“Storm King, are you ready?”
Vaughn didn’t seem to hear me at first, but as I was about to ask again, he said, “Almost, it’s hard to get the position right—unless you want it to suck us up too?”
“I’m against that.” I eyed Camille, realizing that I didn’t know her codename if she had one. “Hey, are you ready to float them upward?”
She nodded, taking a breath as she did it. I hoped she wasn’t already too tired to manage it. I wondered if we shouldn’t have had Vaughn create a tornado around the storage building from the beginning. Then Camille could have been backup if the bombs escaped.
She wouldn’t have the strength to do much after this.
As I second guessed myself, the winds grew stronger, and above us the noise increased, turning into a roar that I could feel through my armor.
Then Vaughn turned toward Camille, waving upward with one hand. Lowering her head and exhaling, she stared at the cloud of discs.
They began to float higher, straining against the gravity she’d created. Through the sound of Vaughn’s tornado, I could still hear the hum of several hundred neutron emitters’ and bombs’ anti-gravity plates. They sounded a little bit off.
That was good news. Damaged plates would have a harder time getting away.
My helmet made the pre-dawn darkness light enough that I could watch as the tornado’s winds caught the uppermost discs, sucking them into the twisting funnel above us.
I contacted the jet again, “Are you tracking them?”
[Yes, and since I can already guess your next question, I can still identify the difference between bomb and neutron emitter.]
“Good. Then you’ve got my permission to fire on the neutron emitters whenever you’ve got a shot that won’t hit the bombs. You can use the anti-personnel lasers, and are required to stop when any member of the group asks. Is that restrictive enough?”
Whatever aliens had originally created the AI had made it a massive pain to give him the power to fire weapons or take over the jet. That was one reason I had Haley flying it. When I’d asked the AI why, he’d only said, “Bitter experience.”
Over the comm, Haley said, “I’m taking off.”
The jet floated into the air, the anti-personnel lasers already firing. I watched for any sign that it might be pulled into the whirlwind, but it stayed stable.
In front of me, Cassie had put her sword back into its sheath, and pulled out the Abominator gun.
“Uh… That’s not a good idea,” I began.
“Relax,” Cassie said. “This is just in case. There’s just a small chance of setting off a bomb, right?”
She couldn’t see my jaw drop through the helmet. “Yeah, but a massive chance of killing everybody near it plus huge chunks of the city if it does go.”
“I know, I know, don’t worry about it. The gun’s got a great range, and it says it knows the bombs’ blast radius.”
“It’s also,” I said, “a bit of a homicidal maniac and it would probably enjoy ‘cleansing’ the city of people.”
She rolled her eyes. “Look, I know, but it follows orders, and I’m not going to let it.”
Rachel coughed—an obvious, fake cough. Everyone looked at her, which was what she’d wanted.
A wide smile visible below her mask, she said, “I’ve got to be going. Those of us who are slow need time to get into position for phase three. Join me when you’re done arguing.” Then she turned partially transparent and floated upward, staying parallel to the tornado.
She wasn’t that slow, but nowhere near as fast as the Rocket suit.
Vaughn gave Cassie and me a quick look. “I gotta concentrate too.”
Leaning a little on Sydney, and still looking tired, but not as tired, Camille said, “Talk as long as you want, I’m done.”
I hadn’t noticed it, but she was right. All of the discs were now whirling around in the tornado. Constant laser fire hit, knocking discs out of the air in burning pieces.
The pieces weren’t falling on us. Some landed half a block away on the road, and in the snow next to it. It wasn’t close, but it felt close.
Plus, if I were going to be of any use during phase three, I needed to get up in the air. The Rocket suit didn’t need much time, but the sooner the better.
I turned on the rockets, and said, “Heading up. Be ready for anything, but with any luck, this is the end.”
Then I flew, and it was amazing. There are a lot of scenes you never expect you’ll be part of, and flying parallel to a tornado filled with alien WMD’s that are being destroyed by your plan (in the form of a jet’s lasers) is one of these things.
In the distance I could hear tornado sirens mixed with police cars and fire trucks. From my height, I could see the police blocking off streets blocks away from us. For a moment I was impressed by their response time, and that they’d even realized we were here. Then it occurred to me that we’d been around for twenty minutes, and that tornados weren’t exactly quiet.
Still, I’d come up with a plan and it was working. I appreciated that with a degree of satisfaction as I climbed. Okay, we hadn’t taken out the bombs, but the neutron emitters were on their way to destruction.
Unfortunately, it was far from over. Before I even flew halfway up to where I needed to be, Daniel called.
“Rocket, we won,” he began, but he didn’t sound happy at all. “Remember the bomb Izzy saw? It’s on a timer, and Ronin needs help disarming it. Are you busy?”