Much like in the control room, the second floor mostly stayed together. Spots of concrete fell and the nearest section of floor simply bent downward toward us, giving us a view of storage rooms.

A file cabinet slid sideways, and fell into the room, landing on the melted remains of the cloning tanks.

It would have been great if that had been the end of it.

It wasn’t, but it looked like it for a second.

Cassie lowered the gun. “Let’s get out of here.”

I’d been avoiding communicating with the jet for a lot of reasons, ranging from not wanting to expose our stuff for Rook’s examination to making it marginally harder for him to track us.

Now they didn’t apply quite so much.

I opened the comm, and connected to the jet, leaving the helmet’s external speaker off. “Night Cat, we’re near the center. If you fly in, I should be able to get most of us up.”

Haley said, “Most of us? Who did you pick up?”

“Scientists and lab technicians for Rook. I’ve got no idea who they are, but someone ought to be able to get something out of them. Oh, and hurry. They desperately need medical care.”

Some of them did. Aside from the woman who’d taken a rookbot beak to the chest, some of them looked like they had a chance—particularly if Alex got to heal them.

I still didn’t like looking at them. Too much blood. Too many insides too visible from the outside.

Strangely, a couple of the scientists were relatively unhurt. A tall, bearded man with long, stringy hair said, “What about us? You said you’d take us.”

“Well, yeah,” I said, suddenly realizing that all he would have heard was Cassie and I agreeing to leave.

“Listen to him.” Cassie replied, gesturing toward me with her right hand—incidentally the hand with the gun.

It didn’t fire, but the guy took a step back. I didn’t.

At that moment, Haley’s voice sounded in my helmet. “We’re almost in position.”

“Hurry,” I said. “If Rook’s got a nuke under here, we’ll need to get out quickly.”

“Look, I know,” she said.

That’s when the second wave hit.

They came through a door in the innermost wall, a tall, curved metal surface that hadn’t quite been as high as the dome. It had been flat in the control room.

What was in the middle of the complex? If it really could hold everything coming out the door, the space inside it had to be warped and folded in on itself like a tent from the Arabian Nights, or the Tardis from Dr. Who.

I had a bad feeling I wasn’t going to get to investigate it either.

More bird bots flew out the door, filling the air, making it feel like Cassie and I hadn’t done anything. That wasn’t the worst of them either. Bigger, heavier versions followed them out. They looked a lot like shorter, stockier Rook suits. They had to be robots though—if only because I doubted Rook could find enough midgets to pilot them.

That still wasn’t the worst of it.

Glowing, animal shaped constructs bounded along with them—bears, wolves, mountain lions. All of them in made of the yellowish light I associated with the moon.

Rook didn’t create those. Another person who worked with the Nine did. I couldn’t think of the name. Luna-something? Moon-something?

That’s when I understood what was going on.

There weren’t any humans in sight. They were swamping us with robots and constructs while they got away. To judge from how they’d targeted the scientists before, they were going to focus on them, pinning us down while Rook and his people got away.

After that, everything would probably explode.

Cassie lifted up the gun, and was about to fire when I started shouting, “No! Wait!”

“What? I can get them.”

“The light constructs absorb energy.” I couldn’t remember their creator’s name, but I could remember that.

“Crap.” She pointed the gun and blasted the closest bird bots. A light construct shaped like a tiger jumped toward the beam, but didn’t get hit.

Cassie muttered something, hooked the gun to her utility belt, and pulled out her sword. “Carry them up to the Jet, I’ll hold them off.”

I was about to argue with her when League Jet’s hatch opened, a glowing, block-shaped hole in the air.

Flick jumped out, followed by Daniel, Sydney and Rachel.

Flick plummeted, hitting the floor, and stopping, doing no damage to either herself or the floor.

She reached a hand into the pouch at her belt, pulling out a handful of metal balls. “Mystic, get the wounded out, we’ll buy you time.”


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About the author


Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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