Amy looked over the group. “I wish we could take all of you. You don’t know right now how much I wish we had time to construct more wards, but we don’t.”
We had a large group, but we were leaving one too—Kayla, Chris, Dayton, Julie, Shannon, and even Kid Biohack could have helped. Despite his lack of powers, Jeremy might have too. That went for the injured (Haley, Sean, and Jody) and the infected as well.
It was depressing to think about as well as pointless. I might as well wish for Daniel, Izzy, Rachel, and Jaclyn to show up.
Cassie stepped into the circle we’d formed next to the wards. “That doesn’t mean they can’t help. We might not want them where they might get bit, but we’ve got remotes the Rocket made and Kayla will need help. You’re not out of the action.”
From behind the transparent red wall, Travis said, “She’s right. You can do all of that.”
Haley looked at Travis and then back at everyone else. “Between Kayla and I, we can organize something useful.” She turned to me. “Kayla can control your bots, right?”
I thought about it. “Yes. I think she can take over the pods too if she needs to.”
“Good,” Haley reached out with her unhurt arm and put her hand on the Rocket suit’s upper arm. I let the helmet dissolve.
“Stay alive,” she said, and we kissed.
Avoiding her arm as we pulled away, I said, “You too. You might not be safe. If Lucas could send information back, The Thing will know where HQ is.”
Haley stepped back. “I thought about that. We’ll figure something out.”
“I hate to break this up,” Rod said, “but shouldn’t we leave? And what are we using to get there?”
“The van,” I said, touching my palm and making the helmet reform. “It might be a little snug, but everyone will fit.”
Rod looked over at the van. It still looked long, sleek and futuristic. “You’re going to change it into something less conspicuous, right?”
“Yes.” I started walking toward it, and people followed me, boots clacking on the concrete.
“What form?” Rod walked alongside me. “White pedophile van? Seventies airbrushed chain mail bikini warrior? Catmecha? I’m just curious.”
Everyone always seemed to get on me about the bikini warrior. They missed the point. I’d picked that one in case I wanted the van to be noticed.
I didn’t bother to explain. “The van has a lot of options. We won’t have to use any of those unless people want to.”
“I vote bikini,” Vaughn said from behind me.
“No bikini,” Samita said.
“Naked would be good, too,” Vaughn said, as if that had been what Samita meant.
“I don’t even think that would be legal.” Samita told him.
“Has to be,” Vaughn said. “Free speech.”
We were at the van. I stepped inside, followed by the others as the van detected their comm units. I flipped through my options, finally settling on making it look like a black Ford Transit with one way windows.
Since I was pretty sure I’d seen similar vans used to carry people to and from airports, I added “Grand Lake International Airport” to the van’s sides as further misdirection.
I took the exit that let us leave through a hillside in the forest next to Veterans’ Memorial Park. It would be a little difficult to explain why an airport van would be using a rangers’ access road near midnight, but we didn’t have to.
The only people who use roads like that near midnight are high schoolers too busy making out in their cars to notice.
Amy sat in the front as the Bloodmaiden—black armor, glowing red gems and spear. Thanks to the size of the van we’d managed to get Vaughn, Samita, Rod, Cassie, and Camille into the van without needing to resort to having anyone sit in the aisle.
I accelerated, and the van hummed with purely decorative engine noise given that it ran on fuel cells and didn’t use gas.
I drove toward Grand Lake University, staying above the speed limit whenever possible and running stoplights and stop signs. I was careful about it, but at this time of the night not many cars were out.
I hoped we wouldn’t get pulled over by the police, but it might have been amusing if we were. I’d roll down the window and the officer would see Amy and me in full armor in front. Behind us would be everyone else in costume. I bet they’d let us off.
Five minutes away from the university, Haley called and I answered her on the van’s comm so that everyone could hear.
“Control and everyone else here is watching through your spybots and things are heading toward the GLU.”
Amy leaned toward the dashboard, probably trying to identify a microphone, but then gave up. “What kind of things? The Thing That Eats?”
“No. Raptors in the air. Cougars and maybe coyote on the ground, but definitely a few bears. Plus we think we saw Vengeance and his hangmen near the university.
“No sign of The Thing That Eats so far.”