Major Justice made a grunt that I nearly missed in the roar of my rockets shooting me skyward and then closed our connection.
That was fine. I didn’t want to talk to him either.
Once in the air, I noticed something I hadn’t from the ground—a lot of things. For one, I noticed the helicopters in the air. That’s helicopters as in the plural version, specifically three of them. There were two different news crews and a police helicopter.
Also, police cars were rolling down the streets in our direction which was great. Maybe they’d be able to keep the civilians safe.
This seemed less like a call in the police situation than a situation where you call in the National Guard. They had a base in Grand Lake. It wasn’t big, but it existed.
I hoped they had a protocol for responding to mass threats. After the Thing that Eats came to Grand Lake, you’d hope that they’d see the need.
That wasn’t all I saw. Civilians were leaving the area in cars, crossovers, trucks and mini-vans. All the explosions, lightning, and thunder worked in our favor in that sense. Warning sirens might not have gone off, but blasts of different kinds of energy had a way of communicating the possibility of imminent death.
We were lucky in the sense that between seven and eight in the morning, people were already trying to leave for work or school anyway.
Of course, stupid people still existed.
I was reminded of that as I dipped downward toward the long stretch of fenced-in woods next to the state park.
Despite the mass of mushroom zombies crowding the fence for a block or more, people had stopped to take pictures, some of them with professional cameras. It boggled my mind for many reasons.
Among them? It seemed obvious to me that the second the zombies decided they wanted to push down the fence it would go down. No picture seemed worth dying for.
Of the people with professional cameras, the journalists in the crowd might be idealistic enough to believe that uploading a great shot to their media organization before dying would be worth it.
Grand Lake had been experiencing an increase in superhero paparazzi in the last few years and they seemed more profit-oriented. I recognized a couple of them in the crowd. I couldn’t imagine their justification.
Least understandable? The parents taking shots with kids in the car. They were taking shots of the zombies and then of us. Some of the kids were too even though others were screaming at their parents to drive away.
I decided to give them some help, hovering in the air, and and turning on the Rocket suit’s public address system at its highest level. I said, “This is the Rocket. We’re in an emergency situation right now. If you have a car, get out of your house and get away from here. If you can’t get away, do your best to hide. Whatever you do, don’t go toward the state park. There are zombies. I repeat, there are zombies in the state park. Don’t go there.”
Knowing how powerful the suit’s speakers were, I deliberately aimed over the nearest houses. The situation was bad enough. I didn’t want to add a block’s worth of shattered windows to the list of damages.
“Please drive in an orderly fashion. It won’t do anybody any good to panic.”
I set the suit to repeat it again, facing toward my left instead of my right.
To my surprise, most of the civilians listened. Garage doors opened and cars drove away.
A man with a mini-van full of kids didn’t quite process the “don’t panic” part of the speech. His tires squealed and the engine roared down the block, but he didn’t go toward the state park and he did stop for the stop sign at the end of the block.
It gave me hope that he wasn’t a complete idiot—maybe.
I didn’t hover there to watch it, however much I wanted to make sure everyone got out. I concentrated on finding our group.
It wasn’t hard. Izzy, Vaughn, and Amy hovered above the road. Jaclyn and Cassie stood beneath them. Jaclyn talked to me via her implant, Our best plan so far is that Cassie and Amy concentrate on destroying them while Izzy and I herd them. Vaughn’s going to start by destroying as many as he can now but pinch hit after that.
I didn’t bother to ask why Izzy and Jaclyn wouldn’t be doing the destroying. Physical hits would spread the spores.
Unless you’ve got a better idea, she continued, you’re pinch-hitting too.
Glancing over at the zombies, I noticed that the fence was shaking. They weren’t even trying to get through. It was their combined weight as more joined from behind, pushing the crowd forward.
I was about to suggest that Vaughn should start hitting them with lightning, but then I saw the clouds darkening above us. He was setting up a thunderstorm so that he could keep on hitting them without draining himself as quickly.
It was a smart choice, but I couldn’t help but worry that we were losing this moment.
“Give me a few seconds more,” Vaughn said over the comm, “and I might get all of them.”
Ahead of us, a section of fence near the middle of the block began to bow and then fell over. Mushroom zombies spilled out like water over a shattered dam.
“Well, shit,” Vaughn muttered. “I guess not.”
No one got to reply. Jaclyn might have been able to, but then lightning rained down from the sky, hitting the zombies that crossed the fence, but also hitting the zombies still behind it.
No watcher could have confused this lightning with anything natural. Except for the cluster of hits where the zombies passed through, it hit the zombies in two parallel lines coming down from the sky.
My helmet stopped it from blinding me, but it was still hard to see through what appeared to be a wall of electricity.