Given that someone in that building was making competent use of technology created by aliens more evil than the ones trying to provoke genocide on us, it was hard to imagine any kind of good news.
“What?” I asked.
“The office building is owned by Blue Sky Labs, a small company owned by Dr. Valerie Griffin, an electrical engineer by training, but a specialist in alien artifacts for the last five years.”
Lim didn’t take a breath, continuing with, “But that’s not the bad part. She’s got grants and investments from all over, ranging from businesses to the government. That’s not a surprise considering what she’s doing, but here’s the bad part. The last time I saw any lab studying alien artifacts that was this well funded, it turned out they were being funded by the Nine. They didn’t even know it.”
Seeing the alien ships hammering the building’s shield, I wondered if that meant that the Nine had their own version.
If so, I hoped it wasn’t portable.
“Whoever Dr. Griffin is, she’s got a good understanding of how alien tech works.” I stared up at the ships, thinking that if we were going to attack, we’d need to take them down first.
“Rocket, do you have a plan yet? I have other places that need my attention.”
In the moment he asked the question, I didn’t, and was about to say so when I realized I had something. I said, “Kind of. I need Ghost, Storm King, Accelerando, Captain Commando, and ah… Night Wolf, or maybe Tara?”
“Night Wolf and Tara are leading their own groups. Are you only looking for close combat fighters or would straight out power work? We’ve got the Power and his buddies, also Bloodmaiden—”
“Bloodmaiden,” I said, surprised at how loudly I said it.
Isaac chuckled. “Bloodmaiden it is.”
Then he cut the connection, leaving me to wonder if I’d done something dumb. On the face of it Sean, Dayton, and Jody would have added some necessary muscle. On the other hand, I needed to be able to trust people, and with Sean’s belief that I was out to make him look bad, I couldn’t trust him. He might try to get me back for things that had only occurred in his mind.
Yeah, I thought, that sounded objective, and not at all like I didn’t want to deal with him.
Well, if nothing else, it showed that I could rationalize under pressure.
Jenny’s voice broke me out of my thoughts. “Can you put me down? I need to be on the ground for this.”
Izzy landed on the parking lot and let go of Jenny. As she did, a hole opened in the air next to her. Bloodmaiden stepped out followed by Cassie, Rachel, Vaughn, and Jaclyn. I thought I saw Brooke (covered in her liquid, silver armor) in the background as the portal winked out.
I wondered if I should have requested Daniel, but honestly, my plan didn’t have a specific need for him. I’d have been calling him in just to have him nearby.
“Here’s the plan,” I said, “we’ve got to take out the troop transport ships first, or we’ll probably be targeted by their antipersonnel weapons.” Giving a nod to the shining inferno past the trees, I continued, “I was thinking Ghost could float into one, and take out the engines. At the same time the uh… code nameless woman,” Izzy rolled her eyes, “could take out the other. Do you think you can? I think you’ve got a chance at overloading the shield.”
Izzy frowned. “I don’t know. If their shields are like your jet’s—“
Bloodmaiden spoke through her hesitation. “I can do it. As long there’s something living on the other side, the spear will hit it.”
I looked her in the eye. “It’ll go through the shield?”
“Like magic,” she drawled, her mouth hinting at a grin.
Rachel laughed, and told me, “You walked right into that.”
I decided to leave it alone. “Storm King, however they take out the ships, you’ve got to get them away from the building, and crash them, preferably nowhere near civilians. There’s an empty field past the office building. That might work.”
Vaughn nodded. “You got it, man. This is awesome.”
Cassie glanced toward the light, and back to me. “Think you’ll be finished before it’s over?”
“I’m almost done. When the ships go down, Accelerando and the superhero-formerly-known-as-Blue take out all the aliens with Captain Commando covering you from behind the trees. The rest of us should stay hidden, and come out if you need help, or if the Nine’s people are inside the building.”
Despite his mask, I could tell Vaughn had raised an eyebrow. “Hope it’s not Rook again. That guy’s a real head case.”
“Fuck, yes,” Cassie said. Then she took a breath. “The creepy bastard.”
I checked in the direction of the office building. The branches of the trees that stood between that clearing and this one practically disappeared in the brightness.
“I guess we’d better go. Oh, and Captain Commando, there’s a setting on your new suit that looks almost exactly like your regular costume, but thicker and with more armor.”
She was wearing the backpack.
“No kidding? I’ll change in the forest.” Cassie stepped into the trees without even one look back. We all followed her.
It was a good idea. We all needed the privacy. Even though standing next to superheroes in the middle of an alien invasion wasn’t the smart, there were still people standing the parking lot with cameras.
I caught up with Jaclyn, matching her stride, but only because she wasn’t running.
“I’m thinking you should be field commander for this, not me. You’ll be able to tell if you need help better than I will for sure.”
She shook her head. “Rocket, don’t dump this on me. I’ll take command of Izzy and Cap. That makes sense. You’ll have a better overall picture with the bots and everything. Use it.”
Maybe I would have argued with her then, but a loud crackling noise filled the air. I knew that noise. It sounded like an electrical short, but much louder.
My HUD showed the bots’ view of the situation. The troop transports had stopped firing, and became nothing more than flat, floating rectangular boxes.
A long hole had been burnt straight down the front of the office building. It opened up all three stories, but was only a foot wide. It smoked all the way up and down. Small embers floated in the air.
I’d taken too long and this could screw up everything.
Trying not to sound like I felt, I said, “Okay everybody, remember what I told you? Ghost needs to go. Bloodmaiden throw your spear the moment she’s successful. Everyone else, be ready.”