Gerald snorted. “Bet we could get in.”
Kayla felt her jaw drop. “I don’t think that would be—“
“I know. I know!” Gerald shook his head. “Even if they helped it wouldn’t be worth it. I saw what they did to people in the end. We’re all better off dead than that. I was speaking hypothetically. I saw the fight with the robots on the news. Nick’s been working with his grandfather’s mono-molecular blade tech. Chances are he’s got a prototype lying around.”
Marcus smiled, and leaned forward at the table. “He made a jackknife. I came down here once when he showed me. That wasn’t the best part though. The best part was when he forgot it was on and it cut through the table. He grabbed it before it went through the floor.”
Haley shook her head. “At least he didn’t cut his fingers off.”
Marcus laughed. “That’s what he said, and then he said, ‘that’s why I don’t have a sword.’”
Sydney looked up from the table. “I’m surprised Cassie hasn’t hurt herself. She doesn’t seem very careful.”
Marcus turned his head toward her. “How do you know she hasn’t? It’d just grow back, you know? The worst problem she’d have is figuring out what to do with the spare. It’s not like she could dump it in the garbage. People would start asking waaaay too many questions.”
Sydney crinkled her nose. “Yuck.”
Haley spoke up. “We need a plan. The jet’s AI thinks the asteroids were a feint, and I think it’s right. They wouldn’t come here if they thought Guardian would let those asteroids hit. I don’t know what they can do. I asked the AI to tell us because Nick says it’s an expert in this kind of thing.”
She got off the table where she’d been sitting, and said, “Jet, you can talk now. Please tell us what kind of weapons they use.”
A tenor voice came over the room’s speakers. It’s accent was indeterminate, but precise, and unquestionably a computer.
“The first and most important issue for you to understand is that they are mercenaries and pirates in one of the most impoverished sectors of this galaxy. Their technology is second or third rate by comparison to any nation of any importance. It is worth remembering, however, that they are practiced at killing and are working with the Hrrnna, a species with access to technology advanced as any.
“Given that the Hrrnna hope to pass whatever they do as the actions of a rogue group, it’s unlikely that they’ll have their best available. Their tactics strike me as desperate in any case. That shouldn’t give you too much peace however. My assessment of their technology and yours is that if they can aim at you, you will likely die. Standard tactics include lasers and other weapons with a wide area of effect. Additionally, many possess weapons with enough intelligence to aim at targets that surpass biological beings typical limits.”
Gerald Cannon looked up at the twenty foot tall screen that dominated the wall behind the table. The AI’s words appeared on the screen. Kayla guessed that he was trying to find something to address.
“I need more than that. I want specifics—effective range on the most probable weapons, rate of fire… I want the weapons’ specifications and limitations.”
More words appeared on the screen as the AI’s voice started again. “Understood, but be aware that even within this backwards sector of space there are hundreds of thousands variations on the most common types of weapons. The Abominators’ former servants have a remarkable inventiveness when it comes to ways of killing each other. I’ll send you a file of the most common weapons and their variations. I will also be listening in through the League communicators, and will be able to advise on tactics.”
“Good enough,” Gerald said, nodding.
Marcus looked around the table. “So what does that mean we’re going to do? Me? I say we take the League jet out, and have it take down the spaceship, and boom, problem solved.”
The AI’s voice didn’t change, but Kayla thought she heard some impatience in it. “I’m afraid not. Your enemies will expect the League jet. It is unfortunately well known, and it will have to come out of the water where it will likely be detected before it surfaces. If you had two competent crew members, you might well destroy it, but you have only one—Haley.”
Chris, sitting at the far end of the table on his grandfather’s other side, frowned and then looked confused. “What about you? Can’t you fire the ship’s weapons?”
“Due to a number of regrettable instances where the galaxy’s machine races attempted to rid existence of sentient, organic life, the race that created me included a number of limitations. I’m not allowed to operate weapons without express permission of my administrator. He is not here.”
Haley pressed her lips together slowly, obviously thinking. “It sounds like we’ll have to attack from a distance. Kayla, could you run through our inventory and find out what we have that we could use. Look for things that might help us hide, or might protect us. We’re going to talk through some ideas.”
Kayla asked, “Do you mind if I go into the lab? It’ll be hard to concentrate here.”
Haley didn’t take much time to think about it. “OK. Don’t be too long.”
When Kayla did sit down at a stool in the lab, alone in the in the middle of machines she didn’t recognize, tables with partially assembled machines, and three boxes of what she could only describe as grey goo, she felt a little better.
She didn’t have powers. She wasn’t a super genius. She’d never been trained to fight. Being lectured by a talking computer and associating with a supervillain didn’t feel normal to her, but looking over lists? That she could do.
A stream of headlines ran across the bottom of her screen. New York City continued to evacuate. Heroes were fighting aliens there.
Kayla considered telling the others, but decided to let them plan. Then another announcement appeared on the screen. The League’s system had intercepted a call to her cell phone. It was her father. Did she want to take it?
She took the call.