I thought about that. “If the animals were summoned by wizards, I’m not sure I’m impressed. If you think about it, The Thing That Eats is powerful enough when it’s taken over supers that animals can’t hurt it much, but it can hurt them.”
Amy cocked her head, thinking. Then she straightened. “When I was back home, my father used to say ‘think sideways’ a lot. My mother is the queen. My father acts as her spymaster. My guess is that they’re using the animals for reconnaissance and maybe to scare normal people away from the battle. If they do make them fight, it’s probably because The Thing can’t possess them.”
Over the comm, Haley made a noise. “I hope they know cougars are on the endangered species list in Michigan.”
Behind me, Vaughn laughed. “If they’re all elves and stuff, I bet they don’t even know what an endangered species list is.”
From further back in the van, Rod added, “No doubt. My stepdad’s been kicking around since the Middle Ages. The things he needs explained… Oh man, you would not believe.”
“The Middle Ages?” Camille said, “Is he an immortal?”
Rod grunted. “Don’t know. I don’t think so. The way I understand it, he’s spent so much time moving between Faerie and the normal world that he doesn’t age normally when he’s in Faerie. He might even get younger there. It’s weird.”
We were moving through the neighborhoods around campus by then. Grand Lake University was on the north side of the city (and of the actual Grand Lake), and sat in the middle of neighborhoods from the early 20th century. In our city, that meant two story houses with covered porches, wooden siding, and small yards. Garages were optional. The people who they were built for had taken the trolley to whatever factory or sawmill they worked at.
I was tempted to ask a question or two myself. Rod hadn’t talked much about his family before, but in the past he’d seemed to have a chip on his shoulder about legacy heroes. This might be a good thing.
I spoke into the comm. “I’m heading toward the student union. If I stop in the turnaround, I’ll get a good view of the main campus. Or do you have a better place to look?”
Haley said, “Nothing. If they’re moving they aren’t moving quickly enough to trigger the bots, and we haven’t seen them. I wish I were with you. I’d do more good there.”
She wasn’t wrong. Without Travis, Haley, Izzy or Daniel, we were short people with unusual senses just like we were short our most powerful fighters without Jaclyn, Izzy and Travis. Rod arguably fit both areas, but he wasn’t any good for that without transforming into a troll—and then he wouldn’t fit in the van.
Maybe Samita or Amy could work something out.
Keeping my voice low, I replied, “I wish you were, too.”
Cassie groaned, “Less lovey-dovey, more fighty-fighty.”
“Fighty-fighty?” Haley asked. “I can’t believe you said that.”
Somewhere out in the darkness a coyote howled. After a moment, other coyotes joined it.
In the rear view mirror, I saw Camille look out the window. “That’s creepy.”
About that time, I rolled up to campus proper, rolling into the turnaround and coming into a stop in the middle of it.
DePuit hall, the dorm I lived in stood off to my left, a seven story rectangle of brick and possibly the least interesting building on campus.
Off to the right stood the Dykstra Administrative Building which housed the student union and the school’s administrative offices. Wide concrete plazas surrounded it on both sides while the upper two floors extended out past the brick walls below them.
Past them, dormitories and lecture halls rose on either side of the one lane path that lead through campus, their lower floors glowing with light.
Even with the van’s sensors, no one appeared to be up, and understandably, it was after two in the morning.
I wondered if we’d gone to the wrong place, but then I thought about the howling. It had sounded close.
I turned off the van’s lights and fake engine noise. With any luck, whoever arrived next would think the van had been sitting there for hours.
I glanced over at Amy and back into the van. “Can anyone sense anything out there? I’m coming up with nothing.”
Cassie stood and squeezed past Samita. Pulling a gun about the size of a submachine gun off her belt, Cassie said, “I can use ‘gun vision’. And sorry if it makes anyone nervous, but I need to have the gun out for it to work.”
As Cassie pointed the gun out the windows, I glanced at the gun. Between the purple tinge to the metal and the silver specks, I thought back to hearing her describe it. It really did look like something that might be carried by space soldier Barbie.
I turned back to the van’s dashboard screens. Still nothing.
At about the same time, Amy said, “Someone’s bringing in the big guns. You can’t see it, but there’s a demon on the roof of that building. It’s on the part that hangs out over the plaza.”
“It’s above the president’s office. The student film committee won’t be at all surprised.” I’d overheard them talking. He’d stopped them from showing several films last year.
In a low voice, Samita asked, “What kind of demon?”
“Hard to say. It has big black wings, two heads and a humanoid body. If I had to guess, a soldier type from from the fifth or sixth circle.” Amy stared upward, frowning. “I’d have to fly up there to know for sure—which would mean a fight—and it’s probably working for the Council.”
“Whoa,” Vaughn said. “Real demons?”
I barely listened to him and didn’t hear the reply whatever it was. The van’s thermal cameras had locked on to a flying heat source—sources, in fact.
Jillian and the other woman in the gang—the one who flew and threw energy blasts—were flying over campus. Cassie noticed them about the same time I did to judge from her quick, indrawn breath.
But that wasn’t all. Even as I pointed out Jillian and Latoya on the screen, Cassie said, “There’s one more. He’s next to the tree.”
I aimed the van’s cameras at a clump of trees next to the edge of Dykstra’s plaza. Alden stood there in street clothes. Aside from that he appeared normal.
“He’s infected,” Amy told us.