Courtesy: Part 19

“That works for me,” I said. “Is Hal saying we all go in at once?”

Jaclyn’s words came out in a rush, “Not exactly. He thinks one group goes in hard and fast to attract attention. Another goes in quietly. A third stays in position here so Portal can move people in to help as needed.”

Remembering what Brooke had said earlier about not being able to teleport inside City Hall thanks to interference, that meant as close as people could get.

“I assume we’re going in hard and fast?” We seemed like good candidates. Even though Daniel wasn’t in the rest of our group’s league physically, we knew we’d be facing a telepath and there, at least, he was an 800 pound gorilla.

I felt his worry as he thought at me, Bouman’s been run through a power impregnator in addition to being able to use the fungus’ collective mind. He might be King Kong these days.

You’re still more skilled, I told him.

He took a breath and looked down at the battle in front of City Hall, Let’s hope so.

“The four of you plus Justice Fist and me. Hal chose the teams. We’ll join you at City Hall,” Jaclyn said.

All of us looked at each other. I couldn’t deny that we might need more people, but in terms of working together seamlessly, Justice Fist wouldn’t be my first choice.

As we’d talked, Duke Metzul’s forces had managed to spread out, engaging the fungus army as they edged closer to City Hall. If they could take the area around it, we wouldn’t have to deal with enemies coming at us from behind.

Over the comm, Izzy asked, “Does everyone have paralysis guns in their armor? They should be our first choice on the people absorbed into the mushroom… collective.”

I answered, “Yes. They won’t do much to any supers, but normal people won’t have protection against it—though cops might.”

“Portal’s sending us over right now,” Jaclyn said.

We all took to the air as Daniel thought at me, Futures are generally more positive if they’re with us, but they’re definitely worse if they join the general melee outside City Hall or are part of the group that’s sneaking in.

I sent back, It sounds like they’re with us because they’ll cause the least damage. Great.

It took only seconds to fly to City Hall, finding that the doors were open and that Jaclyn and Justice Fist had stepped inside.

We landed and followed them in. City Hall had been designed in the Neo-Gothic style. I couldn’t tell you the characteristics of it if you put a gun to my head, but on a practical level in meant lots of arches, tall, thin windows, and lines.

The tile floor had Grand Lake’s city seal (complete with a motto in Latin) in the middle of the entry hallway. I’d never learned what the city motto meant or why the designer thought everyone entering the building needed to both see the city’s seal and step on it.

The city motto means ‘Stepping boldly forward.’ Daniel told me.

Onto the seal or into the lake? I thought back. He shrugged, but didn’t reply. We did have better things to do than make fun of the trappings of government.

All the same, it did explain the shoes on the seal even if it didn’t explain where they were stepping boldly to.

Not that it mattered.

What mattered was that a thin gray film covered the floor, growing thicker the deeper we walked into the building. Jaclyn turned back to address Izzy, “Hey Blue, which way to the second brain?”

Izzy looked down toward the the floor, turning her head as if seeing through it to the other side—which wasn’t far from the truth. When Izzy looked up, she said, “Both of the two bottom levels are almost solid with fungus. One of them connects to the parking garage, extending into its lowest levels. They look the same.”

Nodding, Jaclyn said, “I thought we might be fighting our way through.”

A voice came from further down the hall, “Please don’t. I think we can work this out without more fighting.”

Thin and over six feet tall, the man in the blue suit made me think of a giraffe. While he wasn’t eating leaves from the tops of trees, his head was level with mine while wearing the Rocket suit.

While I didn’t know him, my implant did and supplied a name (Scott Walters) and an occupation (City Manager). My implant had apparently been picking up background information while I read the local news.

Jody looked over to Dayton and Sean, “Who’s that guy?”

For a moment, I thought that Scott might have gotten away without being absorbed into the fungus. That impression ended when, rather than walk, Scott slid down the hall, stopping in front of the group.

Though it hadn’t been visible from a distance, a thin layer of mushroom skin covered his face.

In a way it made me respect him more. At least he didn’t choose to work with it.

Jody stepped back as he got close, telling Sean, “I don’t trust this guy.”

Scott looked over us, “I understand. I’m not what you expected to see. The collective consciousness sent me to talk to you. Perhaps we’ll be able to negotiate an end to these hostilities. I think there must be a deal that we can make.”

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