Despite being on “the other side,” Hunter took my call. His shouted, “What do you want,” made me wonder if he was paying attention when he took the call.
“This is the Rocket,” something he should already know, but if he didn’t…
“Whoops,” he said, “I didn’t mean to shout at you. I’m in the middle of something.”
I considered saying, “Yes, trying to capture me,” but if he wasn’t thinking about it, I didn’t want to remind him. “By any chance,” I did ask, “did you lose control of your fungus zombies?”
As I talked, Theo flew down and threw a plasma blast that eclipsed anything I’d seen from him before, engulfing one of the smaller T.Rex(es?) and burning it to charcoal along with the grass around it.
It was a nice start even if it wasn’t a good day for the grass.
For a moment Theo wobbled in the air. He regained control before anything happened, but I wondered how many of those blasts he had in him.
I couldn’t help but notice that another T.Rex had emerged from the dead body of the first. This one was only four feet tall, but it was growing.
Voice low, as if he didn’t want to admit it, Hunter said, “Yes. It wasn’t this bad last time.”
“Last time?” I asked, trying to keep emotion out of my voice.
“Don’t give me that,” he said. “I tested them. I tried out all of my new designs. They’ve even worked in the field. I just haven’t made this many before. It looks like I lost control of a few.”
“A few?” This time I didn’t try as hard to hide what I was feeling.
“A lot, okay?” His sigh came from everywhere in my helmet, “Look, last time we had one and it was no big deal. My other zombies beat it down. I think maybe the more I make, the more mistakes I make.”
Resisting the urge to point out how important testing was when creating something, especially something with as many potential problems as multiplying fungus creatures, I asked, “What can they do? Anything special beyond exploding and spreading?”
His voice lifted, “Oh, this is great. They evolve. I couldn’t make them evolve a lot, but a little each time. So if you beat them to death, they don’t become invulnerable to beatings, but they do get tougher. Basically, my problem is that I can only make so many fungus zombies at a time. If they keep destroying them, I can’t keep up. I need to make them ahead of time. Of course, I made them ahead of time anyway today. Major Justice told Bullet we needed to pull out all the stops.
“This way, I can keep up no matter what and my creatures just get better.”
I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he talked and I got it. I felt the same way when I figured out how to solve a problem.
“Super,” I said, “so is there any kind of limit for how many generations of creatures they spawn?”
“Uh…” he paused, “there’s no special limit. The most I’ve seen them get is ten generations, but no more than that and mostly not more than three. Crap. Major Justice is calling to scream at everyone again. Got to cut this off.”
The connection closed.
I took a look around me. For the moment, things seemed okay. The horde of mushroom zombies behind us in the forest seemed to have been destroyed for the moment. I doubted that they could change enough to cope with the combination of Cassie’s gun, Amy’s life force sucking spear, and Vaughn’s command of the elements.
Even Meteor had run back to join the fight with the T.Rex spawn. That one was still going. Jaclyn, though, had run back out of it and back to us.
“I’m not sure if they’re even going after Bullet anymore,” she said as she got close. “It looks like they’re all working together against the T.Rexes and winning. What does everyone want to do when they can pay attention to us again? Are we still going to distract while Team Hidden finds the invisible people on their side?”
“I guess,” I said. “Things don’t look too bad here. So we may have to go back to that, but I’m a little worried that the other shoe’s going to drop and everyone’s going to have to join up or watch Grand Lake turn into a mushroom zombie wasteland.”
Jaclyn raised an eyebrow, “Is it really that likely?”
I told everyone what Hunter said, finishing with, “Hunter said there’s a limit to how many times they can reproduce, but what if they evolve like cancer does? No limits. Then we’ve got a problem.”
“You need to tell Control,” Jaclyn said.
“I know,” I said, “but you’re all here and I thought you should know first.”
“Hey,” Cassie said, “look at that,” and pointed her gun past us toward what been a patch of mushroom zombie remains that hadn’t been doing anything.
As of that moment, it had grown into a group of creatures that were mixed humanoid zombie and T.Rex zombies—mixed as in different parts from each variety. One even had two heads, one humanoid and on T.Rex. It was already 15 feet tall and hadn’t stopped growing.
I’d noticed that the clouds of T.Rex spores had landed on humanoid zombies earlier. The combined zombie spawn grew faster than the T.Rex spawn had.
Cassie opened fire and Vaughn hit the spot with multiple lightning bolts. They left the spot blackened, but the bodies still gave off a puff of spores.
Cassie burned the small cloud with a wider beam attack. Jaclyn turned to me and said, “Call Control.”