Courtesy: Part 5

I didn’t love the idea that the military team might be puppets of the mushroom zombies, especially since they included (ex) Mayor Bouman, a telepath, and Logan who’d been friends with Vaughn, Haley, Sean, Dayton, and Jody back when Haley was dating Sean.

I wondered if the military team included anyone else. Three seemed too small of a group—not to mention underpowered vs our team. When Logan transformed in high school, we’d beaten him with equipment smuggled in under our formal clothes.

I also didn’t like the idea that a wayward member of the Mask family might be mind-controlled as well, but no one around me knew him, decreasing the chances that anyone would do something stupid to try to save him. With Logan, that was a possibility.

I knew Mateo (alias Blue Mask) from my internship. I wondered if I needed to call him either to let him know or selfishly, to ask him for advice.

Switchboard peered at me, possibly wondering why I wasn’t saying anything. I said, “Sorry if I zoned out. I’m trying to figure out what to do next.”

Cassie turned away from watching Major Justice to say, “If we’re lucky, the problem’s solved. The jet did a number on their main breeding ground.”

Jaclyn glanced downward toward Cassie’s hand which still held Mr. Sparkles, her gun, “I notice you haven’t put that away.”

Cassie nodded, “I don’t think we’re that lucky.”

Walking over from where he stood with the Coffeeshop Illuminati, Bullet said, “Neither do I. We need to get the wounded and the damaged out of here before something else happens. I can talk to Major Justice’s team. I think I can convince everyone that there’s no reason for anyone but people who can fight Menagerie’s zombies to be here.”

With a glance over to the rest of us, Jaclyn said, “I think we all agree with that.”

As Bullet began to turn around, Izzy said, “Everyone, get into the air! If someone can’t fly, grab them. Something’s coming to the surface.”

“Where?” Bullet asked.

“Everywhere,” she said, lifting off and grabbing BFG where he lay on the ground.

If she was wondering how she would get so many supers out of reach of whatever it would be, she didn’t have to. The Coffeeshop Illuminati included not one but two aerokinetics—Gordon and Gifford. Even if they looked tired after fighting Bullet and then Hunter’s rogue zombies, they had enough to blow people into the air and keep them there—including Major Justice and the other teams.

Vaughn had done the same with Jody and Dayton since they didn’t have anti-gravity packs built into their costumes.

Once everyone was all in the air, we waited.

Nothing happened.

Held up in the air only by wind, Jody looked down and then over to Vaughn, “That’s a long way down.”

He wasn’t wrong. We were at least 40 feet in the air and if Vaughn lost control, Jody wouldn’t be able to do any comic book speedster tricks like flapping his arms so quickly that he dropped more slowly.

He’d just hit the gravel below.

Vaughn flipped over in the air, “Trust me, I’m a master.”

In some movies that would have been the moment where all hell broke loose. In our world, nothing continued to happen, but Bullet did say, “Don’t play around!”

I expected Vaughn to point out that Bullet wasn’t his boss, but instead Vaughn looked at Cassie and shook his head. Cassie gave a quick smile, but kept on pointing her gun down toward the ground.

Turning his head to look at Izzy, Jody asked, “Is something coming or not?”

Izzy didn’t get to respond. In that moment small, gray tendrils came out of the ground. It wasn’t an eruption. It didn’t feel like an attack. If anything it reminded me of a nature film, the kind where they condense days or weeks of growth into seconds.

Thanks to the Rocket suit’s sensors, I could even see the tendrils at that level of detail if I wanted to. The nature films make growth look beautiful. This growth had more of a feeling of doom.

They grew everywhere in sight, starting below us and rippling outward, growing from tiny nubbins to three feet tall in seconds.

Before anyone knew what was coming next, the stalks began to release spores and not casually either, not a small cloud. This was steady disciplined fire targeting the supers above.

Almost as it began, we began to respond in kind. The Cannonballs expelled gouts of flame, but we had three different people controlling wind to keep people in the air. The flame never reached the ground, getting blown in three different directions on the way.

On the bright side, lasers still worked. The only bad point was that I seemed to be the only person that used one. Still, that meant I could do something.

I aimed at them one at a time, burning them to ash. Nearby, Amy threw her spear, taking out a tendril with each hit.

It’s the chaos surrounding combat that I blame for not noticing that some of us had begun to drop into the tendrils’ range.

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