South Beach Surfer blinked and pulled the bracelet up to her lips, talking into it.
As she did, a lone zombie ran into the charred area below us and spat a glob of something out of its mouth. South Beach Surfer saw it even as I said watch out, pointing my laser at the zombie and cutting it in half and then widening the beam to burn more of it at once.
The glob didn’t hit her. Like Gordon and Gifford, she controlled air, aiming the gooey mess away and into my beam where it burned away.
“What was that?” She stared at the glowing sparks that fell down toward the ground.
“I don’t know, but my theory is that it’s a way to spread spores to us. I haven’t seen them aim it at anything but human beings. This is only the second time I’ve seen it used. So, I don’t know that,” but I’d already decided I’d better pass it on to everybody.
Using my implant, I sent everyone a clip of the attacks on both South Beach Surfer and myself, telling them, “I think it’s an attempt to spread the spores to people. Don’t know what that would do, but let’s not find out. Don’t get close and make sure your life support systems are working. If they aren’t, get out of range until they are.”
“I’ll pass it on to everybody,” Kayla said.
South Beach Surfer said, “Shit, shit, shit!” Then she talked frantically into her bracelet, only looking up to say, “Why didn’t you say this?”
“I didn’t know. I saw the first one only a few seconds before you arrived. They might have just evolved the ability. Menagerie told you about what he can do, right?”
“No! This is a complete clusterfuck. What was he thinking?”
I could see her fists clench and the muscles in her arms tense as if she were imagining punching him.
She floated higher in the air.
As she did, the jet fired. If I’d ever viewed the jet’s main gun fire from outside, I didn’t remember it and I’d like to think I would.
South Beach Surfer turned away, holding her left arm in front of her eyes. She wasn’t the only one. Even the Human Cannonballs and Strongman turned away from the light and they were on the ground. Mime opened an imaginary umbrella and took shelter from the unbearable radiance.
Between the brightness of the beam and the way my helmet dimmed the outside to prevent blindness, everything around the beam turned to grey.
I could tell that the jet was moving the beam in a circle and then filling it in with ever smaller circles until everything inside burned into nothing. I couldn’t see what was happening to the mushroom zombies inside, but maybe that was okay.
The smoke rose into the air, but so far as I could tell the forest hadn’t caught on fire. The initial wide circle might have been Hal’s idea of a firebreak. If so, it seemed to have worked. Fire didn’t seem to be spreading.
I gave myself a little more height with the rockets and could see why. Any potential fire had no fuel to work with. The area within the circle had been charred to the point that I could only see ashes.
That gave me hope. If that had been the main source of the zombies, we’d at least stopped them from generating so many at once.
The nearest zombies’ behavior buttressed that hope. They stopped advancing, standing in one place and staring out into infinity. Could Hal have destroyed the zombies’ consciousness? That seemed too much to hope for, but I could imagine the possibility.
Even some normal mushrooms could spread for miles, seemingly separate but actually small parts of the same organism. By killing the center, we might have killed what mind it had.
“Rocket,” Haley’s voice came through the helmet’s speakers, “they just stopped moving.”
“If you can burn them down, do it,” I said. “We might have destroyed the part that organized them. If we’re lucky, it’s all cleanup from here.”
“If we’re lucky,” Haley said. “It seems too good to be true.”
“That’s my worry,” I said, aiming for the nearest zombies and cutting them down. They did nothing but fall and char as I burned them until they were nothing but ash.
Still, despite my worries, they were disappearing under the onslaught of Vaughn’s lightning, my lasers, Amy’s spear, and Mime’s troop of circus performers.
Izzy, Jaclyn, and Strongman had nothing to do but watch. I wondered if Strongman could put the pieces of road that he’d used back on the road. It might not be as good as a normal road afterward, but it would be better than the dirt and gravel he’d exposed to the world.
Continuing to answer Haley, I said, “I’d think that if you cut off part of one of those giant mushrooms from the rest, the remaining mushrooms would just keep on growing.”
We’d been on the primary League channel, so it didn’t surprise me that someone else heard.
Tara said, “I think you’re right. We should make the best use of our time that we can. Resupply with anything that creates fire that we have and check in with the other groups if you can.”