The living room always felt the opposite of living during my childhood. Mom kept it perfect for guests to the point that you could see the lines where the vacuum cleaner ran on the carpet, or if you chose to sit there, the footprints you left on the way to the couch.
Mom wasn’t obsessive enough to vacuum after seeing footprints appear, but there were times I felt like she’d have preferred that I teleport into the room.
In that sense, Number Eight was Mom’s perfect guest. When you considered that he planned to kill Uncle Steve, maybe a bit less so.
Number Eight had appeared next to the coffee table. With the crash of the door being thrown open, he’d moved toward the doorway into the combined dining room, kitchen, and family room area of the house.
I didn’t bother to go into the living room. Unless he wanted to look at the books on the coffee table, his choices were doorways into the dining room or the hallway.
I was in the hall, so that was right out.
He ran past the refrigerator with its magnets, some of them still holding up pictures of Rachel and me as small children or the whole family camping.
Number Eight didn’t stop to look at them. He turned right, running into the kitchen, but also down the hall toward the doorways that led down to a bathroom, downstairs to the basement, and into the garage. It was an interesting choice if you assumed that he didn’t know where anyone in the house was because it led away from the second floor, which was half of the house.
If you assumed that he had some way to know where Uncle Steve was, it was bad news because if we had a safe room, I didn’t know where it was and he did.
I’d run down the hall and turned right in time to see him open the door to the basement. I ran, knowing that I had the speed to catch him before he got more than a couple steps down the stairs.
The part of my brain that cataloged this sort of thing noted that Number Eight had to see the spot before he could teleport there. The open questions were his maximum range, whether he could teleport to a spot he’d seen, but wasn’t in sight, and if he could carry someone along.
The wrong answers to those questions could turn this into a disaster.
I ran down ten feet to the open door, hitting it with my shoulder when I turned. The wood cracked. Even including the front door, it wasn’t the first damage I’d ever done to the house, but it felt wrong.
I didn’t dwell on it, running down the carpeted stairs to the degree that I could. I didn’t trust the wood beneath the carpet to hold up to powered armor capable of generating tons of force.
At some point, after I moved into Grandpa’s house full time, my parents had the basement renovated, turning it from hundred-year-old concrete only used for the furnace, storage, and hiding the cat’s litter box into a second family room and home office.
By the time I got downstairs, Number Eight had run across the fake wooden floor and white rug, past, the two desks along the nearest wall, the foosball table, bookcases, large TV, and framed family pictures toward the far end of the room, opening the door to the laundry room.
Number Eight fumbled with the door, throwing it open with enough force that he pulled it away from the upper hinge entirely and partially out of the middle hinge. He tried to shut it behind himself, but it only hit the frame and he ran.
If he knew the layout of the house, he had to know that he was rapidly running out of places to run or hide—which bothered me. Unless he expected to grab or kill Uncle Steve instantly, he had a reason to believe that he’d have time to do what he needed to. It seemed like a necessary corollary to what Lee often said, “Anyone who attacks you has a reason to believe he’ll win.”
I followed him through the door, half-expecting him to shoot me, but pushing through because I felt he’d have taken me down already if he could.
I stepped into the laundry room ready to fire off paralysis beams, stepping through onto the carpet and only a foot or two from the white, matching washer and dryer.
Number Eight wasn’t standing next to it. Quick as a thought, he’d disappeared from next to the door and reappeared in the far corner of the room. When I looked at the spot, I realized that I’d never given it enough thought. That was the corner of the room with the entrance to the coal bin. It was a separate room maybe five by ten with a window that had been filled in with concrete before my parents bought the house.
I couldn’t see inside now, of course. The door was shut. It wasn’t much of a door. On the inside, it was made of wooden boards. On the outside, it was a piece of bead board that had been painted white sometime in the last century. It didn’t even fully fill the door frame. There was nearly half an inch of space on three of the four sides.
Today though, that space was filled with bluish-green metal. I recognized the type. It had different names in different languages, but the Abominators called it scazz. It was still commonly used in starship construction due to its tensile strength and low mass.
It’d work as material for a safe room.
The moment I got Number Eight in my sights, I fired off the paralysis beams. I’d worked up a version that used both of the common ways to do that–sound and electromagnetic radiation.
He turned to look at me but didn’t fall. Apparently, he wore countermeasures against both. I decided to try something less subtle. I jumped him.
I leaped to tackle Number Eight and he touched one of the cufflinks on his jacket. A shimmery sphere surrounded him, covering hard points like the floor and the wall. I hit it and bounced off.
It was a force field. Annoying.