I wasn’t sure what I could do about that. Alex and his dad probably had good reasons for what they did. It wouldn’t be a good thing if something major came up, and they were too tired to help their team because they’d spent all day in the hospital healing people.
Realistically, they’d probably be better off allowing scientists to study how their healing worked with various illnesses and injuries than actually healing anybody.
I hoped they thought that far ahead.
We had ten minutes to stare at the accident. Unfortunately, if anything, the line of cars seemed to move slower as we neared and finally passed it.
The paramedics seemed to be doing everything they could, and even as we began to leave the accident behind, another ambulance arrived, driving along the side of the road.
I wondered if that was a good sign or a bad one. Did they send ambulances for dead people? If they did, did they bother to turn on the lights and hurry?
The blocked off section of highway ended, and initially traffic sped up, but after a minute or two we were in five mile per hour traffic.
I stared down at the speedometer, not quite believing it.
“Got it,” Haley said. “I checked Google, and there’s a giant red line on the highway, and it goes for miles. I looked it up, and they’re doing construction about five miles from here.”
From the back Vaughn said, “But hey, here’s the good news. There’s no red line on the toll road.”
Jaclyn said, “Thanks Vaughn, I’m sure we all feel much better now.”
I checked the speedometer and watched as an electric train passed us on an elevated railway. I wondered if the line went to Castle Rock. They appeared to be moving pretty quickly.
“This stinks.” Haley frowned. “The schedule says that we’re supposed to eat at 6:30. I don’t think we’re going to make it.”
Cassie sat up in her chair and pointed back. “We just passed an Ikea. Jaclyn could run back, do the super speed thing and get meatballs.”
Jaclyn eyed her and said, “You can go get meatballs.”
Vaughn leaned forward, almost up to the two of them. “I know you’re joking, but I’m getting hungry. If we aren’t going to make it in time for supper, we should figure something out.”
I looked up at my mirror, and looked back at everyone. “I kind of have a plan, but there’s a problem. You know how they try to sneak us around? Fly us in in cargo planes, and everything? Well, this isn’t going to be sneaky. It’s actually going to be kind of loud.”
Jaclyn looked up at the rearview mirror, and met my eyes. “How loud?”
I thought about it. “We’d stand a pretty good chance of ending up on the local news. Possibly national, if SuperTV finds out about it.”
She shook her head. “No.”
Haley began to ask, “What are you planning to—“
Cassie talked over her. “I’d say do it. The media’s been covering the program constantly since New York. I bet they even already know we’re coming. My mom told me there are six hundred people in the program now. I don’t think they can hide it like they used to.”
Not giving anyone else time to speak, Haley said, “Why would we get on the national—“
In all fairness to Vaughn, he probably didn’t hear her, but he spoke over her too. “Don’t worry about it,” he began as Haley glared at him.
Oblivious, he continued, “I’m watching the news on my phone. There’s crowds of people waiting in front of the Castle Rock Compound right now. You’re not going to make any more news than when the buses arrive.”
Glancing over at Haley, I said, “I made a few modifications to the van. You know how when we went up against Rook, he did some damage, and I decided to fix it? Well, even though it looks pretty much the same, the seats are almost the only holdovers. I made it self-repairing like the Rocket suit, and then I realized that I could do a lot more than that.”
The van got quiet while I talked.
Jaclyn asked, “What?”
“Well, you know how the suit changes form now? I made the van into a transformer, but not with a capital ’t.’ I don’t know who owns the Transformers, but I’m sure they have lawyers.”
Haley raised an eyebrow. “What does it transform into?”
I shrugged. “Kind of a giant cat? I thought about doing a giant Rocket suit, but it sounded easier to make a four legged animal run.”
Haley closed her eyes for a second, and said, “Well, I’m just glad you didn’t go with that mouse mecha you told me about.”
“Not a chance,” I said. “It looks a lot like Mickey, and Disney’s got lawyers too.”
I turned back toward Cassie, Jaclyn, and Vaughn. “Do you think I should try it?”
Vaughn nodded. “I don’t see why not.”
Jaclyn frowned. “I can think of a few reasons, but I’m sick of being stuck here. Do it, but change back as soon as you can. I don’t want to get in trouble for something minor like this.”
“Yeah,” Vaughn said, “if I’m going to get in trouble, I prefer something major. It makes for a great conversation starter. In high school, all I had to do was tell people that I was the guy who got drunk and trashed Sean Drucker’s car, and they knew who I was instantly.”
Cassie turned around herself, looking more serious than normal. “You don’t want to go that way again.”
He shook his head. “C’mon Cassie, you know better than that. It mostly sucked, but I don’t think I’m wrong. My minister talked about some theologian who said if you’re going to sin, sin boldly. I figure the guy’s got a point. You’ve got to own it, you know?”
I have no idea where the conversation would have gone from there. The car behind me started beeping. The car in front of me had moved forward ten feet, but I hadn’t, depriving the man in the Honda Civic behind me of ten feet of marginal improvement in his life.
He beeped again.
“Ok everybody, two things. First, we’re all about to get pushed a little closer together, so don’t worry about that. Second, keep your arms close to your body. Putting them on the armrests should be great.”
I tapped on the screen on the dashboard to start the transformation sequence.
“Nick,” Haley said, putting her hands on the armrests, “What happens if our arms aren’t on the armrests?”
“Probably nothing,” I said.
“Good,” Haley began.
“But,” I continued, “they might get ripped off. Well, except for Jaclyn. She’ll probably break something.”
I clarified that with, “Something in the van. She’ll be fine.”
At the sound of Jaclyn’s groan, Cassie’s snort, and Haley beginning to say, “Nick—“ I responded with, “Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine.”
I pressed the final confirmation button as the car behind me really started laying on the the horn.
“What about the luggage?” Vaughn asked.
“Oh crap,” I muttered. “We probably should have—“
I would have said “put that in the cabinets,” but at that moment the walls hummed, coming closer together. At the same time, the dashboard shrunk, changing its layout and Haley’s seat moved toward mine, our armrests almost touching.
From the humming and scraping noise behind us, I guessed that the algorithm that handled forming the cabin was working. The scraping was probably the luggage. A quick check of the rearview mirror/screen showed that the cabin was roughly oval shaped, as expected, and that Vaughn was at the back. The cabinets and our luggage had disappeared.
I was pretty sure we’d find the luggage in the cabinets when we changed back.
I hoped I hadn’t left it on the highway, and resolved to check the rearview screen as we left.
On the bright side, the guy behind us did stop beeping when the van developed four legs, claws, and a tail.