Lim answered the phone, and from his tone I could tell he sounded a little better than he had before.
“Rocket, who do you need? Right now, almost everyone’s free, so you’ve got your pick.”
“Everyone?” That seemed unlikely.
“You got stuck with the largest group. Most of the rest had to deal with four people at a time. I’m not saying people didn’t get hurt, but we haven’t had any deaths yet. Plus, we just had help show up–mercenaries.”
“Who? Protection Force?”
Lim laughed. “No. Those guys are bodyguards and private investigators. They’re strictly national. These guys are from MetaMax. They’ve been used in trouble spots all over the world. I can’t say I’m wild about them normally, but right now I’m ecstatic. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came your way. If they do, watch out. I’m sure they’ll be helpful, but I don’t know who’s paying them.”
“Okay,” I said, giving a look to the sky, and not seeing either mercenaries or the mothership. “Here’s what I need–Paladin, as soon as he’s free–plus anyone who can do long distance attacks, the Aurora Bees for defense, and we need anyone who might be able to contribute force to keep the ship in the air while we take out the engines.”
He hesitated, and then said, “Take out the engines?”
“I don’t have time to go into it, but we can’t destroy the birthing platform. Fortunately, I know how to destroy their engines.”
“Through their shields? How? Wait. Never mind, you don’t have time to tell me about it. Good luck.”
The call ended, and people began to step through a portal on the lawn. Paladin walked through first. His white long coat had brown bloodstains on his left sleeve.
“Where’s Bloodmaiden?” He asked, giving the lawn a once over. He didn’t even wait for an answer when he saw her, the edges of her armor glowing a dark red.
More people walked through after him–the Aurora Bees, Daniel, others that I didn’t immediately recognize. All of them looked more tired than they had when we left the airport. Their costumes had been scratched, scraped, and in many cases, burned.
Theo walked through the gate with them. His costume had been cut away from his burnt arm, but he moved it as well as the other.
Even in the twilight, I could tell that the skin was healthy and unhurt. He walked like he’d just run a marathon though.
He waved at me. “They told me not to go into the thick of it, but I know I can still take shots at them. They said you wanted people with long distance attacks, right?”
“That’s true, but don’t take chances. I’m trying to keep everyone alive.”
He shrugged, “Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to do anything crazy. Paladin told me he was saving his strength by doing the bare minimum.”
In the distance, I saw Alex reach down to the spot where the aliens had penetrated Bloodmaiden’s armor. His eyes widened. “How are you not dead?”
Tara stepped out of the portal, followed by Travis. That was… unexpected. They were both great hand to hand fighters, but not much else. Then I thought a little harder. From what I’d seen of her, and from what Rachel had told me, Tara’s ability to predict enemy actions in combat bordered on the supernatural. She’d likely be invaluable–even if the same ability hadn’t saved her father.
Travis was stronger than anyone but Izzy and Jaclyn. I could use him inside the ship.
Lim had sent me a few people I’d need in addition to the people I’d asked for. He was good, and I had to make a point of thanking him if I survived.
Then Rod came through–as a blond, bearded and slightly overweight guy–not as a troll, followed by Samita in her Red Hex costume. At that point I considered the possibility Lim had sent me everybody who wasn’t too hurt to move.
I opened up communications, setting up a channel for this operation. Dayton, Jody, and Sean stepped out of the gate as I started talking.
I couldn’t complain. I’d need Sean desperately for the last part of the operation.
“First off, can any of you shield us from sight? And I don’t just mean heroes. I mean everybody. Bloodmaiden did before, but–”
Bloodmaiden interrupted me, saying, “I’m fine. I’ll do it,” at the same time Samita said, “I’ll handle it.”
Feeling pretty sure I’d heard Samita specialized in enchanted items instead of using her own lifeforce, I said, “Red Hex, handle it.”
Samita pulled something out of a bag, said a few words, and we all turned transparent.
I could still tell people from their surroundings by a little, but only because anything behind them was a touch darker than anything to their sides.
“Here’s the plan,” I said. “They’re going to come here to take the artifacts, and while they try it, some of us will get on board, disable the engines and get out. Then a few of you will prevent the ship from falling and crushing civilians.
“Storm King, The Power, and anyone else who can help should be ready for that. Ghost, Night Wolf, Accelerando, Izzy, and myself will get on the ship. Bloodmaiden will support us from the ground.
“The rest of you will need to listen to Tara. She’ll figure out the best way to prevent them from taking things, and hurting civilians.”
As I said it, a big rectangular box came to a stop in the air above Blue Sky Labs. The darkness of the ship’s shields made it difficult to see where the ship’s darkness ended, and the sky’s darkness began.
On the far end of the ship, the ship’s engines glowed.
They were unshielded, of course.