I looked toward where the map showed me they had to be, “I’m fine. I’m looking for where I can best help.”
I couldn’t see them. The subdivision ended in an unused factory and a forest. Haley had told me that the area had been rezoned for residential and that the factory would be torn down—which was interesting since it didn’t look more than 20 years old to me. Made of cinder blocks painted white and large, tinted windows next to a parking lot, it might have passed for a mall.
They weren’t in the factory or its parking lot. They were in the forest. I wasn’t sure how far, but not more than twenty or thirty feet. Along with them, another object showed up on the map. I’d been too distracted to notice it earlier—one of my tote buckets.
Every now and then people who could fly needed to carry more cargo or people than they could hold in their arms. Made from the same substances as my armor, the tote buckets were aerodynamic, tough, and had enough anti-gravity built in to fall slowly.
I’d named them with the idea that they were tote bags, but bigger. Not everyone liked the name, but they were useful. For example, if you wanted to carry your parents away from a house while being chased by supervillains, it would be a workable option.
“We’re pinned down. We thought Blue or Accelerando could get my parents out, but they’ve been too busy keeping people away from us. The jet’s going to be here in a second. If you can run interference while we get the tote basket in, we’re out of here. Watch out when you get close. They’ve got people on the roof of the factory and more around hiding by the houses.”
Haley’s voice lowered, “But be careful. Your med status was showing critical damage.”
Cassie broke in, “His implant fixed it. The Rocket won’t be stupid. He can coordinate with Storm King and the Mystic.”
Travis’ name flashed in my HUD as he said, “He’ll be fine, but I still think we should go to that clearing a quarter mile down and put some trees between us and the factory.”
“No,” Cassie said, “too complicated.”
“No,” Haley said simultaneously, “I don’t want to take the tote bucket deeper into the forest.”
“I,” Travis began, “don’t want us to run out of the forest to catch a plane and get shot.”
“Again,” Cassie added.
By then, I was above the factory and the forest and they all had a point. Running out from the forest might still go wrong even if they used the jet to block the Nine’s team’s view. On the other hand, the tote basket was big enough that carrying it through a forest would be a pain. Plus, we knew where the Nine’s troops were now. If they ran deeper into the forest, it would be more of a crapshoot since the Nine would follow them.
Now that I was closer, I could see the whole picture. Around 20 True and Cabal soldiers were on top of the factory and more than that were using the nearest houses to hide themselves from view, waiting around the corners, guns in hand.
Travis had a point. If they could sneak deeper into the forest, it might be better.
Daniel’s voice sounded over the comm, “The plan is that when the jet lands, Captain Commando, Storm King and I go all out and distract the Nine’s people while Night Cat and Night Wolf get their parents on the plane.”
Despite having a question or two I said, “Then I guess I’m on Team Distraction.”
Sensing my questions, Daniel replied via our mental link, “Even though I can put people to sleep telepathically, the Nine came in prepared. They’ve got mental shields of some kind. As for your other question, we thought about having Vaughn or I float the tote basket away, but it fails in most futures—”
He cut himself off, changing to the group comm channel, “They’re about to try something.”
They did. One of the Cabal soldiers took a short run and jumped off the roof of the factory, aiming toward the forest. The moment he left the roof, becoming a small figure shooting through the air below me, a bright, white beam from the forest hit him. Though he wore black armor like the other Cabal remnants I’d seen here, it didn’t hold against Cassie’s gun. The man’s muscular body had been straight in the air, but when the beam hit, he began to tumble.
He fell, landing twenty feet short of the forest, splayed out on the empty factory parking lot.
At the same time, the True on the ground popped out from the corner of the nearby houses and fired lasers and bullets into the forest before retreating out of view.
In my HUD, Hal texted the group, [I’m descending. Be ready. They’ll advance as soon as they realize that I’m here.].