We ran through backyards, jumping a couple fences in the dark. Even in the stealth suit, I can still leap six foot fences in a single bound.
Stopping behind the hedge that marked the end of the mayor's property we reviewed the plan--such as it was.
"How close do I have to get?"
"Theoretically, I could let them go here," I whispered, "but I want to minimize how much they move because--"
"Because you don't want them to overheat," she said. "I caught that." Did she smile at me when she said it? I don't know. It was hard to tell in the dark.
"But it still doesn't tell me how close," she said.
"I don't know. They've got to find a crack and go through. They might have a good shot at going through the eaves and into the attic."
I handed her the bag of roachbots.
"I could do that," she said. Then, "Think I could make it up a turret?"
"Not a good idea," I said. "You'd almost be level with the flaming flying lady. You don't want to be seen."
"The flaming flying lady?" She sounded amused.
"I don't know her name. Anyway, I'll activate the bots now so all you have to do is let them out somewhere they can get a grip."
She leaned in toward a gap between the bushes. "Wish me luck," she said and dived through.
I got on my knees and pushed into the gap where she'd been.
She covered the distance between the hedge and the house in a few leaps, making it to the wall just in time. The "flaming flying lady" had come to check out this side of the house.
Not wanting to risk drawing attention by making the bushes move, I continued to watch.
Some people with fire powers appear to be engulfed in fire at all times. She looked mostly normal except that she just happened to be burning, small fires running the length of her body. She wore red robes, trimmed with gold--the kind of robes you see on ancient Greek pottery.
As she curved around the house, staying at the height of the roof, she nearly flew over the hedge. Fortunately I was all but hugging the bushes by then and thus wasn't visible.
That's when I recognized her. I still didn't know her name, but I knew her group--The Elementals. Sometime last summer, back when I thought Cassie might be dying, we followed the press coverage of how some unknown US superteam broke up a terrorist cell in Greece. Two boys and two girls, they obviously had no experience and from interviews it had sounded like they were all college students.
I hadn't seen anything in Double V about them since.
I wondered if it would be possible to get her attention and convince her that she'd cast her lot with the bad guys this time around, but I decided not to chance it.
Haley, meanwhile, stayed still, hanging on the wall about six feet up and surprisingly close to invisible.
After a tense few seconds, the flaming woman passed to the side of the house.
The moment she was out of sight Haley started climbing, managing to get up to the second story, then sideways, and up the nearest turret. She let the bots out on a windowsill and then jumped to the ground, landing at a run, crossing the yard in seconds, and doing it in complete silence.
"Complete success," she said as she slipped through the hedge.
I did what I could to extricate myself without breaking any branches, hearing them scrape my jacket despite my best efforts to be silent.
"Yep. They're in," I said, checking the robots' controller. They couldn't get through the window, but they'd crawled up the wall into a crack in the eaves.
"The turret's got a nice view," she said.
"I bet," I replied. Then I glanced at the controller again. The bots were beginning to spread throughout the house. Time to go.
We walked back to the car silently, but it felt more relaxed. We didn't try to hide, but we didn't do anything particularly obvious either. We stayed in people's backyards. We didn't walk down the street.
Our only hint that we might not be the only people out came when we were almost to the car. We stood next to the corner of a house, making one last check before walking to the car.
"Did you just hear something?" Haley asked.
"No," I said.
"Yes," growled a voice from behind us.
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- Grand Rapids, Michigan
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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 http://legionofnothing.com. 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.