“Grandpa,” Chris said, “your pacemaker?”
Kayla could imagine Cannon shaking his head as he replied. “Between the distance and my armor, the pacemaker should be fine.”
“No,” Chris said, “this doesn’t sound like a good idea. I can take it in, and get out. I don’t have any missiles left and low on power, so I’m not going to get into fights. I’ll run.”
C talked over everyone. “Good so far, but I think we’re going to need everybody we’ve got left. I’d say send in the ship, both Man-machines, get their attention, and place the device. It doesn’t matter which of you does it. Get everyone in the jet, and then set the device off. The jet will survive that, right?”
Not waiting for anyone else, Cannon said, “It will. I tried hitting it with the anti-electronics effect back in the 70’s. The shields absorbed it. I’m not even sure they knew they were hit.”
Haley clicked in. “The AI says it knew, and I’ve got a suggestion. Control activates the device. She’s got armor, and you activate it with an encoded signal, right? Send her the code and she can do that, and she’ll be out of harm’s way because she’s not close. You’ll be safe because you’ll be in the jet.”
“Can’t I just do it from here?” Kayla asked.
Cannon’s sigh came over the speakers. “No. My suits use my own comm security protocols. We don’t have time to program them into the League’s system. But never mind that, a girl shouldn’t have to do my job.”
Before Kayla could say anything else, Haley broke in. “It doesn’t have to be your job. Anyway, the AI says it’s the best chance we have right now—40%—but only if we do it in the next two minutes. After that, our best chance goes down to 15%. By then they’re all in the tunnels.”
C waved toward the hangar. “Go. I’ll tell you where to go out.”
“I’m placing the device,” Cannon added. No one argued.
For a moment, Kayla wished that anyone had asked her if she was willing to do it. She would have said yes, but it would have been nice to be asked. Then she decided she was being silly. Now wasn’t the time to worry about her feelings.
She got up from her chair, guessing that even if they didn’t think she’d be fighting, she might anyway. Half-worrying that it was waste of effort, she grabbed the burrito gun. The suit had a storage compartment.
If she was lucky, the suit would protect the gun even if it went dead.
It didn’t take long to run into the hangar, open the suit, and climb in. The burrito gun even fit—not perfectly—but obviously the designer (probably Man-machine, not Nick) had left space for some kind of rifle.
She ran through the checklist as quickly as she could. She knew she’d probably forgotten something, and hoped it wasn’t important.
The comm came on and C said, “Ready?”
She clicked herself into “available.” “I think so.”
“Good. Take the vehicle exit. They’re not there. They’re trying to get in through the forest exit. Stay there until we tell you to go in.”
“Okay,” she said, trying to make it sound like she wasn’t nervous.
“Good luck. You’ll do well, and we’ll do everything we can to help.”
She managed a “Thanks,” and ran up the tunnel. The dim lights on the ceiling and either side of floor lit the way. The speedometer showed that she was running at forty miles per hour. She wondered how Nick and Chris ever got used to it, and how Cassie could live with being that strong all the time.
C’s voice came over the comm. “I’m opening the doors.”
She slowed as the darkness ahead of her cracked open into twilight. When the opening grew wide enough for her armor, she stepped through.
The remains of the sun’s setting lay in the west. She could see the colors through the trees. On the screen in suit’s helmet, the spybots’ feeds showed the aliens gathered in their own armor. They stood near a concrete platform.
Kayla knew it opened. She’d been through it a few times herself. She’d be surprised if it took them very long to break through.
C’s voice came over the speakers again. “Closing the doors.”
Behind her, gray doors shut, blending into the rock behind her well enough that it she couldn’t see a trace of them.
Movement on the screen distracted her from the rock. Several of the aliens were breaking off from the main group.
She got on the comm. “They’re splitting up! Do you see it?”
“Got it,” Haley said, continuing with, “Man-machine? MM2?”
On the screen, Kayla could see laser beams hit the aliens’ suits. They scattered, hiding behind trees, but staying close to the platform.
Man-machine’s voice came over the comm. “I’ve placed the device. MM2, are you ready to jump out?”
Chris opened up his comm connection and the whine of his suit’s engines almost overpowered his voice. “Anytime. My power’s really low. Like 5%. It’s going to start cutting off the lasers any second.”
The whining stopped. “Hey, that’s not supposed to happen. It just shut off the lasers, and half the suit’s mobility. I don’t think I can jump up to the jet anymore. I mean, I might be able to to hack something… Crap!”
On Kayla’s screen, the lasers had stopped hitting the aliens’ armor, but the aliens were still firing back. The shimmer of the jet’s shields appeared near the top of Kayla’s screen.
“Man-Machine, get him and jump up here.”
“I’m trying,” Cannon said. He was breathing heavily as if he were running. Then she heard the sound of engines whining from Man-machine’s connection, and his connection cut off.
“Push the button, Control,” Haley said.
“I..” Kayla tried to say that it didn’t feel right at all, but only blurted, “You’re all right there.”
“We’ll be fine,” Haley said. “Now!”
Man-machine’s voice came over the comm at almost the same time, “Now, dammit!”