I considered my next step. We were on an eight lane highway with no median between the northbound and southbound. The only thing between them was a four foot high concrete barrier. That was on the left.
When I looked to the right, I realized that the lane must be a little lower than the road running alongside it because the concrete sloped down to the highway.
We were the second lane in from the right on the southbound side. Thanks to the catmecha’s legs, we might be able to move over the front of the red Chevy Cavalier to my left. I wasn’t completely confident though, that it wouldn’t step on the car’s hood, denting it at best, pushing the engine through to the concrete at worst.
That was the nearest we got to the side of the road. To the immediate left we had semi-truck, and whatever happened to be in the lane past that.
So, I went with plan b.
The catmecha crouched, and leapt into the air.
“Whoa,” Vaughn said, “Why can’t we have this kind of view all the time?”
“In normal mode, it’s supposed to look like a normal van. I don’t want to blow our identities if I need to drive someone somewhere.”
The inside didn’t look like a normal van anymore. Roughly egg shaped, its smooth walls showed everything surrounding us. Clear as windows halfway up the cabin, the view lost color as it neared the floor. The floor wasn’t completely opaque, but showed the ground like a black and white television might have.
My original plan had been to be able to see everything completely clearly, but I realized that most people would want a better sense of where the floor and walls were.
Incidentally, the walls weren’t see through. I’d used a variation on the technique I’d used to make the paint change color instantly to turn the walls into live streaming, extremely local television screens.
Checking the rearview screen, I was relieved to note that the conversion hadn’t left anything behind.
We were already too far away to see the expression of the guy who’d been beeping at us, but judging from the expressions of the people I could see, his jaw had to be somewhere below the steering wheel.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but people were leaning toward the windows and staring. A lot of people were pulling out phones.
We’d probably be on Youtube before we even landed.
Now that we were in the air though, I checked the gravitics. They were all green—no problems. I didn’t feel fully comfortable with the technology yet (probably because it was at least fifty years ahead of when we’d naturally figure it out), but I felt comfortable enough. I’d given the catmecha the ability to float, and make much bigger jumps than it ought to be able to manage.
Then I turned on the directional rockets, and we shot forward. Since flight wasn’t the main point of having a mech, I hadn’t made an effort to create the most powerful rockets I could. The mech could actually run faster on its legs than it could fly.
I stayed in the air anyway. No matter how quickly the mech could move on the ground, flying over the entire traffic jam was much cooler.
Also, if the catmecha were running at three hundred miles per hour down the highway, and accidentally flipped a piece of concrete into the air, well, that could kill somebody.
All the same, we covered the distance quickly.
For the first little while, we all looked out the windows. In my case, it was more because I didn’t want to hit power lines or a bridge.
After a little while, Haley said, “It didn’t.”
“What?” I tried to figure out what she was talking about while deciding where to land. Below us, the cars had spread out again and were traveling at normal highway speeds.
“Yeah,” I said, deciding to stay in the air a little longer. It wouldn’t hurt to travel further at a couple hundred miles per hour instead of seventy-five.
“Technically though, it wasn’t the van that gave it away then as much as that Courtney had enhanced her hearing, and I didn’t know.”
“That was such a mess,” Haley said, staring out the window at the highway.
“Tell me about it,” Cassie said. “You didn’t get kidnapped by some nut.”
Haley turned around. “Sorry. I’m sure that was worse. It was just that Courtney didn’t know and then she knew everything. Nothing against her, but I wish we’d had a choice.”
“Me too,” I said. I wasn’t lying either. We hadn’t had that many people figure out who we were, but every time someone did, the choices stank. They amounted to: trust them to keep quiet, make them forget using telepathy, or put in a mental block that stopped them from telling anybody.
Vaughn looked up from watching the cars below us. “How’d it go with Courtney?”
I shrugged. “It worked. She’s got permanent powers now. That’s why she’s in the program now.”
Jaclyn shook her head. “I can’t believe you ran anyone else through that machine. Vaughn turned out okay, but you remember his grandfather. The guy went crazy and turned on everyone. That’s enough of a warning for me.”
I decided to stay in the air for as long as this conversation went on. There wasn’t any way I’d be able to concentrate on landing at the same time.
“I know it looks bad, but I talked to Lee, and he said the machine didn’t contain any booby traps. He told them how it worked, and Grandpa and Red Lightning figured it out on their own. Plus, I made sure Courtney hadn’t been using any juice before she got zapped, and it turns out she’d barely used power juice since it became a controlled substance. Grandpa said that Vaughn’s grandfather had already withdrawn a bit even before they zapped him in the machine. Who knows? Maybe it was unrecognized PTSD that caused the problem.”
In the rearview screen, Vaughn nodded. “Hope that’s true. People know what it is now. I don’t want to find out that whatever made him do it was part of him. Then I might have inherited it. If it’s an outside thing then I can avoid it, you know?”
I nodded. “Hey, I should land. I’d bet that the Castle Rock Compound has air defenses, and I don’t want to find out about them the hard way.”