“Marcus and Sydney are waiting in the jet. They’ll be taking off soon. They’re going to shadow her from a distance—far enough away that they shouldn’t be visible, but close enough that they’re in range.”
Jaclyn leaned toward the screen, probably noticing now that the camera display program’s current tab was labeled “Blue,” but the second tab was labeled “Jet.”
I clicked on the button that showed all cameras, and the program divided the screen between Izzy’s view of the sky above South Dakota and the League jet’s much less interesting view of the airlock between the hangar and Lake Michigan.
Jaclyn pulled up a chair and sat next to me. “I didn’t know Marcus could fly the jet.”
Then she frowned. “They can’t hear us from here, right?”
“Not unless you want to. Any League communicator will patch you in.”
She shook her head. “I do not want that at all. How good is he?”
“Well… He’s been hitting the simulator pretty hard lately, and he’s been up in the actual jet four or five times. So maybe ten hours of actual flying, but more like one hundred in the simulator. He’s been spending a lot of it in fighting simulations—which isn’t a bad idea. The jet’s great at simulations.”
She looked at the screen and then at me. She took a breath. “Do you think he’s ready for this?”
Set to low volume, Kayla’s voice came over the computer’s speakers, “Shift, the airlock’s full. I’m opening up the exit to the lake.”
“Do your worst, Control.” I could almost hear Marcus smiling.
Sydney laughed in the background.
“You’re so professional.” Kayla said. “Good luck.”
“I don’t need luck,” Marcus said. “I’m flying in a super-plane after the nearest person we’ve got to Superman. Plus, I’m the stretchiest man alive.”
Sydney said something I couldn’t quite catch.
“No,” Marcus replied. “I don’t think the giant mushroom guy counts. He doesn’t stretch. He just grows more fungus.”
With that, the jet engaged its engines and started floating through the tunnel.
“Is he ready?” Jaclyn asked.
“Not as ready as I was the first time I flew the jet, but here’s the good news. It turns out that the one time the AI can definitely take control is if someone’s going to crash.”
Jaclyn snorted. “Great.”
We both lapsed into silence, watching as the jet lifted off, the water blowing off the camera’s lens, the jet leaving the lake behind and aiming toward the sky.
Marcus shouted something as it left the water and poured on the speed, flying north.
Behind me, Amy commented, “He’s enthusiastic.”
Near her, Haley said, “He is. I hope he stays safe.” After a pause she added, “Sydney too.”
I couldn’t help but agree with her. Whatever points I’d scored with Sean by making sure that she’d been healed by Preserver when the aliens attacked would plunge deeply into the negative if she died doing this.
Someone stepped closer. “I’m sure he’ll be great,” Cassie said.
Vaughn pulled up his own chair, sitting on my other side. “I wish I were going.”
Jaclyn scowled. “I wish you’d told us earlier. I know there are good reasons you didn’t—“
“Like the fairy eavesdrop—“ I began.
Jaclyn interrupted. “I know. That’s why I’m not mad, but we’re all going to have to be in the loop from now on.”
“I know.” I nodded slowly. “We’ll need to work together. I haven’t the faintest clue how to fight fairies. Well, beyond making sure you’ve got iron.”
“Or iron alloy,” Amy said. “Don’t worry about it. I’m on it.”
After that we stopped watching the screen except occasionally. I’d calculated the shortest route would be over Greenland, so they flew north over Canada and then south over Russia. They flew high and quickly—faster actually than I’d planned. It took only two hours.
Thirty minutes in Izzy had said, “I think I can go faster.”
A minute or two later, she broke mach 4.
They arrived above the capital (Ashgabat) without anyone noticing—at least that’s what I guessed. It seemed like a reasonable assumption though. Judging from what the government was willing to do to its own people, I doubted they’d hesitate to shoot foreigners out of the air.
I had no idea what the outskirts or unofficial parts of the capital looked like, but at night and from the sky, the center of the city looked like a kind of Middle Eastern fairyland. Tall, white building were surrounded by fountains, wading pools, and wide streets. Domes topped more than one building, accompanied by thin towers and spires.
Lit by streetlights, and the glow of spotlights trained on certain buildings only made it appear more exotic.
Izzy’s voice came over the computer’s speakers. “I’m going in. Nick said one circle around the presidential palace would be enough.”
She appeared clearly on the jet’s screen, making a circle around a huge, blocky, white building with a golden dome and many pillars. Then she circled away and into the air.
It felt almost anti-climactic for a second. I didn’t want interference, but I expected it.
Then the bots began checking in. They all worked, and they were all on target. I decided I could take that kind of anti-climax—the kind where everything actually went well.
Vaughn’s voice brought me out of my head. “You should have Izzy find their Ferris wheel.”
“Wikipedia says they’ve got the world’s largest Ferris wheel.”