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A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters, plus the note at the bottom of this one.
Alex refused to cry. Bad stuff happened, and it didn’t check her personal calendar for convenient days. She just dialed Ray.
“Ray? It’s me. I… I have to fly out. Right now. I can’t make your party. I… I’m really sorry. But this is really bad, and… and…”
“Honey, don’t cry. It’s okay. I’ll tell mom and dad you had a family emergency. You just go do that stuff you do better than anybody, and I’ll see you when you get back. Love ya.”
“Oh Ray, I love you too, and I’m so sorry.” And she was
crying. The tears were streaming down her mask and dripping onto her leotard, which thankfully was waterproof or else it would have had humiliating wet spots over her boobs.
She managed to stop crying before she landed in front of Building G. She went right in and told Staff Sergeant Meadows that she had a Code Red and had to leave in a matter of minutes. He just told her he understood being on call for emergencies, and he wished her luck. She really wanted to give him a hug for being so nice, but she didn’t think he’d like that.
She flew to the runways and waited. It wasn’t that long before the Blackbird came searing in. Walter must have caught them when they were all ready to go, because it seemed like it had hardly been any time at all since Jack called her. Or maybe Walter called the Blackbird first, since they knew her schedule on Saturday mornings. She got lucky, and she timed it close enough that she slammed into the canopy on her first try. It stung, because she hit pretty hard, but she didn’t really care right then. She was busy being miserable and angry and sad and disappointed. She oozed through the portal, sealed it behind her, and puddled into her spot in the passenger seat. She just muttered, “Let’s go.”
Being a puddle made it a lot easier not to cry. She didn’t bother to look out the windows or anything. She just sat there feeling sorry for herself. Why did things have to be so hard? Why did this have to be right when she wanted to be there for Ray, and not have his mom and dad be mad at her for skipping out on her boyfriend’s party?
So she was still feeling sorry for herself when the Blackbird descended, dropping speed as it cut into the atmosphere. The pilot finally told her, “We’re on target now.” So she popped the port and oozed out, snapping it shut with her telekinesis before she slid off the canopy and went flying downward.
She had thought Virginia would be mostly cities and towns, since it was so close to Washington D.C., but this was northwestern Virginia, and it was all countryside. The roads were fewer and farther apart than she’d expected, and the ones she could see were just not that big. She popped her tPhone out of her morph and waited until it got a GPS signal. Then Willow’s GPS app pointed her in the direction she needed to go.
Uh-oh. It was pointing her right at what looked like a former fire. There was still smoke rising, even at her altitude. She didn’t bother to slow down, because if there was smoke, there might still be fire. And there might be people who needed rescuing.
As she got closer, she could see buildings all over a big rectangular area that had no trees, and was surrounded by woods and glens. Well, she could see things that used to be buildings, because it looked like there wasn’t anything left standing. Her cell phone bars went to zero, because she was getting away from a working cell tower. If there was supposed to be cell reception in that area, it wasn’t working now.
Her phone automatically switched over to Jack’s comm system, thanks to another Willow-app. “Tera? That you?”
She was going to say something grumpy and smart-alecky to him, but then she realized Jack’s chopper was in the middle of a real disaster area. She was close enough to see anything the size of a car or larger. The buildings weren’t just burned. They were blasted. They were pretty close to disintegrated. Someone hadn’t set them on fire, like Cready would have managed. No, this was way worse. It was like someone had hit them with a Mark 77 and a bunch of C-4 all at the same time. If anyone had still been in those buildings when they went, there was no chance they survived. Alex wasn’t sure she could have survived something like that. And there used to be some trees in that fenced-in area, but now there was nothing left but stumps incinerated down to the ground.
She was close enough to see people now. And she wished she wasn’t. Jack had two three-person teams moving around, smoke was still wisping around, and there was nothing else moving. After the Arizona thing, she knew what roasted dead things looked like. That was what she was seeing. There were charred remains of cars. There were charred remains of horses over by what might have once been a nice stable.
There were charred remains of people. There were lots and lots of charred remains of people, and what were probably charred remains of pieces of people. It was the most gruesome thing she’d ever seen.
She used her telekinesis to slam on the brakes and slow herself down from a pretty massive speed to something she could land with, and she flew over toward Jack. He was with Sergeant Scott and the sergeant she didn’t know yet, even if she thought his last name was maybe Walters.
Jack looked up at her and tapped his earjack. His voice came in loud and clear. “O’Neill to Tera. I’m glad you’re here. This is really bad. From what I got out of the three people who called in to the DHS, all of this was done by one girl. One girl who apparently makes your buddy Cready look like a half-used matchbook. The DSI won’t give us a straight answer on this, but Hammond’s boss says this is their national research center. Or rather, it used to be. I’ve got Acid Burn chewing her way into their computers, but it looks like most of their computing power is burnt silicon now.”
“Finn to O’Neill. Found the exit point. Looks like our threat just melted two high security fences and took out the guard dogs in the gap between fences.”
“O’Neill to Finn. Roger that. Looks like our little ball of fire walks instead of flying. That’s one good thing. She’s on foot and probably slow mobile in this terrain.”
Alex breathed a sigh of relief, which she really should not have done, because the place smelled like… roasted pork. Roasted pork that had been overcooked until it burned. And there were no pigs anywhere around here. Her stomach lurched as she realized what that meant.
She could have lived her whole life without knowing what a burnt-to-death person smelled like. Sometimes, superheroing was a really cruddy job.
But at least she didn’t have to worry about Cready version 2.0 firebombing Washington D.C. at a hundred fifty miles an hour. No, she just had to worry about whoever this ‘girl’ ran into next.
Jack said into the comms, “At least she has control over her powers, unlike Cready, or there would be a trail of forest fires wherever she went. Tera, can you do a quick sweep about three hundred yards outside the security fences for any signs of fire, smoke, roasted guard dogs, whatever looks suspicious?”
“Tera to O’Neill. Roger that.” She flew back up to about five hundred feet and moved until she was maybe nine hundred feet outside the fences. At least she couldn’t smell the burned, horribly-dead bodies anymore.
She flew a fast rectangle around the property. There was no sign of anything. Not even any movement. Whoever had done this could have been gone for hours, if a survivor had to get out, hike to somewhere with cell phone coverage, call for help, and then get the phone call transferred down to Jack’s group before Jack could even start rounding up his team.
“Tera to O’Neill. Nothing visible. No fires, no smoke, nothing suspicious. How many hours ago did the ‘girl’ go through that fence?”
“Finn to O’Neill. If only three people called in to the DHS emergency numbers, and we have ‘less than two dozen’ as our survivor group, who did the others call?”
“Crap. O’Neill to team. The DSI is suspected of running some very black ops off the books. No hard evidence that I know of, but there are rumors. If some of their hit teams got called in, we may have some human threats – armed human threats – loose in the area too.”
“Heller to O’Neill. Scale of threats?”
“O’Neill. Assume less than full CIA HK teams, but not by much.”
“Finn to O’Neill. Do we assume counter-terrorism protocols?”
“O’Neill. Absolutely. Tera, Klar, that means if you see someone with a weapon, assume they will use it on you as soon as they spot you. If you see a suspect not holding a weapon, assume they may have a concealed weapon and remain alert. A.G., you have full authorization as of this moment, until I say otherwise.”
“Heller to O’Neill. Roger that.”
Alex had a very bad feeling that Jack had just given a sixteen year old girl permission to kill anyone who threatened her. And if Jack was doing that, then Jack was a lot more worried than he was letting on.
She flew back to where Jack was standing. He was looking at a mudhole. A great big dried-up mudhole. She carefully asked, “Jack? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
He grimaced. “Remember the crazy bit about the girl frying a lake?”
She looked at the mudhole. It could have been a great big pond. Only something would have had to put out so much heat they boiled off maybe ten or twenty thousand cubic feet of water, and then burned the mud underneath dry, and then burned furrows through the mud like little tornadoes. She couldn’t imagine how much energy that would have to be, but it was bad. Mega-bad.
And that pond was just one part of what their threat had done. She worried, “Jack, what’s gonna happen if we catch up with her?”
He frowned, “If people like Finn and Scott catch up with her, they’ll be burned alive. There’s a car over there…” He made a gesture at something off to the west. “Lots of armor, lots of guys with weapons. From what I could tell of the pieces, at least one of them had an M4 and another had an SAW, and it looked like the clips I could see on both had to be empty when they got melted, because nothing cooked off despite enough heat to melt steel. So they probably emptied their weapons at our threat from a pretty short distance. It’s pretty obvious they didn’t stop her. If you could make a wall of heat so intense a bullet disintegrates when fired through it, you’d either be incinerated or you’d be invulnerable to conventional weaponry.”
Alex gulped. “So it’s up to me.” If she couldn’t find this girl first, the HK teams of the DSI would force the girl to do… this stuff to wherever she was. But if she found this girl first, the girl might do this to her
. That sounded mega-grim.
“Heller to O’Neill. I’ve found her tracks.”
“O’Neill. Sure it’s her?”
“Heller to O’Neill. Yes. Unless there are DSI agents wearing children’s sizes of tennis shoes.”
Alex gulped. Children’s sizes? “Tera to Heller. Age?”
“Heller. At a guess, maybe seven to eleven.”
Alex felt sick to her stomach. What was a ‘research center’ doing with a seven year old girl? Or maybe eleven, but way too young to deal with powers like this. She looked at Jack, and he looked like he wanted to go punch someone in the nose. Only guys like Jack probably didn’t punch you in the nose. Guys like Jack knew how to do the kind of stuff Hanna did.
Alex looked around at the smoking ruins that had once been buildings, and she figured that everyone Jack wanted to punch had probably been burned to death in really horrible ways.
“O’Neill. Regroup on my position. Eddings, get me Acid Burn on sat phone.”
“Who’s Eddings?” Alex asked. She didn’t bother using the comms, since Jack was right there next to her.
“Chopper pilot. Marine Captain Carl Eddings. You met him in Arizona. He’s SRI also.”
Alex stopped and thought for a moment. “Oh. Right.” If she remembered right, he was the blonde ‘Val Kilmer almost-look-alike’ with the great smile.
And then Willow’s AutoTuned voice came in over the comms. She said, “I’m waiting.”
Jack winced, “Acid, this one is a bad one. Can we not…”
Willow insisted, “You lost the bet. I got to pick the codenames for this time. I’m waiting.”
Jack gritted his teeth and finally said, “Fine. Romeo to Juliet. Do you have an update?”
Alex didn’t smile, because everything was so horrible around her. And she felt totally horrible for being a sulky whinypants about not going to a birthday party, when scads of people had been roasted alive and blown to smithereens. She was such a horrible person. She was a horrible person who was trying not to throw up from the smell all over the place, so she was horrible at superheroing too.
And she kept remembering that Romeo died
in that stupid play.
“Juliet to Romeo. DHS needs to stomp on these guys hard. They’ve got their computers screened off from official DHS contact, except a tiny intranet that’s a dummy set-up. There’s nothing real on it. As far as I can tell, this ‘official’ computer I’m looking at has the DC office personnel and a list of grants to cooperators, and I’ve only checked two of the grants, but they’re dummies too, because one is to a couple retired engineering professors – one of them’s dead and the other hasn’t done research grant work for years – and the other one’s to a Cal Tech research group that doesn’t really exist. This looks like it’s nothing but a front for laundering money. And their network hub’s way too big for the number of computers on that intranet, so they’ve got maybe another fifty to eighty computers that aren’t showing up, so they’re turned off, or physically segregated off that intranet. And according to DHS and GAO records, the DSI should have four hundred laptops, two hundred desktop PCs, a couple really massive midframe servers, about two hundred and fifty thin client computers to run off those servers, and a small armada of electronic testing equipment. And that’s just what they’ve gone through channels to get.”
“Romeo to Juliet. I’m guessing at least one of the servers and a hundred or two hundred PCs just got turned to ashes here.”
“Juliet to Romeo. That isn’t really right, because the sustained temperature to turn a hardened midframe into ashes would mean… Uh-oh.”
“Romeo. Yep. That’s what we have here. I’ve got two hundred dead bodies that look like they were incinerated, and buildings that look like a small nuke went off inside ‘em. And I’ve got three teenagers seeing this crap. And our threat may be a seven year old girl.”
“Oh my God. Jack, I’m so sorry. But I haven’t found a connection or a gateway into any other DSI computers. And if all the computers there are melted, I sure won’t be finding my way through them. If the gateway’s on your site, then it’s probably gone for good. But… Wait a moment… Okay, I just found some hidden directories on a concealed computer on their intranet, and now I’m going through the files in them, and I‘ll pull all the numbers together and I’ll try to figure out how much money these guys have had to spend on badness in the last few years.”
“Romeo. You won’t find all the money. Black ops groups like them? Most funding comes through backdoors that even the GAO doesn’t get to explore, and it isn’t even earmarked as going to the DSI. Or us, for that matter. So we have no idea how big the DSI really is, or how diverse. I’ll ask Big Cheese to look into it. Anything else?”
Willow gasped, “Oh. My. God.”
“Romeo to Juliet. Come in, please. What is it?”
Willow whimpered, “Oh this is so bad. That NIH grant, code number G6-483727, that we couldn’t get the NIH to tell us about because they were under strict orders and when George went and yelled at ‘em it turned out their records had been taken away years ago by the DHS? I’m looking at it right now, it was a DSI black project, I can’t tell what it was, or what they did, but I can see the date and the cooperators and the budget, and it was ten years ago at a university, and Maggie Walsh really was the lead scientist, and there are three other cooperators listed, two biochemists and a research M.D., and… let me check on these jerks… Uh-oh, he’s dead, lemme check the others… Oh God, they’re all dead, one ‘suicide’, one ‘car accident’ and one ‘hit and run’, this is so terrible, this is another Project Galinka, isn’t? If they had a research M.D. on their team, they were doing something to people, right? And then they cleaned up after themselves like Marissa Weigler, right?”
“Romeo to Juliet. Take deep, slow breaths. I think you’re right. And if the research project was ten years ago and really like Project Galinka, we may be looking for a nine-year-old girl. But yeah, the girl could be a couple years younger than that. And who the hell knows what kind of shape she may be in after this f… fiasco.”
Willow whimpered, “I don’t wanna do the silly codename game anymore.”
Jack softly said, “I don’t want to call you ‘Burn’ right now, if you don’t mind.”
Willow replied, “I’d feel even worse if we were using your picks, because then you’d be Scarecrow and I’d be Dorothy, and we all know what happens to the Scarecrow.”
Alex winced inwardly as she remembered that part of “The Wizard of Oz” where the Scarecrow got set on fire
. Why was everything so fire-related right now?
The team formed up around Jack. He directed, “New taskings. Eddings is going to take the chopper up to six thousand feet with me and Klar onboard for scouting and comms. Tera and A.G. are going tracking after our threat, with the chopper taking station halfway between here and Tera’s position as they move away from here. Sergeants Scott and Walters, you’re under Major Finn here. There’s nothing alive up top here, but there may be underground tunnels or workspaces or even prisons. Explore everything you can, and see if you can find a way down into any underground areas. There could be survivors down there, and there could be threats. Treat every single person or thing you find as a threat, because these idiots need to go into a supermax prison with a great, big cellmate who thinks they have ‘a real purty mouth’. Any questions?”
Hanna raised her hand. “Do I still have full authorization?”
Jack grimaced, “Yeah. Any DSI teams we run into are probably loaded for bear to stop what’s probably a really confused nine-year-old girl who may be on a hair trigger after all this. She may also be injured.”
Hanna pointed out, “There wasn’t any sign of blood, and the footsteps were very even so she isn’t limping.”
Jack asked, “If you could generate a fire that could melt steel, wouldn’t you cauterize any wounds you got, rather than bleeding out?”
Eww. Alex didn’t want to think about how horrible it would be to have to burn yourself to stop yourself from bleeding too much.
Hanna nodded, “This girl is probably not going to have any training in first aid, so that is possible.”
Jack frowned, “She may not have any training in anything. We have no idea how long she’s been here. She may be a normal fourth grader. She may be feral. She may be a little Acid Burn-style super-genius who already speaks dozens of languages and has psychic powers. Just be careful out there. Okay?”
“Roger that, sir,” Hanna said stiffly. Then she signaled to Alex and took off toward the north.
Alex lifted into the air and flew right above Hanna. Behind her, Jack ran for the helicopter, while Riley gave the sergeants orders.
Hanna spoke out loud, not bothering with the comms since Alex was only ten feet over her head. “A nine year old girl cooped up for some time should have no aerobic fitness. She should not be able to run any distance, and she should require regular rest breaks even while walking. If she is aware that she is heading north, she is probably doing it for a reason, since it is not in the direction of the nearest towns. She is more likely unaware of her location, or she would not be heading that way without adequate supplies. The terrain will get more rugged and mountainous, and not very many nine year olds are prepared to hunt their own food under those conditions.”
Alex admitted, “If I had her powers, I wouldn’t hunt my food. I’d just spot it at a distance and then I’d roast it.”
Hanna just said, “Good point. It would be a very useful power for preparing meat, if you can control it precisely enough.”
Alex figured Hanna was running along at maybe fifteen miles an hour. Hanna could probably keep that up for most of a day, even with the web belt and rifle and loaded tac vest including the stuff on her back. And Alex figured that even if Hanna was underestimating how athletic the girl was, she was still somewhere between seven and nine, and she’d just expended enough energy to power a small town. She probably couldn’t go very far without needing to rest. If the girl had already gotten more than ten or fifteen miles through this terrain, Alex was going to be pretty surprised. And if Hanna could track her prey at this speed, they would catch up with the girl in well under an hour.
“O’Neill to Tera. Please pop up above tree level and send me a signal so we can spot you.”
She lifted up above the trees, made a big lightning arc between her hands, and spoke into her comms, “Tera here. Do you read me?”
“O’Neill here. We read you five by five, and we have your position. There is a state road a little over four miles ahead of your position. You may lose the track there.”
Oh, right. If Alex was hiking through this brush and up and down these little dips and rises, she’d look at that road and think ‘hitchhiking time’. A nine year old girl, probably dirty and looking lost? Who wouldn’t stop to help her? If their threat found a friendly driver, they might never find her again… until there was another horrible fiery catastrophe with hundreds of people being killed, only the next time, the victims wouldn’t be evil pseudo-government secret creepy black ops guys.
She wondered if even half the people who died back at that center knew how horrible and evil their agency really was. How many of them were just regular people doing regular jobs: secretary, file clerk, IT guy, gate guard, yard maintenance guy… Okay, that burned-up yard maintenance cart she’d seen had guns and stuff spilling out of its charred remains, so maybe a lot of the ‘regular’ jobs were done by secret spy types, or maybe security guys who were just going around pretending to be maintenance guys and stuff.
Hanna called out, “Slight detour here!”
Alex zipped down into the trees to find Hanna working her way around a huge thicket of nasty stuff that would be pretty much impossible to fight your way through. When Hanna spotted her, Hanna said, “She tried to force her way through right over there, and gave up fairly quickly. She scratched herself up in a few places. I could smell the blood. It’s still fairly recent. So she is moving this way to get around the problem.”
Alex zipped up above the trees and relayed the message to the chopper, which wasn’t getting a really great signal from them when they were under the dense tree canopies.
It took Hanna maybe twenty minutes to find the girl’s path around the thick stuff. Then the girl didn’t quite get her directions right, and she headed more northeast than north. That was probably good for the girl, because if she went all north and northwest, she’d end up in the Appalachian Mountains and some national parks, and she’d have no food and no shelter and no safe drinking water.
That reminded Alex of something important. She ate an energy bar and checked that Hanna drank a little water. She worried about Hanna. Not having any fear about stuff kind of made Hanna vulnerable to things like not taking care of herself. Then Alex used her telekinesis – Bruce had called it ‘tk’ which really did sound cooler, so maybe she should call it that – to roll the energy bar wrapper up in a tight cylinder and tie it in a tiny knot, so she could stick it back in her utility belt and not be a litterbug but not have sticky stuff get inside her new utility belt.
Hanna ran along under the trees, constantly looking for more signs of the girl. But Alex soared up a couple hundred feet, and she could see maybe a mile away where there was a huge open area cut into the forest.
At Hanna’s speed, it only took about four or five minutes before they got into the big open area that looked like it had been clear-cut. It wasn’t exactly a rectangle, but it was like a field, instead of a forest.
No, she was wrong. It really wasn’t like a field. It was an ex-forest. Hanna was detouring around enormous piles of cut brush and jumping over big stumps, and then trotting down a dirt road that looked like it had taken a lot of abuse.
“A.G. to Tera. She went this way. She is very tired. She is leaning forward and taking smaller steps and not avoiding puddles or muddy spots. She will probably stick to the logging road instead of moving back to the forest, until she is ready to rest or seek shelter.”
“Tera to O’Neill, did you get that?”
“O’Neill to team, roger that. We’re scanning the logging road with monocs. It looks like a nearly straight dirt road that goes right onto that state road. And… Oh crap. How fast can you get to the highway? We’re seeing three black sedans positioned across the end of the logging road.”
Alex said, “I can be there in a few seconds. A.G. may need a minute.” She darted to the treetops and pushed as fast as she could to get over there.
And she still wasn’t there soon enough.
She heard the gunshot as she soared over the trees. And she could see the girl, who looked about nine, although Alex couldn’t be sure, because there was a heat shimmer all around her, like she was a mirage. The trees on the sides of the logging road were smoking and probably about to catch on fire, which meant the entire area could be a giant forest fire in minutes.
The girl shouted, “Back off! You’d better back off right now! You know what I can do!”
One of the guys behind the black cars snapped, “You’re just making it harder on yourself, kid!”
Alex spotted seven men with handguns and two men with rifles. One rifleman had an M203 like Riley and Graham sometimes carried: an M4 with a real grenade launcher slung under the barrel. The other one had the biggest rifle Alex had ever seen. It was so huge it had a bipod at the end of the barrel so the guy could rest the end of the barrel on the hood of the car. It looked like it would fire bullets the size of a hot dog. The girl might be able to stop a stream of regular bullets, but a grenade and some kind of super-bullet? Alex didn’t think so. Grenades? Of the bad, as someone she knew would say.
She gave it her best ‘forceful Terawatt’ voice. “You there! I… am… Terawatt! Cease this at once, or I’ll be forced to stop you!” And she moved off to the side, so the guys would have to split their attention between her and the girl.
The guy who acted like he was in charge turned to face her. He was wearing a black suit and black sunglasses and a thin black tie, and he had his hair buzzed so short it was almost invisible. And he pointed a big silver handgun right at her. He yelled, “This is Department of Scientific Intelligence business, lady, so I suggest you just go fly somewhere else.”
She was liking these guys less and less every minute. She snapped, “The DSI is not a real government department, and you have overstepped your bounds. Put your weapons away and turn yourselves over to the DHS for a full investigation. Immediately. Or I won’t answer for the consequences.”
Jack probably could have gotten them to do what he wanted. Well, maybe. Maybe not, with these guys. She sure couldn’t.
The guy made some sort of signal that she didn’t see, and the guy with the M203 wheeled to open fire on her.
She definitely didn’t want to get hit with a grenade. Or a burst of rifle fire. She grabbed the rifle barrel with her tk and slammed it upward into the guy’s face. She went silvery too and shot fifty feet off to the side and behind these guys, just in case.
The barrel came up and smashed into the guy’s face. He got off a short burst of gunfire while the barrel was pointing straight up, and then the barrel hit him in the face so hard he went flying backward, while the rifle stayed hovering in the air.
Macho Boss Guy tried to put a couple bullets in her with his huge handgun, but as he tracked her motion, she swung the M203 like a bat and whacked him in the back of the head hard enough to knock him out.
That still left seven guys with guns, one of them with a gun you could use to shoot through elephants.
She smacked another guy in the back of the head with that M203, and then swung it the other way at the face of a guy with a machine pistol. He crossed both arms in front of his face to block the impact. When she hit him with the rifle butt, it knocked the gun out of his hand but didn’t knock him out.
She dropped to the ground so she’d have more tk to wield, and she picked out the guy who was aiming at her while trying to slide around the back of his car for protection. She didn’t know what he thought he was protecting himself from. She hit him and his car with a lightning bolt. It knocked him backward, and dropped the guy with the huge gun, who was still leaning against the hood of the car trying to shoot the girl.
“YAAAAH!” There was a ferocious, high-pitched scream, and Hanna came leaping completely over the middle car. She caught the guy who had lost his machine pistol right in the side of the head with a boot, and he went tumbling clear across the road. Before the guys on either side of her could react, Hanna had kicked one of them in the crotch and punched the other one in the solar plexus. Both went tumbling backward from the force of the blows.
While Hanna was beating most of the remaining guys to a pulp, Alex spotted the last guy trying to line up a shot at the little girl. Alex yanked the gun out of his hand and gave him a big zap for being a creep.
Of the entire team of nine men, only two guys tried to get back up, so Alex hit both of them with lightning bolts too.
She and Hanna both looked around, and no one else was moving. The girl was gone.
Hanna tapped her earjack and whispered, “In the bushes to the side of the logging road, your right, hoping we do not know where she is.”
Alex lifted into the air again and moved toward the bushes Hanna was talking about. She took her time so she didn’t spook the kid a lot. Even if the kid was probably totally freaked. Alex couldn’t imagine what shape she would be in if she had just been forced to kill maybe two hundred people. She’d probably be a basketcase.
And Alex could smell smoke coming from the trees and bushes on the sides of the road here. It wouldn’t take much from the girl to turn this whole area into a raging inferno. It might even turn into a forest fire if she just left it alone.
Alex hovered in the air over the middle of the road and looked at the bushes. She couldn’t see anyone, but she trusted Hanna. And Hanna had enhanced senses, like her sense of smell. Plus, Hanna didn’t lose track of stuff in the middle of a firefight. Alex really needed to work on her situational awareness.
Alex gently asked, “Are you okay?”
A little girl’s voice said, “Just back off, okay? I don’t wanna hurt you, but I will if I have to! I coulda blown up those guys’ cars and killed all of ‘em.”
Alex kept her voice soft. “Umm, I know. I saw what you did at that place.”
The girl sniffled, “I didn’t want to! But they killed daddy, and they tried to kill me too, and daddy told me to kill every one of ‘em and then go make sure they can’t do this to anyone else ever again. And that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Alex floated a little closer. “I could help you with that.”
“I don’t believe you. John said he was my friend, and he said he’d help, and he killed daddy
Alex felt sick to her stomach. How could this little girl’s life be any worse? Alex gently said, “There’s a very bad lady who tried to do that to my daddy and my mommy and my boyfriend too. And me. But I got help, and I saved my family, and I made sure everyone knows the bad lady is really bad. I could help you too.”
The girl sobbed, “I couldn’t save daddy! And they killed mommy too. And when I was little, I burned mommy. Daddy said it was an accident, but…”
Alex just wanted to cry for the little girl. “What’s your name, honey?”
“Ch-charlie. Charlie McGee.”
A/N: Charlie McGee, The Shop, the agents of the DSI, and the book “Firestarter” are all the property of Stephen King. (There is an author Stephen King in the Alexverse too, but he never wrote “Firestarter” or any books about The Shop.)
A/N2: King named the DSI ‘The Shop’ as a nod to A.E. van Vogt’s classic “The Weapon Shops of Isher”. You should read it, or his short stories it was built from. I also recommend ‘Slan’, ‘The World of Null-A’, and ‘The Voyage of the Space Beagle’, although you have to remember that van Vogt was a product of his time and of the Golden Age of sci-fi.