Before I told everyone what I’d seen, I considered our options. Running might work. Depending on what their rocket packs’ range was, we might be able to fly away, use Vaughn’s weather control to keep them back, and head for HQ.
If Tara and her parents were any indication, the True weren’t automatically bad, but we might have to subdue them and maybe destroy the birthing chamber. From what I’d seen of Protection Force and the Nine, we might need everyone for that, but at the very least, we’d need the jet.
The main gun would take out the birthing chamber easily. Maybe Lim could get the True into Stapledon or something like it.
From what Tara had told me, there were universes where the True integrated into normal society and merged into the population. She’d met people from them in Infinity City.
I hoped I wasn’t letting my optimism doom the human race.
“They’re ahead of us,” I told everyone. “There’s only six of them, but you know the whole group’s going to go for us if they see us. I was thinking that if we fly away now, Storm King might be able to keep them behind us and then we could come back with the jet and… blow away the birthing chambers.”
Vaughn eyed me, “Whoa. Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You don’t want the sweet, sweet alien tech?”
“Not at the expense of the human race.” And honestly, it wasn’t as if humanity wasn’t already moving forward with genetic research on our own.
Frowning, Haley looked up at me. “What about the True? What were you planning on doing with them?”
“They’re people and basically newborns. I was thinking they might turn out okay if they’re not being raised by the Nine.” I looked around the group of us for reactions.
Vaughn nodded along as I talked. The part of Tara’s face that I could see below her mask was motionless and unreadable.
Haley’s eyes narrowed, making them more catlike than usual. “I hope you’re right. I don’t want to kill anyone, but I’m beginning to wonder… Ronin?”
We all looked at Tara. Tara sighed. “I don’t know. If I let myself think like a True commander, I’d tell you to kill all of us because then you’ll be sure there’s no risk. Here’s something I know, though. In all the stories I ever heard about the True, part of the reason we became what we did was resentment over being used as troops instead of people.”
Haley nodded. “Okay. Let’s try to run, but before we do it, we need to send a red. Control, did you hear that?”
Over the comm, Kayla took in a breath. “Yes. Should I tell everyone to come here?”
“Yes,” I said, “but only if we get away. If we don’t, we’ll need help wherever we happen to be. Oh… And where are Railgun and Shift?”
“Still dropping Hologram off at the doctor,” Kayla said. “What do you want me to tell them?”
“Get back and find us as soon as you can.” That seemed like enough.
Tara shook her head, “Watch in case there’s another jet or flying transport—maybe two. I think Protection Force would have transportation for their gear and if the Nine are here, they’ll have something too.”
“I’ll watch for them,” I said, feeling like we might be the only people in the woods, but knowing better.
Giving a look around the group, I readied the suit to fly, “I guess we should go?”
“Just a second.” Vaughn closed his eyes, concentrating. “I think I’ve got a way to improve on your plan. Now we can go.”
Through the spybot above the trees, I saw fog form above the forest, blocking out any view of the beach and the Protection Force troops.
It was better.
“Everyone ready or need any help?” Tara and Haley both started fiddling with the small rocket packs they’d put on.
Tara shook her head. Haley said, “Let’s go,” and flew upward. I flew after her, hearing Vaughn over the comm, “Don’t get too far ahead. I can make the fog, but I can’t see through it.”
When I flew past the top of the trees, I hovered with Haley, waiting for Vaughn and Tara and collecting my spybot. Once the two of them caught up with us, we began to fly slowly through the fog.
It wasn’t thick. We could see a good forty feet ahead—which was enough to get moving, enough to see the tree limbs that stuck higher in the air than the rest. Even better, the Rocket suit’s composite sensor view in my HUD had no issue seeing through the fog.
Protection Force’s troops weren’t moving in our direction—which meant that if they had radar or some other system for seeing in the dark, we didn’t show up on it.
A nagging thought went through my head—either they didn’t see us or they were leaving us for someone else. That was paranoid. I didn’t have any reason to believe it until we’d moved a good half mile south.
I’d begun to think it might be time for Vaughn to drop the fog and let us pick up some speed when I noticed shapes flying upward from the ground. I’d have called them birds, but they didn’t move quite right.
As I looked a little harder, I knew I’d seen them before. They didn’t just look like birds. They looked like crows.