I felt her queasiness as her words echoed in my head. “No, I don’t remember you ever saying, ‘Hey Cassie, the True have your face.’ I think I’d have remembered that.”
“We just found out. I thought we passed it on. With everything going on, I really don’t remember. It’s not just you though. They also based them on Emmy, the receptionist, and also Stephanie. She was at Stapledon.”
Stepping over to the body and staring down at it, Cassie held up her hand as if waving my comment away even as my implant reminded me that I had passed it on.
“I remember Stephanie. She was the one who passed on our stuff to the Coffeeshop Illuminati a couple of summers ago. She got hurt, right?”
I sent a visual of a nod through the implant.
Cassie shook her head and looked down at the body again, shining light from her gun into the wound. “She’s bigger than I am and it doesn’t look like she’s healing. What do you think?”
Using the suit’s sonics, I did what amounted to an ultrasound of the body and looked it over. “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I’m trying to look if anything’s moving and there’s way too much stuff. There are a lot of liquids in the body and some of those are still moving, but you pretty much destroyed her heart, and that’s not moving much.”
Rolling her eyes, Cassie stepped back from the body. “I wasn’t asking for your medical opinion. I was just thinking you’d maybe see something I didn’t. Whatever. Let’s catch up with everyone else.”
Speaking into her comm, she asked, “How are all of you doing?”
Tara answered, “We’ll need help within the next minute. You can see our position. Join us from the north.”
Kayla’s voice came over the comm. “We’re loading people in over here. Hologram’s coming back—“
I found myself asking, “What?” Stephanie might not have been in imminent danger, but it seemed too soon. Kayla continued talking as if I hadn’t said anything.
“—the doctor used some of our equipment on her. We’re loading a couple other people as well. I’ll keep you in the loop.”
We did have advanced equipment in HQ. I vaguely remembered we’d shown it to Haley’s cousin, the team doctor. It wasn’t as if we could use it ourselves. Maybe Jaclyn or Vaughn could in a few years.
“Got it.” Cassie turned to me, using the implant connection to ask, “We’re south of their position. Any idea why Tara said to come from the north?”
We started running. “No idea,” I said. “It’s probably the whole thing where she extrapolates people’s actions based on details none of the rest of us noticed.”
“Right,” Cassie shook her head. “It’s easy to forget how weird her brain is. She seems normal most of the time.”
We fell into a rhythm, running through the forest, checking around us as we ran and checking the glow of our HUDs to keep aware of where Haley and the others were. They were definitely alive, but they kept on changing position.
From their movements, it appeared their approach was to stay out of sight and pick people off one at a time. The other thing I noticed as I ran was that my legs felt tired, not as bad as I’d felt after fighting Jared, but I was moving in that direction.
Only the Rocket suit’s artificial muscles were keeping me from knowing how bad I actually felt. They did almost all of the work. Even with them, I had a bad feeling I’d have to take another pull at the power I’d pulled in before.
I’d had a little more time to think about the knowledge the Ghosts had left in my mind. The energy I’d used normally collected in the background. I’d been taught how to collect and use it intentionally, but there wasn’t any way I’d be able to absorb more than I’d use.
Deciding to put off using whatever I’d collected since the last time, I kept on going, aware that breathing felt harder and my limbs seemed to drag as they moved.
I wondered if there were a point at which I’d fall over, unable to move, but also unable to pull in enough energy to allow me to get over it. It sounded all too possible.
Then we turned, making a half-circle between the trees, slowing as we got closer.
Tara’s voice came over the comm. “You’re going to come up behind them in a few seconds. Even if they see you, don’t worry about it. We’re ready for them.”
The Gun broadcast its thoughts on the matter.
EXCELLENT. TELL HER SHE CAN CLEAN UP AFTER US.
Cassie didn’t, responding with, “Got it.”
At about that point, Cassie and I came around, seeing what Tara was referring to through the trees. Rook and two henchmen stood together along with a small cloud of crowbots, all of them looking around, guns out.
A lone Protection Force man in powered armor stood about fifteen feet away from them, glancing in their direction and then around himself, not trusting anything, but not daring to stand alone.
“Rook,” Cassie thought over at me through the implant. “Now there’s a guy I have a bone to pick with. Are you going to have a problem with it if I go for him?”
I thought back, “Tell Tara.”
Before she replied, my implant informed me that someone was using energies associated with Abominator matter transporters.