Jaclyn’s voice came over the comm, “Exactly that. If you’ve got something that will let me destroy them, I’ll take it. I feel useless. Building barriers is nice, but it’s not enough.”
I burned down another zombie and said, “I’m sure we’ve got something—even if it’s the Burrito Gun.”
Jaclyn gave a long pause before replying, “The Burrito Gun? Does that even have a setting for fire?”
“Extra beans,” Kayla and I said at the same time.
Kayla continued, “I don’t want to cause problems, but can I keep that one? I know how to use it.”
“Fine with me,” Jaclyn said. “It’s not my first choice.”
“Keep it,” I said. “It’s a surprisingly flexible tool and if something gets into HQ and you can use it, I want it there. I’ll send a list of things to put in my resupply pods and we’ll get Accelerando something useful.”
A rumble of thunder from Vaughn’s lightning came over the connection as Vaughn said, “The Genderswap Gun might be worth a try. Normal mushrooms have literally thousands of sexes, so many that they can pretty much mate with any mushroom, but these are Hunter’s… I mean, these are Menagerie’s, so it might not work like that. It might really mess them up or I don’t know, it might do nothing.”
“Or it might make them evolve more,” Jaclyn added. “I don’t like that idea, but if things get so bad it can’t get worse, try it then.”
In the distance, Hal began firing the jet’s anti-personnel lasers. Nowhere near as powerful as the main gun, they’d work well enough on stragglers, especially if the zombies below him were as purposeless as the ones near us.
Izzy said, “They’re still fighting over by the playground. I’m going to check it out.”
“Don’t get close enough to get hit by their long distance spore shots,” I said, trying to get a look at the spot with my bots. I couldn’t. The action had moved out of view. I sent the bots commands to adjust their positions.
She flew upward, away from a section of fence that she’d been holding up with Jaclyn. The zombies there were ashes now.
“I won’t,” Izzy said. “I know what that could do… If you find a weapon for Accelerando, get one for me too. I want to be able to help.”
Izzy shot upward, disappearing from view as she flew over the forest. I considered opening a window to her camera, but then Tara spoke, “It looks like you’re about to get an offer.”
I was about to ask her what she was talking about, but then I realized a few things in quick succession. First, that Tara had to be looking through my camera’s view. Second, that South Beach Surfer was flying toward me and she wasn’t moving quickly enough for it to be an attack. Third, I realized that I’d completely ignored her for the last thirty seconds.
“Talking with your team?” She came to a stop ten feet away, floating on her surfboard. “Tell them they’ve done a great job. They have. I believed Major Justice when he said you were irresponsible. I only knew you as Paladin’s friend from when you pranked Syndicate L.”
“Oh…” I thought back to the time I’d helped Alex, Jenny, and Brooke pull a “prank” on Syndicate L that put our lives in danger along with the life of one of the Defender’s kids as well as the complex where they lived. To be fair to us, we’d delivered Syndicate L an embarrassing defeat, but we’d also been captured and caused upwards of seven figures in property damage.
I didn’t remember her there, though.
She smiled at my response, “I was in space at the time. Raptor filled me in when I got back.”
“Yeah,” I said, thinking back to that mess, “I can imagine he wasn’t complimentary. We were dumb.”
Raptor was the SoCal Defenders second-in-command. The next time I’d seen him was in space when I’d pretended that I was about to bring a machine race hitchhiker through Earth’s interstellar gate. I was really attempting to deliver it to the Xiniti, but Raptor never got to hear that part of the story.
South Beach Surfer laughed, “You were, but you haven’t been since then and I should have seen it. Besides, I know Raptor gets fixated on what he doesn’t like about people. That’s why I don’t work for the Defenders anymore.”
“No kidding?” I didn’t continue with my next thought—that I’d been wondering why the SoCal Defenders fired her. I went with my third thought, “If you’re okay with us now, is there any way we can get Major Justice to call off the main operation after this is over? I don’t think any of us are going to be ready for a big fight.”
She nodded, “No one will want one. Getting him to call it off for today will be easy. Getting him to call it off forever will be harder. He’s been talking about nothing else for weeks. I’m going to have to point out the obvious. You’re not going to get blamed for this. We are.”