Solar Flare didn’t stop burning when he landed. White and yellow flames covered his body.
I checked him for any hint that he might have calmed down since crashing the McAllister’s Christmas party. His face was immobile. His lips were a thin line.
It felt like the wrong kind of calm.
“Get away from them.” I recognized his voice, but only barely. It sounded rougher than when he’d questioned us — as if he’d been doing a lot shouting or possibly crying.
The flames around his right hand intensified, growing brighter.
He started walking toward us, passing Night Wolf’s car.
The right door opened. A featureless grayish goo exited, resolving itself into Marcus.
“I just figured out how to shift out of the paralysis. Is that cool or what?”
Solar Flare turned his head back, expression tense, his hands curling into fists while his arms moved up, almost into a fighting position.
“Hey,” Marcus said. “I’m not looking for trouble. I just got out of the car.”
He grabbed an old jacket with the Heroes League logo (a stylized HL in a double circle) on it and put it on. “Quite some weather we’re having, isn’t it? You’d think it was the middle of February.”
Walking around Solar Flare, he said, “Have you met everybody yet? I’m The Shift. This is the Rocket. This is Ghost Something Or Other.” He pointed to Rachel. “And this is She-Who-Must-Choose-a-Name.” He pointed to Jaclyn.
“I’m getting to it,” Jaclyn said.
Rachel gave him a lopsided smile. “Right now I’m going by Ghost. Ask me again tomorrow.”
Solar Flare checked back toward Marcus and then toward Jaclyn, Rachel, and I as we stood behind the truck.
“You’re all what, grandchildren of the Heroes League?”
“You got it,” Marcus walked around him and joined us.
Solar Flare moved his eyes across the four of us and sighed.
“Just get out of my way,” he said.
“You’re not going to kill them in cold blood?” Jaclyn sounded just on the edge of angry. Her right hand clenched.
“They’ve been doing this for years!” He sounded exactly like he had in the McAllister’s cottage. “Do you know how many people they’ve killed? And not for a good reason… They’ve done it for money. Money for a life. Money for lives. People’s friends, parents, children, all killed to rip them apart, to make an example of them… Better to end it and make sure they’re done.”
I could feel the heat coming off his body through the helmet.
“Even if you end up going to jail for it?” Rachel glanced behind her toward the bodies in the back of the truck. “If someone finds three bodies in a hole in the highway with the remains of a truck melted around them, there’s not going to be any kind of mystery who’s behind it.”
“I’ll think about that later.”
None of us moved, but the thought that someone might find seven bodies in a hole in the highway began to nag at my mind.
Behind me, Ray moaned.
Solar Flare’s fist burned brightly enough that my helmet adjusted the light levels.
“Move now!” Solar Flare pulled back his arm, clearly threatening a plasma strike.
Next to me, Rachel pushed away from the back of the truck, her arm moving through the tailgate as if it didn’t exist.
Jaclyn stepped forward, shielding her eyes with her arm. “No.”
I couldn’t see Marcus where he stood on the other side of Jaclyn, but I heard him say, “You don’t want to kill us.”
As for myself, I had the sonics ready. A blast of sound would distract him enough for Jaclyn to take him out. If I were going to do it though, I’d have to strike first. The stealth suit would never protect me from a full blast.
From the truck bed, Ray said, “Solar Flare, you’ve got me. You’ve got all of us. The cops are coming. What more do you want?”
“I want her back.” Solar Flare began to float upward.
Jaclyn jumped on to the truck bed and stood next to where Ray lay.
“Look at me,” Ray said. “I can’t fight you. I can’t even move. I’m half blind from the kid’s guitar right now. If you want to fight me, it’s too late. There’s nothing left to fight.”