way that conversation could go anywhere useful.
Lim’s voice, still calm and collected, came over the Stapledon channel. “Then that’s it. We blow Stardock. Everyone retreat through the portal that will open next to Flame Legion. Rocket, Aurora Bees, Patriot Jr., and Izzy—you’re last. Also, Izzy, you need to pick a codename.”
I glanced over to where she hovered next to the building. She said, “I know.”
She sounded polite, but her mouth twisted as she spoke. I wondered how many times she’d heard it.
“Wait,” I said, “don’t we have any more options? What about the other New York teams?”
Lim said, “Not really. The New York teams that have a chance of handling a ship like that are up in space. The rest are either helping evacuate or getting ready to fight whatever comes out of the smaller ships. Well, they were anyway. I’m redirecting some of them at the addresses their leader mentioned in his speech.”
That made a lot of sense. There had to be some way to take out the ship before it took Stardock, and proved what we were doing. Could Guardian open up a gate in front of one of the asteroids, and open it above the ship?
He probably could, though I was pretty sure he wasn’t clairvoyant. He had to be able to see the place he was opening up a gate to or have visited it. He’d likely visited Stardock before, but if he hadn’t, it would involve opening up multiple gates and essentially zooming in until he got close enough.
Plus, it might be hard to gauge how much damage a given asteroid or piece of asteroid would do, and it would be even harder if the ship had shields. Given its size, that was more probable than not.
Choosing wrong would mean that the ship would likely smash into New York City, probably killing a lot of people, evacuation or no. No matter how dangerous or how stupid it is, not everybody evacuates, some of them for good reason.
I decided not to mention it.
In the air, a hatch opened on the lower half of the spaceship. Small, blurrier ships flew out of it, some of them flying toward the ship near Stardock, others spreading out.
I would have told everyone what I’d seen, but Izzy beat me to it. She started talking before the hatch finished opening.
I only paid enough attention to hear the tone of her voice raise as it continued, finishing with, “I don’t know where they’re going.”
Lim barely let her finish. “Rocket, are the ships that are spreading out going toward the addresses they just gave us?”
“Give me a second.”
I’d set the GPS to take the addresses as the suit recorded them. Comparing the routes the ships were taking to the addresses led me to say, “All of them but two are headed toward addresses mentioned, but I’m not at all sure where those two are going.”
Daniel’s voice came over the comm. “I’ve got a feeling it’s important.”
Agent Lim sounded amused, “Me too.” In a more serious tone, he said, “Rocket, Izzy, follow them, but grab a copy of Flame Legion to carry with you. The rest of us are going to assist as needed.”
Travis’ voice came over the comm. “Agent Lim, we can do more than this. With a good plan, I think we could even take out the mothership. I’ve got some ideas—“
“No.” Lim didn’t let him finish. “I’m in command of Stardock, but that’s not my primary responsibility. My primary responsibility is to make this program work. We can replace Stardock. We can’t replace people. Don’t worry about seeing action. You’ll see it. Rocket, Izzy,go!”
We went. I recalled the observation bots as Izzy swooped down toward the dorm where everyone else stood out of sight. Or so I assume. It still glowed red to my eyes.
I flew over there, staying low, hoping that that would be enough to keep me from coming to the aliens’ attention. And yes, that was probably stupid, but I didn’t have a lot of other options.
Izzy flew upward, holding Jenny against her right side with one arm.
Jenny’s red costume covered her entire body, leaving no skin exposed, so I couldn’t see her face. Still, the way her left arm wrapped around Izzy’s back and clung hinted that this might not be the most comfortable trip she’d taken.
Setting a channel for Izzy, Jenny, and myself, I asked, “Did you see where they went?”
Izzy didn’t slow down, and I accelerated to keep up with her.
“Barely,” she said. “We might not lose them if we hurry.”
I’d known that I couldn’t keep track of them while they were cloaked. They were too blurry even when they were nearby. Knowing that Izzy might lose them too was an unpleasant surprise as I’d gotten the impression that her hearing had a massive range. Her grandfather’s had.
We hit more than five hundred miles per hour, causing the ground below us to blur—houses, apartments, shops and businesses turning into nothing but lights and vague shapes.
We weren’t going too quickly to miss Stardock when it blew though. The fireball shot straight into the air, turning into a mushroom cloud.
They don’t have to be nuclear.