Then the man appeared. Wearing a black helmet with a transparent faceplate, the alien commander had thick features, somewhere between handsome and Neanderthal. Kayla wouldn’t have looked twice at him on the street.
Then he opened his mouth. His teeth were like a wolf’s—all points, ready to rip and tear.
She thought about how much it would suck to be his dentist, choking down a giggle while reprimanding herself in her head. What was she, ten?
The newscaster’s voice said, “The alien ship hovering over New York City broadcast this message moments ago.”
In a scratchy voice with an unidentifiable accent, the commander said, “You will give us the alien devices. They are not yours, and will only cause you trouble. Give them to us, and we will tell no one. Keep them from us, and we will burn your cities to the ground.”
His nostrils flared and he sniffed in a movement that reminded Kayla of Travis and Haley.
Then he continued, “Your governments have not told you everything about their fight with the Abominators. They have captured alien artifacts, and they try to understand them, but there is knowledge that you are not yet ready for, knowledge that will cause even ‘friendly’ aliens to bombard your world until nothing lives.
“Surrender these artifacts to us and nothing will tie them to you. Make it easy for us to take them away, and we will reward you.
“I understand that not all of you realize that you are working on alien technology. I will make it easier. People at these locations are working with alien technology or working with people who do.”
Then he began to list addresses. As Kayla listened, she heard the words, “Veterans Memorial Park, Grand Lake, Michigan.”
This was appearing on local TV, she realized. People were going to be showing up here. Some of them would be treasure hunting with no idea of what they were really getting into.
Well, she thought, except for the ones that might be actively trying to hand the Abominator relics over to the invaders.
“Remember,” the alien said, slitted eyes looking directly at the camera, “the governments only care about power. We’re rebels and freedom fighters from all across the galaxy. We only care about keeping our ships in repair and keeping ourselves out of the authorities’ hands. We have no reason to lie to you.”
The screen faded to black, followed by NBC News 10’s logo. The logo disappeared, revealing a man in a suit. He was riding in a helicopter, the waters of Grand Lake below him. “This is Ross Simpson of NBC News 10. The aliens claim there are Abominator weapons in Veterans Memorial Park. Is this true, and if so, how did they get there? Did the Heroes League—”
Haley’s voice came over the comm. “That’s on the local news? We need to get out there now. Before a bunch of idiots come out to the park with shovels. Is everyone ready?”
Camille clicked on her wrist comm unit. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m ready.”
Chris, from within his armor, said “The armor’s ready, and I’m inside.”
Haley looked into the camera. “Sydney?”
Sydney bit her lip. “I’m ready.” She glanced down at the metal piles around her. “I’ll be ready. Give me a second.”
The metal flowed upward, turning her back into the burly metal woman she’d been when she’d entered the room.
Over the comm, Gerald Cannon said, “Almost ready. I’ll be a few minutes.”
Haley took a breath, and released it slowly, finally saying, “We don’t have a few minutes.”
“Yep, but what I’ve got here is plan b anyway, right? You don’t want me out there where I could get hurt—okay. I get it, but if I’m backup, let me do it right.”
Haley frowned. “Do it right, but I need everyone else outside now. I’m going to wait as long as I can for you to get in position, but then I’m going to blow their engines.”
A pinging noise came from the ship’s side of the connection. “Night Cat,” Marcus said, “The AI says it’s become sure they have more forces than it initially estimated.”
Haley glanced down, still frowning. Kayla guessed she must be reading whatever the AI had said herself.
In a low voice, Haley asked, “Does that mean I shouldn’t attack? I should call everything off because they’re ready for it?”
Her eyes moved as she watched the reply. She looked up. “The AI says that it doesn’t know what they have planned but based on how the mercenary captain spoke, it believes they have more forces available here. It also says that our plan doesn’t need to change. We need to be watching for what happens afterward.”
For a moment Haley didn’t say anything, but then, “Control, watch for anything unusual, and tell me immediately. Sydney, we can’t call you Sydney during this fight. I’m giving you a choice—Railgun, or… Heavy Metal?”
Sydney’s voice came over the comm sounding like she was talking inside a cave. “Railgun or Heavy Metal? I don’t like either of them.”
On the screen, Haley gave a sigh. “I know. I’m sorry. Choose the one that you dislike least.”
Sydney’s metal body stood a little straighter, giving a metal against metal scraping noise that reminded Kayla of the sound of a car accident. “Railgun,” Sydney said, still sounding unhappy.
“Okay,” Haley said. “Move out, and keep out of sight.”
Chris, Camille and Sydney left by one of the sewer entrances. Kayla gripped the mouse a little harder. Now they could only wait.
They didn’t wait long. Within a minute, Chris said, “We’re in position.”
Haley didn’t answer, but on the screen, in view of the surveillance bots, a white beam crossed the water, hitting the spaceship in the stern. The beam cut into the landing ship, slicing across the back, burning through the wall and coming out the side of the ship.
As the ship aimed itself toward the beach, an alarm beeped inside HQ. Kayla glanced around the room, searching for it, but didn’t see it. Then words appeared on the screen, “Anomaly.”
The anomaly was roughly the same length as the landing ship that was crashing into the beach, but the anomaly floated above the forest.
Whispering even though she knew it made no sense, Kayla said, “There’s another ship—”