“Hey Dad,” Kayla held the mouse, still wondering if she should have taken the call.
“Hi pumpkin.” Despite the endearment, her dad sounded serious. “Do you have the news on?”
She had when she’d been in the main room. She opened the TV app she’d had open there. NBC News 10 was on the scene with a helicopter. They were filming the alien troop carrier.
“I do now.” She stared at screen. Whatever possessed these people to fly in and start filming? Did they have some kind of death wish?
Her dad asked, “Kayla are you at work or at school?”
“At work. Dad, don’t worry about it. I’m safer than anyone.” At the same time, she thought, the block Daniel put in prevents me from telling people what I’m doing, but not from lying.
“Kayla,” from his tone, she could tell he was thinking about laying down the law. “I don’t know what the U.S. Marshals think they have, but it’s not going to stand up to this. I was in the army the last time we saw aliens attack. You need to get away from anyplace they might hit, and come home. If you’re closer to school, go back to your dorm, but I’ll feel better if I see you.”
Work, she thought. Now she’d have to tell even more lies. Her cover wasn’t completely false. Lim’s people had arranged it so she did work for the Marshals as an administrative assistant sometimes. It wasn’t as often as her schedule said, for sure.
“Trust me,” she said. “I’m doing something important, and I’m as safe as they can make me.”
She’d barely gotten that out. She felt the block when she’d been thinking about what she was doing, but when she said “something” instead of “helping the Heroes League,” the pressure not to say anything went away.
Her father didn’t reply at first. Then finally, after an age, he said, “OK. I’m not going to argue, but honey, I don’t want you hurt.”
They said goodbye, and Kayla went back to the inventory list, copying the name of anything from the League’s inventory spreadsheet that sounded useful into a new spreadsheet.
But then there were the lists that Nick’s grandfather had never entered into the computer. They’d found five handwritten pages in the League’s case files. They’d proved that they’d never been entered by crosschecking them against the lists they already had, but also against the objects themselves.
After that, it wasn’t a question. These lists had been skipped for some reason.
Even more interesting when she thought about the group’s discussion before she left, none of the items had their location listed as being inside the Abominator storage rooms.
There had to be more lists somewhere.
She thought about telling Haley because that had to be big news, but decided not to. She still had more pages to go.
“Kayla?” Haley tapped her on the shoulder, and Kayla nearly jumped out of her skin, giving a yelp.
Haley stepped back in a blur before Kayla entirely recognized her, coming to a stop in a position where she’d brought her arms up in front of her chest. Then she put them down at her sides, saying, “Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. It just… happens sometimes. And sorry about the stuff.”
Her hands and feet were claws, and her teeth had turned to fangs.
Thinking about it, Kayla realized Haley had already changed before she’d come over. She checked her shoulder for punctures in her shirt, relieved not to find any.
Haley bit her lip as Kayla checked but gave a hint of a smile as Kayla looked up. “We’ve figured out what we’re going to do. After talking it through with the AI and Man-machine, we figured out an attack plan with the jet that the AI says has a good chance of succeeding.”
“Really? Didn’t the AI say it wouldn’t work?”
Haley nodded. “Yes, but it was making assumptions, and Man-machine asked it to list them. When it was done, he went through them one by one and changed half of them. After a little while, it saw where he was going.
“As of now, Marcus, and I are taking the jet, but we’ll be taking it further out into the lake than normal, and we’ll be running with the shields on underwater which is just weird, and we’ve got Marcus training on the simulator for how to fire the jet’s particle accelerator. The AI thinks that one shot will be all we need to blow the landing craft’s engines.”
Kayla picked up the lists, and saved her spreadsheet. “Couldn’t you get Nick to give the AI permission to fire?”
Haley shook her head. “Nick’s got to be here in person. It’s got to get a biological sample.”
“Oh,” Kayla sent the spreadsheet to the printer. “What am I supposed to do? You still need the weapons list, right?”
Haley hesitated for a second before saying yes, but she did. She followed it up with, “We need you to run some of Nick’s surveillance bots while we’re out in Grand Lake. Maybe some of the guns on the lists are fully charged. Get them to Man-machine, Chris, and Camille. Sydney won’t need one, but if you can find something magnetism won’t hurt, she could use a backup in case she gets tired.”
Kayla felt cold. “What are they doing?”
Haley’s mouth twisted in an uncomfortable position. “After we take out the ship, they’ll have to take out the soldiers.”
Kayla stared. “Didn’t the AI say if their weapons hit us, we’ll die?”
Stamping her foot, Haley said, “It’s not that simple. It thinks anyone in armor can take a few hits, and Marcus might survive a few even without armor. Sydney might be okay too, if her armor is more than a solid coat of metal. Chris had a few ideas. It’s you, Camille and me that the ship’s worried about. We’ll die instantly if we get hit, so we’ll all stay out of sight, okay?”
Kayla felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest.
Haley met her eyes. “It’s going to be okay. Get out there, and show Man-machine your lists. He might have some more ideas, and we need all the ideas we can get.”