Standing next to Katuk and Kals, Tara spoke in the flatter voice I associated with her using her ability to create patterns from minimal data, “Knowing that they’re working for the Nine, they might be attempting to separate us and then attack your parents or us while we’re separated.”
“Is that likely,” I asked.
Tara tilted her head, but then said, “I don’t have enough to go on.”
“Chances of something bad happening just ticked up,” Daniel said.
Travis raised his hand, “Here’s what we do. Izzy and Jaclyn go. They’re the toughest and fastest. The rest of us have to be ready to go wherever we’re needed. The rest of us need to be ready to respond if our parents get attacked.”
“Izzy and I can make this quick,” Jaclyn said, her clothes morphing from a facsimile of a blouse and pants to her purple costume. Izzy hadn’t even changed into fake civilian clothes. Her costume was still blue.
Izzy nodded and they left. I felt the wind of their passage and heard Jaclyn’s footsteps on the concrete followed by the clank of the door as they stepped into the forest tunnel.
Over at her computer, Kayla clicked and camera views from the two of them appeared on the wall screen next to the picture of Prentkos’ house and spybots’ views of our parents. On Izzy and Jaclyn’s screens, the concrete walls of the tunnels blurred and then turned into the clearing in the forest where the tunnel opened up.
Izzy shot through the forest, flying between trees until she came out over the children’s playground next to the end of the campground and a small beach. Then they both started traveling northeast. Izzy flew over Grand Lake. Jaclyn ran over the lake because she could do that if she ran fast enough.
I remembered her complaining in the past that it was like running on ice and all too easy to pitch forward into the water. Somewhere in between now and then she’d gotten the hang of it. She didn’t fall even once. Of course, the camera didn’t show her from the side. We had only the occasional bit of spray on the edges of the camera’s view to hint that her feet must be hitting the water with some strength. We only saw a blur of brownish-green water and empty docks.
It was November. All the speedboats and yachts had been taken out of the water, leaving only the Coast Guard and lake freighters (lakers) hauling cargo.
Jaclyn’s camera didn’t show any lakers, but I saw one from Izzy’s view above Grand Lake.
As hypnotic as the view from either camera might be, I had other things on my mind. Part of me wanted to hover above my parents’ house or my dad’s office. While that didn’t work for a host of reasons, it would put me nearby if they sent another person for Uncle Steve. If we all did that, though, we’d not only highlight potential targets but also split the team into bite-sized groups if the Nine’s people chose to attack.
“Hey,” I said, “how are we going to handle an attack? They’re really after Uncle Steve, but if they go after our parents, we have no idea who they’ll go for or if we can get there in time.”
Cassie leaned in, “That’s what I was going to say. I say we all get ready to fly wherever there’s an attack.”
Travis looked her in the eye, “That sounds good, but how are we going to keep them off our parents while we’re on the way? I don’t want them to die because we’re not fast enough.”
Haley looked up toward the screen, eyes flickering toward the pictures of the streets around her family’s house, “I know, but Nick’s bots are everywhere. They’ll buy us some time, right?”
She looked over at me.
I said, “We’re a little short on bots for me personally because a lot of my backup bots are set up to protect our families. Kayla’s ready to fire them and she’ll have help from Hal if she needs it.”
“Hal?” Travis raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say the AI’s rebelled against the species that created him?”
“I get your concern, but it’s okay. He likes us and he’s literally made to do this without murdering everybody.” I looked around the group to find that no one was listening.
Their eyes were on the screen. I turned to look upward with everyone else. Jaclyn and Izzy had made it to the house–almost. Izzy was in the air and through her camera, we could see the house. Its red brick and worn white siding fit the colors around it—faded red leaves, the lighter green of grass about to go dormant.
Izzy’s voice came over my comm and through the room’s speakers, “We’re here. I swept through the house with my sonar. There’s only one person inside, but more have been sleeping here. It looks like four from the used beds., but there’s a lot of equipment in the garage and basement. I think there might be more people than those staying here.”
I took a quick look over the wall screen. I didn’t see anybody sneaking down the streets toward our parents’ houses or workplaces.
Jaclyn talked over her comm, “If the only person there is Prentkos, I think we can go in.”