Jaclyn started moving a couple minutes after the door shut.
I could hear her push herself up, fall once, push herself up again, and then I saw her black, heeled boots on the floor in front of me. She stopped for a moment, looking (I assumed) at the people on the floor, and then ran to the window on the far side of the room.
I heard the kitchen door open, followed by a gasp.
Jaclyn said, “It’s bad, but not as bad as it looks, Mrs. McAllister. Two people are dead, but everyone else is paralyzed. It’s temporary. They’ll get up just like I did.”
Next to me, Haley said, “Mom?”
I felt her brush against me, steady herself and then stand up.
Further down the room, Travis said, “Those people are sick.”
As he talked, I realized I could move my arms and my head.
I looked toward the buffet tables and instantly wished I hadn’t.
Solar Flare stood next to the buffet, still angry, but completely motionless. The FBI agents were dead — dead in a way that included sprawling limbs, splinters of skulls and a better view of the inside of their heads than I wanted.
My stomach gave a long, queasy roll and threatened more.
I turned my head toward Haley, both to check her reaction and to look at something I wanted to see. Moving put me a little off balance, but she caught my arm.
“I’m okay,” I said. “Mostly.”
Outside I heard Ray shouting something and then Gena’s voice.
A car started.
I grabbed my guitar case and ran to the front door. Jaclyn got there just as I did, unable to move faster without looking superhuman, I supposed.
We got out onto the porch just as Gena’s blue pickup truck pulled out of the driveway, following an SUV down the road. Without my jacket, the wind felt like it was cutting through my clothes despite wearing the stealth suit underneath.
Unzipping the outer pocket of the case, I pulled out the controller for the newest generation of roachbots, targeted the SUV and the truck and pressed the launch button.
The controller bucked in my hands as they shot off like the little missiles they basically were.
“There,” I said, “now we can follow them forever — or at least until they notice the roachbots. One of the two.”
“Give me a second, I’ll change.” Jaclyn opened the door to go inside.
Following her, I found Haley standing just on the other side.
“They didn’t see you, did they?” She looked uncomfortable.
“They didn’t stop,” I said.
The explosions hit just as I shut the door.
Though the windows, I could see Gena’s house explode and then the house Cassie and I had walked around.
I closed my eyes against the brightness, hearing the windows rattle in their frames, and small objects hit the cottage’s roof.
Haley’s relatives were mostly up by then and I heard gasps, curses, and little shouts as the houses burned, sometimes exploding again as something new caught.
“Nick, Haley, Jaclyn, over here.” Travis stood next to a bedroom door. Rachel stood next to him. Marcus stepped inside as Travis gave me a wave.
I looked over at Solar Flare while we walked to the room. He still stood there, frozen in place. They must have given him a double dose. In their position, I would have. The guy could rain down superheated plasma at them from the sky, and in his current mood, he probably would.
It might, I thought, be better for everyone if he didn’t get involved.
I managed to turn my head towards the bedroom without looking at the floor.
We all squeezed into the room and Travis shut the door.
I sat next to Marcus and Haley on the bed while Rachel, Travis and Jaclyn tried to find places to stand among the suitcases and children’s toys.
“Man,” Travis said, “that got bad. They’re calling 911 right now and I think we’d better get out of here and after them before the police show up.”
“Calling us all in here for a meeting is definitely helping with that,” Jaclyn said.
“We’ve got to coordinate, Jackie. Besides, this isn’t a meeting. It’s more of a huddle.”
“I stopped being ‘Jackie’ when I was ten, but go on.”
“Sorry. I brought Grandpa’s car along in case we had to chase, but it’s small. We’re not all going to fit.”
“I’ll run,” Jaclyn said.
“I’ve got a jet pack in Rachel’s car,” I said. “You’ll have plenty of room, especially if Rachel’s not coming.”
“Who said I’m not coming?”
“No one, but you don’t have a costume or anything,” I looked up at her. “Right?”
“Grandma gave me a costume.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Hey,” Travis said, “the more the merrier. We’re going to need Ghostwoman. Can you do everything she could?”
“I’m nowhere near as good a shot.”
“If you’re half as good…” Travis began. “Grandpa said she scared the hell out of everybody during the war.”
“We’re not getting anywhere here. Let’s move out,” Jaclyn said.
“We’d better,” Travis said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let’s try to stick together. None of us are going to be able to take them out alone.”
“Wait,” Haley got off the bed. “Do we really want to do this? You know what they’re doing to Solar Flare. You know how Ray said he’d kill everybody if the family talked.”
“I’m sure every hit man says stuff like that,” Travis said.
Jaclyn tapped her foot against the floor. “No, she’s right. He probably will kill everybody if he finds out, but you know what? That kind of guy might decide to kill everybody if he feels nervous ten minutes from now even if we don’t do anything. He’s a psycho. They’re all psychos.”
Strangely, I didn’t find that as strong an argument for going after them as she probably intended.