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.
A/N: I left this at FR13, even if Azure Crush does have a potty mouth.
Azure Crush looked at everybody’s expressions and asked, “What?”
Didi said, “Oh come on, Az, even I know not to say that. What happens as soon as the guy says that in a movie?”
Azure Crush looked a little abashed. “Oh. Right. Everything goes to shit.” Then she insisted, “But this isn’t a movie!”
Alex still said, “Just don’t jinx anything. Please.”
Graham announced, “All right. Didi, please let everyone at your mansion know where Azure Crush is, and that we’re going to protect her. Terawatt, run an aerial recon four hundred yards north and south, checking out the beach, and telling people to get off the sand immediately. Tell them it’s an HWAAA issue with possible carcinogens leaked into the beach sand. I’ll back you up on that. It’s probably even true. Lieutenant Lupo, see if you can acquire some ten or fifteen foot metal poles with spikes on the ends, and then work on a harness for Azure Crush and mounting that winch for her. Lieutenant Bailey, contact Captain Pearson and get a police cordon here until we can get the National Guard or DHS people in place. Sergeant Carlson, check with the local fire department and the state forest fire crews and the local HQ of the U.S. Forest Service firefighters, and find out what we’ve got to work with. Lieutenant Marshall, see if you can find something less dangerous than metaldehyde for our giant… mollusk. I’ll call HQ and get them started on all the inter-agency headaches we need to deal with.”
Alex figured that would mean calling Walter, who seemed to have ‘dealing with bureaucratic agencies’ as his superpower. Jack sure acted like it was.
Lieutenant Marshall suggested, “Sir, I’d like to call in a couple local geologists I know. They’ve got really sensitive seismic gear with directional detection, and it might be sensitive enough to pick up our critter at this range.”
Graham nodded, “That would be worth trying. Give it a shot before running through your anti-slug options and running them past the EPA TRI list.”
Azure Crush asked, “I know who the EPA is, but what’s TRI?” Alex was glad she asked so Alex didn’t have to.
Graham explained, “The EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. I’d like to find a way to handle this thing without creating an even worse problem.”
Az angrily asked, “Can there be a worse problem?”
He nodded, “Hell yes. What if it takes ten thousand gallons of carcinogenic toxins, and then half a million beachgoers and boaters are suddenly at a higher risk of poisoning or an incurable cancer?”
Az winced. “Okay, it could be worse.”
Alex drifted down so her face was at the same level as Azure Crush’s face. “It could be way worse than that. We now know there are biochemicals out there that can turn a clam into a giant man-eating monster. What’s going to happen if we dump tons of other weird biochemicals on top of that? We’ve seen some really horrible things, just in the last half a year. Right now, we’re probably lucky the entire southwest isn’t overrun by hundreds of giant tarantulas, and most of Japan and Italy aren’t being eaten by unstoppable silicates, and the whole northeast isn’t being devoured by a giant blob. And other really bad stuff.” Oops, she almost said ‘mega-bad’. No talking like Alex when she was in costume. That could be even more mega-bad. Mega-worse.
Az looked at her with a horrified expression. “You’re really creeping me out, lady.”
Alex said, “Good. Because there are worse things out there than Danielle Atron wanting me dead. Or you being mad at some silly little high schooler who didn’t roll over and play dead for you.”
Az stopped for a couple seconds and finally growled, “I don’t wanna talk about that shit. Let’s go harpoon this fuckwad and be done with it.”
Alex nodded. “You work with Lieutenant Lupo on making a harness and a winch to protect you. I need to fly recon for the Captain.”
She lifted up to about a hundred feet and flew to the middle of the beach. And she shuddered. “Tera to Miller, come in please.”
“Miller. I’m on the phone with Sergeant Harriman.”
She insisted, “Graham, there are circles all over the beach. From here I can see ‘em. Some of ‘em are old enough that they’ve been torn up, but there are a lot of ‘em. This thing may be hungrier than we thought.”
“Miller. You’d better make that recon sweep fast, and get people off the beach. The circles will at least let you know when you need to keep looking. Miller out.”
“Okay. Tera out.”
She darted north along the beach, scanning the sand for circles and beachgoers. If this was July, the place would be swamped with people. She was totally glad it was the start of November, and a school day.
Still, there were people out there. Alex flew down and hovered twenty feet in the air in front of half a dozen teens sunning themselves on blankets. She got their attention with an arc of lightning between her hands. “You need to leave this beach area. Please return to your vehicles and move half a mile north. We have a possible toxic waste spill down near the pier, with drastic consequences.”
One of the guys grabbed a handful of ice out of their cooler and yelled, “Fuck off, bitch.” He threw the ice at her.
She grabbed the ice out of the air with her tk and shoved it all into his swim trunks. He shrieked and jumped to his feet, shaking his trunks madly to get the ice out. His friends just laughed at him. Some friends.
She snapped, “That was impolite. And since I’m a deputized agent of the Department of Homeland Security, that also constitutes assault on a federal officer, which carries a penalty of ten to twenty years in a federal prison, so don’t do it again.” She didn’t think she really counted as a federal officer, and she had no idea what the right legal stuff was, but it sounded good. She went on, “I am only asking you to move north to another location, for your own safety. There is no reason to act like this.”
It must have taken her ten minutes to get the teens to just get up and get off the sand to go find a safer spot. It wasn’t like she was asking them to stop skipping school, or jump off a building. Come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t have been any crabbier if she really had asked them to jump off a building.
Crud. If it took her ten minutes for every group she found, she’d be out here until dark.
She moved north. She headed off three groups of people heading out onto the beach with picnic stuff, and she talked six old people who were just out walking their dogs into moving off the beach.
And there were more of those circles that looked like something maybe got sucked down into the sand. She flew until she was sure there were no more circles, and then she headed back.
“Miller to Terawatt. Sorry about that. I had a lot of tasks for Walter.”
“Terawatt. It’s okay. I was just worrying about all these circles.”
“Miller. That’s good. We should have the police here in a few minutes cordoning off the beach from the street side, and the harbor patrol blocking it from the ocean side. We’ve got two EPA guys coming to assess the hazardous waste angle with Marshall, we’ve got some local university geologists on their way with seismic detectors, and Marshall put in a call to an invertebrate biologist he knows at UCLA. So we should be ready to come up with a plan that hopefully will be better than ‘Azure Crush goes Captain Ahab on her own personal white whale’. Now I need you to clear the area south of our position, please.”
“Roger that. Over and out.”
Alex flew down the beach, past where Graham was organizing stuff really close to the sand. She flew past the pier and on south. There were more circles. A lot more circles. That just made her stomach clench.
And there were a lot more people. Oh, this was going to be bad. There were like a hundred people out on the beach, playing and sunning themselves and having fun. And totally unaware that they could be giant clam food in a few seconds.
She really didn’t like that being a superheroine meant knowing horrible stuff that no one should have to know about. Sometimes it seemed like she was pretty much all there was out there protecting regular people from mega-badness. She tried not to think about how awful Jack’s team would have it if there was no Terawatt out there to help them. And how awful would she have it if there was no SRI out there to help her?
She swooped down and arced lightning between her hands to get people’s attention. “Attention! There is a toxic waste spill north of where we are now! I need all of you to move south, to a section of beach that will be safer for you!”
It looked like maybe a quarter of the people immediately started grabbing their stuff and moving, like she asked. And it looked like maybe another quarter of the people were arguing with their group about moving. But maybe half the people were just ignoring her.
She made a bigger spark between her hands and yelled, “This is not a prank! This is a serious problem! I need you to move off of this stretch of beach, to an area well south of here!”
A few more people got up, but an awful lot of people were just ignoring her.
“There may be a serious threat in the vicinity! Please cooperate!”
Two girls and two guys who were almost underneath her got up. And they left their stuff. And they shrugged off their shirts so they were just in swimwear, and they started walking toward the water, instead of getting their junk and leaving.
Darn it! What was she going to have to do to get these people to listen? She tapped her earjack with her tk. “Terawatt to Miller. I can’t get these people to listen to me.” She hoped she didn’t sound all whiny.
“Miller to Terawatt. You’ll have LEO backup any minute now, and-”
The two girls and two guys walking toward the water were suddenly screaming.
Alex looked down and saw what was happening. The bigger of the two guys was sunk in the sand up to his crotch and screaming in pain. The smaller of the two guys was frantically trying to pull him up by the arms. The two girls were standing there like ninnies and screaming in panic.
“Terawatt here. We have clam!”
She dove down and dropped to the sand, as the guy got pulled down another foot deeper. He screamed like it really, really hurt. She stood on the sand, because she was going to need every bit of tk she had, even with the guy’s friend pulling. She put a hand on the guy’s shoulder just to try and reassure him, and she pulled.
She heaved with everything she had, but he didn’t budge. If anything, he sank another couple inches. She took a deep breath and heaved with her tk. She pulled until she got a painful spike of pain in her head, and still nothing.
She couldn’t pull him free. There was no way two hundred or so pounds of pull was going to pry him and his weight out of the whatever-it-was that this thing was using to pull him downward. And there was no convenient metal sign to ram down into the thing’s mouth so she could zap it.
Why hadn’t she grabbed a tall metal signpost? Maybe because she wasn’t smart enough? This guy was going to die because she wasn’t smart enough. Because she wasn’t good enough.
She heaved upward with everything she had, and all that happened – besides the pain in her forehead – was he didn’t sink any lower. Yet.
He screamed in agony, and the two girls screamed in panic. It seemed like a hundred beachgoers were screaming in panic.
She went silvery and dove down alongside his left leg. She had to use her tk to punch the sand out of the way instead of pulling the guy upward, which was going to be desperately mega-bad if this didn’t work.
She rammed into something slimy, and she hit it with a massive blast of electricity. It writhed like she was on a bucking bronco, and then it disappeared downward into the deep sand.
She slid up the guy’s side until she was out of the sand, and then she went normal again. The guy was still yelling for help. The guy’s friend was still trying to pull him out. The girls were still standing there panicking.
Was it wrong that Alex was wishing those girls were more like Azure Crush and less like Libby?
Alex stood on the sand and heaved with all of her tk. The guy slid upward until he fell back onto his pal, who was still pulling for all he was worth.
The girls really started shrieking when they saw his feet. Something had shredded the insides of the guy’s feet until the bones were showing. And even the bones looked chewed on. Crud! And if Azure Crush wasn’t bulletproof, this would have happened to her feet too. A tongue with spikes on it. Eww. A radula was a nasty thing.
The guy’s friend was saying, “Hang on Carter, we’ll get you to the hospital…” He looked up at her, “Thanks. You saved him. I don’t know what the hell you did, but you saved his ass.”
Alex finally realized that everything had been going on around her while she was trying to save ‘Carter’. Panicked people were screaming and fleeing the beach. Police cars with flashing lights were blaring warnings for people to get off the beach. An ambulance was pulling up alongside the police cars.
Alex told the guy, “Let me get him over to the ambulance right now, and I want all of you to run as fast as you can for those police cars.” She grabbed ‘Carter’, went silvery, and puddled as fast as she could to the ambulance before puddling up into the back of the thing and laying him out in a gurney.
Then she went silvery again and flew back to the three teens still sprinting across the sand toward safety. As soon as one of the girls fell over, Alex swooped down, pulled her into the silvery morph, and puddled her to safety. She figured she really should have had them stand still, and then she could have flown back to pull all of them into her morph to puddle them to safety. Even if she didn’t think the two panicky girls would hold still for anywhere near that long.
Alex made sure the two girls were looked at by the police, while the ambulance rushed ‘Carter’ off to the emergency room.
“Terawatt to Miller. We almost lost another beachgoer. This thing’s missed out on two meals in the last hour, and it’s likely to be getting even hungrier.”
“Miller to Tera. Good work. Interface with the LEOs and then get back here.”
Alex took a look at the police. There were four officers in uniforms and two guys in suits. The black plainclothes guy looked sharp and was dressed nicely enough to be a businessman going to a meeting. But the white plainclothes guy was shorter and fatter and older and looked like he got his suits at Goodwill, because that one sure didn’t fit him at all. And he was stuffing his face with a sandwich from a little wooden food stand set up by the sidewalk.
Which reminded Alex. She was now really hungry, and had a headache. She was going to need to eat really soon. The fish sandwich the guy was wolfing down would have looked really appetizing if the guy wasn’t shoving it into his mouth like a pig. What did his mom say when he went home to visit and she cooked dinner and he ate like that at the table?
She floated over to hover a foot or so off the ground in front of the two plainclothes policemen. “Officers, I believe that the two young women may be shocky, and possibly less than coherent. The young man is the only reason I had enough time to save their friend. He’ll probably be better interview material.”
The chubby white guy shook his head and took another messy bite of sandwich. In a heavy accent, he said, “Crap like this never happened back in Chicago.”
Oh! Right! The guy Lieutenant Lupo talked about. She said, “Unfortunately, stuff like this never happened anywhere before a year or two ago. Something similar will probably happen in Chicago before long.”
“Great, there go my retirement plans.”
The clean-cut one smiled and put out his hand in a handshake. “Terawatt, thanks for saving that kid. I’m Lieutenant Piantadosi, and this is Sergeant Royko. Can you tell us what we’re dealing with?”
She explained, “The chemical runoff from the Boyle Biochemical fire three months ago trickled out through the outflow pipe you have on the other side of that pier back there.” She pointed northward. “It mutated one of your mollusks. We have reason to believe that we’re looking at what was once a clam or snail, and is now a giant, man-eating monster.”
The chubby sergeant snarked, “So, if this is ‘Tremors’, I wanna be Burt.”
The spiffy lieutenant rolled his eyes at that and asked, “What can we do to help, besides keep people off the beaches? Is anyone at risk up here at street level or out in the harbor?”
She said, “Captain Miller of the DHS is just on the other side of the pier up there, and can answer all of your questions. But for right now, we just need to keep people off that sand.”
The chubby sergeant said, “I know a few perps I wouldn’t mind chasin’ out onto that sand.”
The spiffy lieutenant said, “That’s probably what happened to Diablo’s drug gang. They liked late night meets under the piers.”
The chubby sergeant complained, “Great, all we need is a giant monster that’s coked up too.”
The lieutenant said, “Just don’t start up again telling me it would never happen in Chicago.”
Alex said, “I’m sorry gentlemen, but I need to meet up with the DHS now. If you move north of the pier, you’ll find me there. If there’s anything else I can do, let me know.”
The chubby, old sergeant looked her up and down, and realized she’d caught him ogling her. He finally said, “Umm, never mind.”
Eww. She lifted off into the air and detoured over the beach to look for more people, just in case. Then she flew under the pier on her way back to Graham’s position. Even in the heavy shadows under the pier, she could see more of those sand-suck circles.
She landed beside Graham, who was watching Lieutenant Lupo fit an orange life jacket on Azure Crush, who was still wearing nothing but that little white bikini. There was a steel cable running from the back of the lifejacket, and going right to a big winch mounted on the front of one Humvee. Lieutenant Marshall was talking to three guys beside a panel truck that had a big USC logo on the side. Lieutenant Bailey was in the second Humvee, typing away on a computer while talking on a headset that wasn’t on their command frequency. Sergeant Carlson was setting out weaponry and tactical vests.
Graham looked at the police cars driving by, and told her, “Good work on that rescue.” He turned his head. “Bailey?”
“Already going viral on YouTube and half a dozen other social media sites. At least six different people got it on cellphones or videocameras. CNN’s running with it right now. We’re going to be deluged with reporters in a matter of minutes.”
Alex groaned, “Oh great. Can I get something to eat before reporters show up and watch me stuffing my face?”
Graham smiled and pointed, “The cooler and the warming box in Hummer Two.”
She flew over and hopped into the back seat of the Humvee. Somebody was thinking about her, because there were a couple dozen fast food sandwiches that were piping hot and really chock full of calories. She had a fried chicken sandwich with bacon and ranch dressing and swiss cheese, then a couple bacon double cheeseburgers. She washed that down with a diet coke and a couple Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars out of the cooler.
Lieutenant Bailey looked over from his computer screen and asked, “Why do you eat five thousand calories and then have a diet coke?”
“I like diet coke. It just tastes better,” she defended herself. “Well, I think so. And I like the bubbliness.”
He shrugged, “I’m not knocking it, I was just curious. I mean, I like Mountain Dew Baja Blast, even if it’s really hard to find anywhere.”
She’d tried Baja Blast and Code Red, and she didn’t really like either one. Regular Mountain Dew was just barely okay. She didn’t really think Baja Blast went that great with the food at Taco Bell anyway, but it was better than those solid blue drinks that were raspberry. And anyway, blue stuff should taste blue, not raspberry. Blue raspberry was just weird, even if everyone said it was the ‘in’ color for raspberry flavoring. No, raspberries should be a beautiful red. Well, that was what she thought. And anyway, she was sure her dad or Annie could make a perfect raspberry flavoring that was the right color, if they really tried.
Her tPhone went off. She should have known Willow would pick this up off the news and the internet. “Terawatt here.”
Acid Burn worried, “Are you okay? You’re all over the trending, and they’re showing clips of your rescue on MSNBC and FOX and CNN, and what the heck is that thing?”
Alex said, “Well, you were right. There’s a mutated monster eating anything that walks on the sand.”
“So it’s sorta like a great big antlion?”
Alex told her, “Lieutenant Marshall thinks it’s a mutated clam or slug.”
“Eww! How much slug poison do you have to drop on a giant slug big enough to swallow people?”
Alex shrugged, “I dunno. Lieutenant Marshall’s trying to work that one out. The EPA’s probably not gonna be happy with us if we poison all of the L.A. Basin to get this thing. And Azure Crush is helping out, but she wants to go harpoon it.”
“Is she gonna change her name to Ahab? Thar she blows, cap’n! It’s the white whale!”
Alex said, “Graham already did the ‘Moby Dick’ joke.”
“Oh poo. What about a ‘Tremors’ joke? ‘Dune’?”
Alex groaned, “Please, all we need is a giant sand-thing a mile long.”
“Sorry. Oh! Oh! New clip uploaded! This one’s really clear, somebody’s got really good focus for someone running like hell away from the scene. And there’s a bunch of stills up on Tumblr and Instagram and like that. You look really heroic.”
Alex quietly admitted to her friend, “I was afraid I wasn’t gonna be able to save that guy.”
Willow bubbled encouragingly, “But you did, and who else in the whole world could’ve saved him and not got eaten too? Really?”
Graham’s voice cut into the chat. “Terawatt? We have reporters inbound, and they’re going to want to talk to you.”
“Ugh, gotta go,” Alex sighed. She popped open the door of the Humvee and flew out.
Ooh, Graham wasn’t kidding. There were reporters and cameramen from all the local network affiliates, which in Los Angeles meant big-time reporters. Plus CNN and Fox News and a whole bunch of others. AP, UPI… Wait, Reuters? Reuters had an office in Los Angeles? She needed to know stuff like that.
Alex went to her earjack. “Tera to Miller. What do I say about the thing?”
“The truth. Down to the giant mutant mollusk part. We’re likely to have a dead monster lying on this beach sometime in the next couple days, so I don’t see how lying now will help anyone.”
“Terawatt! Terawatt! Can we have a few minutes of your time?”
Alex sighed inwardly, put a fake smile on her face, and flew toward the reporters and cameras. “You may have a few minutes, but as soon as our gear is ready, I am going to be needed on the beach.” She pointed at a pristinely made-up woman in an expensive suit and a pair of really cool Jimmy Choos that Alex knew she couldn’t afford. “Let’s do one question per person please, starting with you.”
“What can you tell us about this crisis and how you are involved?”
Alex sort-of-fibbed just a tad. “Yesterday, a very odd police report was filed here, and it flagged in the computers of the Department of Homeland Security. The designated agency found a host of very odd-looking occurrences all centered on this beach and this timeframe. Since Boyle Biochemical burned down three months ago, with possible toxic or mutagenic runoff into the city storm drains which empty out right here there has been a drop in the local homeless population, a drop in the stray animal population, and a drop in illegal nighttime activities on the beach. That went with a sharp increase in missing persons reports centered right here. They then contacted the local authorities and gained permission to study the problem. The HWAAA of the DHS asked me to assist, because they were concerned that it might fall into my bailiwick. It appears that they were right.”
“What is the supervillainess Azure Crush doing working with the federal government out there? Isn’t she your arch-enemy?”
Alex said, “Azure Crush may have fought me – once – but she is not my arch-enemy, or even any kind of enemy. She is currently in protective custody. She came out here to see if we were snooping into her personal activities. When she walked out onto the beach, she was very nearly this creature’s next victim. When she found out that this thing might be eating homeless people, she was extremely concerned, and insisted on helping the government’s efforts.” Maybe that was putting it nicely, but Alex didn’t see why she needed to be mean about it.
“Exactly what are you dealing with here?”
Alex explained, “Based on tissue samples we recovered when we rescued Azure Crush, a government scientist has deduced that we’re dealing with a giant, mutated invertebrate. A mollusk of some kind. Think of it as a giant, man-eating clam or slug. Or, at least, it was once something like that, before it was exposed to massive doses of mutagenic chemicals.”
“How are you going to deal with this monster?”
Alex said, “Azure Crush and I are going to go ‘fishing’ on the beach and see if we can catch it. Meanwhile, HWAAA scientists are consulting with the EPA and invertebrate biologists to try to come up with a safe chemical they can spray all over the beach that will incapacitate or kill this thing before we have more loss of life.” She put her finger to her earjack and tilted her head, then she lied, “I’m sorry, but I have no more time for questions right now. Please stay behind the police cordon where it will be safer.”
She flew thirty feet up into the air and soared over to where Lieutenant Lupo and Azure Crush were waiting.
Azure Crush growled, “What did those bloodsucking fuckheads want?”
Alex warned her, “They’re probably going to have parabolic mikes on us, so you might want to watch what you say.”
Az shrugged like she couldn’t care less. “You ready to go dig up a clam?”
Alex said, “I’m willing to give this a try.”
Lieutenant Lupo told them, “All right. I’ll be at the winch, listening on the comms. If either of you says the word ‘rescue’ I’ll engage the winch and pull Azure Crush free.”
Az fiddled with the earjack in her right ear and complained, “Wearing one of these makes me feel like I’m a secretary.”
Lieutenant Lupo smiled, “The world’s most dangerous secretaries. Tonight on FOX.”
Az cracked a smile, “Good one.” She frowned at the beach, “Let’s go hunting.” She picked up a fifteen foot metal pole with a spool of heavy cable hanging on one end. Alex used her tk to unspool the cable so she could hold one end in her hand and Az could have easy use of the pole.
A voice came over her earjack. “Miller to team. We’ve got two Tanker 910’s coming in from different directions. That means we’ve got two modified DC-10’s, each with about twelve thousand gallons of doped water, and they’re going to water-drop simultaneously from both ends of our stretch of beach toward the middle, to pen this thing in and poison it. Marshall assures me that what they’ve added to the water won’t hurt mammals, but will nail every mollusk on this stretch of beach for months to come. When I give you the signal, you’ll have thirty seconds to get off the beach or get bombarded.”
“Roger that,” Alex said.
Lieutenant Marshall contributed over the comms, “The chemical should only have effects on Mollusca nervous systems, so the thing will have trouble sensing. And controlling its movements. But it’s going to wipe out the clam population on this whole stretch of beach.”
Az growled, “Fine. Like I care. Let’s do this thing.” She stomped out onto the sand and headed as if she wanted to get to the ocean waves.
Alex flew twenty feet above her, letting the cable dangle limply in case Az got pulled down a couple feet. The last thing Alex wanted was to have the cable yanked out of her hand before she could shock the creature and get Azure Crush loose.
Az stomped hard on the sand, punching at least half a foot down with every step. “How long you think we got?”
Alex flew overhead, looking for any signs of movement under the sand. “No idea. But when Captain Miller says to head for the cars, run
Az took another couple steps. “What do you care? You can jet over there in like a second.”
Alex explained, “They said this chemical is safe on humans. That doesn’t mean it’s safe on humans who have been mutated by GC-161. Like you.” She didn’t mention herself, because she figured one of the news teams probably had parabolic mikes on her and Azure Crush by now.
Az stopped to think it over, and she swore. “Oh fuck.”
“Oh FUCK!” Az suddenly dropped two feet into the sand.
Miller’s voice came over the earjacks. “Thirty seconds.”
“Fuck and a half!” Az swore. She raised her pole and slammed it down with both hands. It sank six feet into the sand.
“Clear!” Alex yelled, and Az yanked her hands away. Alex hurled a massive electrical charge into the cable.
The sand lurched, and then boiled upward. Azure Crush was thrown thirty feet through the air.
It erupted out of the sand. It was a cylinder two or three feet across and fifteen feet high, with a ‘mouth’ at its top that opened up like a huge, hungry lilypad. The pole was still embedded in the open ‘mouth’, so Alex gave it another massive jolt. It convulsed uncontrollably.
Lieutenant Hank Marshall glanced at the geologists sitting looking at their monitors. He knew Frank from grad school, even though they hadn’t been in the same department. Frank’s friends Dean and Doug had planted half a dozen packages along the edge of the beachfront. Each package had a ruggedized seismometer hooked up to a cellphone and an extra battery. The cellphones provided GPS information and timestamps, plus they sent the signals as regular data streams, so the system only needed a couple phones and computers on this end to download the info and integrate it. The signals came in to the computers at the speed of light, but seismic waves were far slower than that, moving within an order of magnitude of the speed of sound in air. The computer could pinpoint the epicenter of the seismic waves just by putting together the times that the waves got to the different seismometers.
Frank said, “Yup, here we go, we got that sucker right in the middle of the sector.”
Dean disagreed, “No, it’s down in the south end.”
Doug pointed at his screen and insisted, “Unh-uh, I can trace it on the north end.”
Dean froze. “Oh shit. I got two
epicenters in the south part.”
Doug choked, “I… I think I have three.”
Frank grinned, “Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even GOD has never seen!” He looked at the dead silence all around him. “What? It’s a great line!”
Alex hit the thing with another jolt, and it tried pulling itself back into the sand.
She looked around, and choked when she saw what was coming her way. Two jets flying toward her dumping thousands of gallons of water as they flew, and down on the ground, heaving tracks coming from both directions in the sand. She yelled into her earjack, “Rescue!” Then she darted for the Humvees.
Az scrambled to her feet. The thing was big, and she had no idea how much of it was still under the ground. What she wanted to do was take another fifteen foot pole and punch it through the thing’s neck like a sewing needle through an earlobe. Let the fuckhead try and get away with something like that holding it in place.
Why the hell was Terawatt yelling that over the ear-things? They were doing great, and she didn’t think the water from the jets would do more than get her wet. But…
She was suddenly yanked off her feet and dragged backward at maybe thirty miles an hour.
Fuck, she was gonna have so much sand in her bikini bottom…
Jo Lupo slammed the winch into high gear. The jets were dumping their loads on the sand, and she had no idea if that shit might have any effect on a GC-161 case like Azure Crush. Or Terawatt.
She slapped the control, and the winch stopped with Azure Crush maybe ten feet from getting dragged across the asphalt at the edge of the beach.
Marshall’s voice blared in her earjack. “Marshall here. We don’t have one target. We’ve got at least SIX.”
“Terawatt to team. And they’re incoming.”
“Miller to team. Saddle up. Heavy loads. Carlson, dole ‘em out.”
She’d been hoping for a piece of this. It looked like she was going to get one.