Courtesy: Part 9

Could the mushroom zombies replace Arete’s missing parts or access his memory? The latter option would represent a major security leak both for the Defenders and the Nine.

It didn’t seem likely, but if it was possible, I didn’t like it. From what I’d seen of it, even acting collectively the zombies weren’t very smart, but if they could integrate Arete in, maybe they could be. Plus, what if they could reproduce his powers in the mushroom zombies?

We needed to end this, but we’d have to figure out where to hit it. We’d destroyed the “brain.” We’d need to figure out where the backup was or if it could operate as some kind of swarm without a center.

I gave the rockets more fuel and shot upward past the tops of the nearest houses and into the morning sun, looking out across our newly evacuated neighborhood.

Ordering my implant to alert me if it saw something that could be Arete’s headless body or head, I did a quick flyover of the neighborhood. It didn’t alert me of anything and it’s not as if I could complain.

We needed to know where the second brain was, assuming we could find it.

Opening up my comm connection, I asked, “Has anyone seen any sign of mushroom zombies gathering anywhere? Alternately, some of you know that Arete died, but not all of you know that he appears to have been taken away by the mushroom tendril, both his head and as much of his body as possible. So if you’ve seen someone carrying a human head, that’s also something to mention.”

Camille responded, “Arete? The cute one?”

Sydney sighed, “Seriously, Gravity Star, the ‘cute one’? His team’s been dragging us through the mud in the media for a month.”

It was, in a weird way, nice to know that Sydney and the sister she shared with Sean (by way of their dad’s wandering eye) were comfortable enough with each other to have pointless disagreements on the team comm channel.

“I know,” Camille said, unbothered, “that’s the disappointing part. He was cute and his team wasn’t very nice.”

As she talked, I could imagine Sydney eyeing Camille with disbelief, “Very nice? They were a bunch of dicks.”

Haley inserted her voice into the first available space, “We haven’t seen anyone. We got out where the police said they saw people with a layer of mushroom skin, but they left. I caught the scent and followed it to the curb. From the exhaust smell, I think they took a car and drove somewhere. I don’t know where. A lot of cars drove away and their exhaust blended together.

“I think they might be heading for the freeway, but I can’t guess which direction they’re going.”

I knew why. The nearest freeway entrance split into north and south. “We can check the highway. Blue might be able to detect mushroom zombies from a distance.”

Jaclyn cut in, “They’re driving. I don’t like that.”

Laughing, Cassie said, “Yeah, that’s terrifying. Fear the power of a zombie driving a Honda Civic.”

“No,” Amy said, “Accelerando is right. That means that the zombies can use their skills.”

I thought about Gifford. When he’d been affected, he’d wanted to drop toward the ground, but he hadn’t been using his powers in a sophisticated way. It might be that all he’d needed to do was let the people he was keeping in the air get in range of the tendrils’, but he didn’t seem to have enough going on upstairs to do much more either.

If Amy and Jaclyn were right, the fungi were growing more competent. Crap.

“Blue—“ I began, but didn’t get to finish.

“I’m already in the air, catch me if you can,” she added, knowing that I’d never be able to.

Working with friends didn’t lead to military discipline, but it was okay. I gave the rockets fuel to follow her only to hear Amy say, “Don’t get too far ahead. I might be able to work up a spell to find them if we get close enough.”

I let her catch up and Izzy whipped around to join us from behind.

Over the comm, Daniel said, “I’m going to join you. I might be able to give you an edge one way or another.”

I couldn’t argue. Between telepathy and prescience, he might make all the difference. Besides, the time for Team Obvious and Team Hidden was over. Now we had all of League’s best at gathering information in one group—except for Haley, and of course, Travis.

As we passed over the edge of the police line, Daniel flew up from the ground, thinking, Something’s about to happen. I’m not sure what or when, but you’ll need me.

That felt ominous and I was about ask more questions when I felt a telepathic contact. It felt like the link Daniel and I shared, but bigger. It reminded me a little bit of coming upon a radio station with nothing playing, but an active hum. 

Except you could feel this hum in your brain.

4 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 9”

    1. Thanks. I’ve been putting telepathy in italics and I failed to notice that the italics disappeared when copying the post from the program I wrote it in to this blog.

      It’s now fixed.

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