Courtesy: Part 26

That hope only grew as Daniel, Amy, and Jaclyn moved in behind us. Daniel stood next to me but turned around as if deciding that someone needed to be watching Bouman and the others directly.

Sean and the others joined us, Dayton and Jody (with knives ready) choosing to stand with Daniel—which was a good choice since more tendril monsters were entering from Bouman’s side of the room.

Amy stood to my right, but standing with her back to me, able to easily check both the room we might enter and the one we might leave.

Jaclyn ran into the room as Izzy finished her scream, her arms a blur, punching tendril monsters into the monsters behind them with enough force that both monsters shattered, and parts of their bodies embedded themselves in the row behind that.

Having taken out the front line of tendril monsters in a blur, she turned around when she reached Izzy’s line of destruction. Having hit the easiest part of their front line, she started on the harder part—the blocky masses whose purpose we didn’t yet know.

As she did, Sean’s floating circle of ball bearings flew forward, already spinning, toward the right side of the room, avoiding both Izzy and Jaclyn’s areas of mass destruction.

It was every bit as effective as it had been earlier, hitting the tendril monsters with a whir that made me think of a circular saw.

That’s not to say that the tendril monsters weren’t trying to avoid the curved, metal line bearing down upon them. As if controlled by a central mind that wanted to test all the available options, some ducked under. Others extended their tendrils to stick to the ceiling and pull themselves above the line.

The group that wasn’t immediately next to the circling line of metal darted forward as one, trying to get around Sean’s wheel of death before he could stop them.

It turned out though, that all those years in the Stapledon program had done Sean some good. He adjusted the path of the swirling ball bearings into two separate circles, catching the ones on the ceiling and the floor simultaneously.

Fungus bits rained down from the ceiling and sprayed across the floor—and that didn’t just include the tendril monsters. He also hit one of the masses. 

The ball bearings had simply chewed through the tendril monsters, severing tendrils, and throwing pieces in all directions. With the first fleshy mass, the ball bearings hit with a grinding noise that made me think of a lawnmower hitting something hard.

Whatever that one was made out of was tougher, but it didn’t last. The pitch of the grinding noise moved up a few notches and I heard a popping noise, followed by a splash as a greenish-black liquid poured out of the mass.

Then it began jerking around as if in pain and not just that mass, but also a few more of the closest behind it. Along with that came a sound somewhere between a rasp and a scream that wasn’t loud, but seemed to come from all directions.

Next to me, Amy said, “That’s done it. They’re going to send everything they can now.”

Her voice sounded distant and she stared at Bouman and the others behind us in the side room. I couldn’t help but think about the faint grey sheen to her skin.

The whole point of her powers was absorbing and using her enemies’ powers against them, but I knew that could go wrong.

“Are you okay?” If Bouman or maybe the Fungus Collective was getting into her head, I wanted to do something about it.

“Give me a second,” she said, her voice no longer dreamy, “I’ve almost got them out.”

Guessing what she meant by that, I was willing to give her time. Unfortunately, optimism wasn’t the only reason, I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Even though Sean hadn’t done a bad job in his attack, the group of tendril monsters that had tried to go around his circle of ball bearings succeeded. The difficulty of getting through the fleshy mass’ armor along with splitting the circles into high and low had given them time.

I hadn’t missed it either. I’d been firing lasers into them the moment I noticed they were making a break for it, even during my conversation with Amy.

Unfortunately, waving the beam across the group wasn’t as good as Sean’s ball bearings or Izzy’s scream. I cut through them, but I couldn’t cut through as many at a time.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed. Izzy moved to the side of the doorway, saying, “I’m moving right,” and shooting upward, flying over my laser and Sean’s view of the scene. 

Then she screamed again, moving her head from the right to the left, and splattering the front line of the advance into the tendril monsters behind them.

She couldn’t go all out without shattering concrete, but this was good. Even seeing more tendril monsters pouring out of the stairway on the other side of the parking garage, I knew that we at least wouldn’t be overwhelmed in the next few seconds.

As Izzy’s scream came to a close, Amy smiled and said, “Got them.”

At that moment, the mushroom strands holding Bouman in place released him. Even stranger, the mushroom flesh over Bouman and the rest of his team thinned, literally pulling itself off of their faces. 

For the first time, they’d lost most of the grayish tinge to their skins and I could see everyone’s eyes—Bouman’s, Yellow Mask’s, Logan’s, and Prime’s.

With that, Prime looked around as if seeing all of this for the first time, his eyes falling on Daniel, myself, and Justice Fist.

He raised his muscular arm to point a meaty hand at us, “You!”

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