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Check,” I pronounced with some finality, clicking the pawn into position right next to Weird’s king.

Weird didn’t say a word, though a little frown creased her brow. Then she moved her king a space to the left. I moved mine a space forwards to trap her in the corner and had about a dozen computers scream in unison that that was the worst possible move I could have made. I didn’t particularly care, I only had the king and that pawn left anyway.

“Stalemate,” she said simply, not even looking for a way out.

“How many times is that then?” Gale called from the other side of our little rookery, pausing from bouncing her ball against a wall.

“Sixteen,” I answered after a moment. “In a row.”

Another thing never to play against us, chess. Weird and I had been playing for about three hours and neither of us had actually won a game. Admittedly I was using my powers a bit to work out my next move but then I’d get hammered within minutes if I didn’t. Besides I was fairly sure that Weird was doing something funny, though that doesn’t really detract from the fact that she is fearsomely intelligent.

“Can we play a different game now?” Cam asked from his own corner where he was working on turning invisible. So far he’d managed to make his middle and index finger disappear which was pretty impressive and probably broke a few laws of physics. Well, bent them at least.

“We can use my cards,” Tapper suggested, holding up the pack she was using to play solitaire.

“No,” Gale and I said simultaneously.

“We agreed no card games,” I told her. “You always win.”

“Fine,” Tapper sighed, shrugging and going back to her game.

“Hey Hawk, can I go out for a pizza?” Cam piped up suddenly.

“No!” we all yelled in unison.

“Aw, come on,” he whined. “I’ll fly really fast.”

“It’s not a matter of how fast you fly,” I explained tersely. “It’s the fact that there are roughly three hundred Erasers out on those cliffs all searching for us and they are not going to miss you suddenly appearing out of the rock, let alone landing if you somehow manage to get back.”

Oh yeah, didn’t I mention that? The lab was kind of out to get us with a vengeance. I was sort of hoping that the area would be safer now that the lab was gone but apparently the Voice was right about that whole, stirring up the hornet’s nest thing. Go figure. That was most of the reason that we were sitting in our hidey-hole at three in the afternoon bored out of our skulls.

“I’m hungry though,” he complained.

“Food’s in the hole,” Gale said, not taking her eye off her ball. “Don’t take too much though, that’s supposed to last us a week.”

“How are we for supplies anyway?” I inquired, resetting the chessboard.

“Let’s see,” Gale said, catching the ball and looking towards the ceiling. “We’ve got one of our week’s worth of food, ditto for water and Weird will probably be able to coax some of that out of the air if we run out.” Weird shrugged sheepishly as she said this, I guessed that wasn’t so much a ‘probably’ as a ‘certainly’.

“I’ve also unplugged all the lights,” Gale continued. “Disconnected the batteries just in case and I checked the paint, it should stand up to a reasonable amount of scrutiny, if they don’t get to close of course.”

“What about thermal imaging?” I asked, the thought suddenly striking me.

“I’ve got that covered,” Weird explained. “All the heat’s going into the cliff, that wall’s as cold as the rock.”

“You two have really thought this out,” I said after a moment.

“Heck yeah,” Gale said, starting to throw the ball again. “There’s no way I’m moving somewhere new, it was tough enough to get the barbeque into this place.”

“I thought we agreed never to mention the gas barbeque again,” I growled just as Weird suddenly sat bolt upright, tilting her head as if trying to hear something.

“I sense doom approaching,” I announced. “What is it Weird?”

“There’s someone on the cliff about four hundred yards away,” she explained frowning at me.

“Flying?” I asked, concerned.

“No,” she said, sounding puzzled. “Hovering somehow. Oh wait, he’s moved. Give me a sec.” There was an almost imperceptible inrush of air and I felt all the hairs on my arm stand on end as ‘something’ happened.

“He’s on a rope,” she confirmed. “What’s the word?”

“Abseiling,” Gale said grimly and I swore. That was very bad; I doubted very much that our brilliantly camouflaged hide would stand up to close inspection. At the very least the walls would go ‘clang’ if you kicked them.

“You know what this means don’t you?” I asked Gale and she nodded.

“Yep,” she said grimly. “It’s moving day.”

About five minutes later all the junk had been pushed to the edges of the room and we were sitting in a rough circle discussing how we were going to get out of this mess.

“Okay, so we can’t out fly them,” I surmised scowling.

“They’re faster over short distances,” Gale explained.

“Yeah, and they have more height to accelerate with,” I completed. “We also can’t out run them.”

“Because then they’re even faster, not to mention that we’d have to climb the cliff.”

“Not something we’d like to do,” I confirmed. “We can’t out swim them either.”

“Because they’re bigger,” clarified Gale simply.

“And I hate water,” Cam cut in and I resisted the urge to say ‘we know’ while holding my nose.

“And we can’t stay here because they’re going to find us in about twenty minutes,” I concluded.

“In a nut shell we’re screwed,” Gale said bluntly.

“Nice confidence there Gale,” I sighed. “Weird, can you do your teleport thing?”

“Not in here,” she explained. “If I did you’d all freeze to death long before it was ready, and it takes about twenty seconds to charge. The Erasers would be on top of us before I could do anything if we made a break for it. Also I’d probably manage to drag a few along with us if they were too close.”

“What about accelerating vehicles?” Tapper suggested.

“Well, that needs less energy,” she admitted. “But last time I did that it didn’t exactly end well.”

“I could get us a boat,” I said after a moments thought.

“How?” Gale asked incredulously.

“The internet,” I explained simply. “Give me five minutes and I can find one with enough speed to escape the Erasers, there’s only one problem though.”

“Yes?” Gale asked wearily.

“One of us will going to have to go and get it.”

“Great,” she said bitterly. “And when you do that we’re going to get about three hundred Erasers trying to barge their way in here.”

“Its worse,” I told her with the faintest hint of a grin. “I didn’t get round to buying any more ammo.” Gale glowered at me again.

“I might be able to hide Hawk leaving,” Weird said hesitantly. “I just have to project an image of the sea over him, and if we time it right it’ll seem he just appear out of thin air.”

“Any chance of some help after they start chasing me?” I asked hopefully.

“It’s exponentially more difficult to influence an object as it gets further away,” she explained and caught my blank look.

“No,” she said much more simply.

“Okay,” I said sighing. “Give me five minutes and I’ll get the boat.”

“Now why do I get this feeling of impending doom?” Gale asked suddenly.

“Eh, I stopped paying attention to that long ago,” I told her off-handly and then started to gather my things together.

***

“Okay, palm pilot?”

“Check.”

“Daggers?”

“Check.”

“Boat number?”

“Got it written down and memorised.”

“Wings?”

“I hope so.”

“Death wish?”

“Wouldn’t leave home without it.”

“Brains? Actually, never mind that one.”

“Thanks Gale,” I said shooting daggers at her. “Weird, how’s that projection coming?”

“Ready when you are,” she called back.

“Okay, Taps, Cam, do we have an opening?”

“Just give it a minute,” Tapper reported. “They’re just about to send down the next wave of abseilers so they’ll be distracted.”

“Right,” I said grimly. “With any luck I’ll be about ten minutes, but any longer than twenty assume I’ve been caught, and then you should fight your way out.”

“Not that anyone’s going to catch you,” Cam cut in.

I really wished I could share that optimism, but unfortunately I’ve been in too many fights with aerial Erasers recently and, while they may not be able to fly straight, the sheer number of them more than makes up for it.

“Ten seconds,” Tapper cried and opened the door, letting the crash of the waves into our home.

“Ready?” Gale asked, and I began to spool up the internet connection.

“Hell yeah,” I said, taking a step back against the far wall and letting the adrenaline rush through my veins.

“Go!” Tapper yelled, and I pushed myself off the wall, sprinting the short distance to the door and hooked the bridge of my foot across the frame, kicking with all my strength and launching me into the air.

The crosswind caught me a moment later, trying to draw me back towards the cliffs but at this rate I’d hit the water long before I had to worry about that. It was the Erasers I had to worry about. I flared my wings before I’d even gone a dozen yards and immediately let my left wing go slack, ignoring the lurch in my stomach as the world shifted and stiffened my wing at about ninety to the ground.  After the briefest moment my feather tips found the wind, swung my legs round to catch it across my wings and a instant later I was accelerating along the line of the cliffs desperately trying to ignore the feeling that my wings were about to be ripped out of my shoulder. Note to self: wings aren’t sails don’t treat them as such.

“They’ve spotted you,” Gale’s voice echoed suddenly in my mind with an uncanny similarity to the Voice’s, she’d insisted that we keep in contact so had a spare palm pilot.

“Right,” I thought, flapping once to launch myself away from the wall and flipped onto my front waiting for a sign that the Erasers were in pursuit, straining to listen over the roar of the wind.

A gun barked and a bullet whistled over my shoulder. That would do it.

I folded my wings back and dove, the acceleration pulling at my insides and I stole a glance over my shoulder to see two, maybe three dozen, Erasers jumping off various positions along the cliff, which considering that there were about three hundred in total could have been, I supposed, much worse.

I opened my wings early and gently pulled up, some small part of me really wanted to push the edges of what’s possible but that part of me didn’t have the fate of four friends resting on it. Maybe I’m getting more mature in my old age. My wing tips skimmed the top of a swell and I hissed as I lost a few choice feathers.

“Son of a…!” I snapped and flicked myself a few inches higher, stealing another glance over my shoulder and stiffening a groan as I saw the Erasers falling towards me, the lead about six seconds away. I was kind of hoping I’d get a little longer to build up steam but beggars can’t be choosers.

I flashed over the crest of another wave, letting my foot tap the very top and sending up a cloud of spray behind me, it hurt like hell but I wish them good luck spotting me through that. Three seconds to interception the computers chimed in and I pushed harder with my wings, desperately trying to plot the troughs in the waves and whipped my head round to make sure the Eraser was bang on target.

He was.

At the last instant I flipped left, slotting my wing perfectly between the crests of the waves, and he went screaming past me, hitting the water with an almighty smash and sinking like a rock. I pulled up into a wing wrenching turn and did a full three hundred and sixty degrees before levelling up, whipping through the column of water the Eraser had sent high into the air and arriving in the very centre of the clump of Erasers who were scrambling to see where I’d gone.

Hmm, maybe that should be chump of Erasers. I barrel rolled under an Eraser and flicked the heel of my trainer into his crotch, almost ripping my foot off but it sure as hell hurt him more, then accelerated away from the group which would now have to catch up with me the hard way, no more diving for them.

A bullet whistled over my shoulder and I dropped back down to sea level as the Golden Gate Bride loomed into view, skimming the waves as I did so and debating hugging the headland. It probably wouldn’t be smart; there was too much a crosswind today. I glanced over my shoulder again and saw the swathe of Erasers drawing closer and realised that, no matter how good I was, they were going to catch up sooner or later. Stupid Erasers and their freakishly strong muscles.

The computers were desperately running simulations, twenty seconds until the first  Eraser reached me, thirty to the bridge, four minutes till I reached the boat and I shouldn’t even think about heading inland. Another quick glance over my shoulder brought me basically face to face with an Eraser that was just about to sink his claws into my shoes and I resisted the urge to dive, that would be really dumb.

I flickered my wings and momentarily they were powering me up, not forwards, at any other speeds it wouldn’t have mattered that much but going this fast… The Eraser shot beneath me and I hoped against hope that none of the others were going to catch me unawares. There was no time to check anyway, I flipped a dagger out of its sheath and the Eraser did the most obvious and most stupid option available, banking to see where I’d gone and slowing down as he did so.

I screamed over him and the dagger tore through the soft flesh of his wing, slicing it right down the middle and I jerked it out moments before it hit the bone, I couldn’t really afford to lose a dagger right now. Another fleeting look over my shoulder showed me the Erasers desperately swerving to avoid their fallen comrade who was actually bouncing along the surface of the water and told me that I was at least going to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. Now I just had to think up a few more dare devil stunts and hope the Erasers were still slow enough learners that they came at me one at a time.

Five were right on my tail as I pulled up towards the bridge and the computers scrambled to give me the right angles, this wasn’t a trick I wanted to get wrong, or would actually be able to mess up twice. You may have never seen the Golden Gate Bridge so I’ll just say one or two things about it; one its red, so don’t ask me why its called the ‘golden gate’ I don’t know; two it’s a suspension bridge and that should tell you a thing or two about what its like to fly over it, and finally the road is supported by a honey comb of girders and if you were skinny enough you could slip right through them.

Of course it’s a little harder at one hundred and sixty with thirty or so Erasers hot on your heels, but the principle’s the same. One last twitch of my wings sent me on the best projected trajectory and I folded them as fast and tight as I could, slamming my arms to my side and holding my head high. Gale may not agree but there was enough in my head to make it really bad if I clipped it on a girder.

There was a sudden flash of red and then I was through, throwing open my wings and pulling up as hard as I could. One or two Erasers had tried to follow me and were now falling towards the ocean will various broken wings but the smart ones had ducked under and were about half a second away. I reached the apex of my loop, dodging by a hairs breadth one grasping Eraser and found myself flying full tilt towards the cables which would also, not be fun to hit.

I flipped onto my side and sliced through the gap between the wires, ignoring the crash of an Eraser who thought he had smaller wings and banked sharply. Not quite sharply enough though. I wrenched my wings back, almost loosing the tips to the metal and pushed down as hard as I could, launching me between the cables on the other side with about a quarter of an inch to spare.

It was worth it though, the Erasers were now caught on the other side of a double layer of cables and I doubted that any of them were good enough flyers to get though that, let alone keep up with me at the same time. At that point the wires fell away beneath me and the Erasers, in unison, grinned wickedly. Note to self: look further than your own nose.

I flipped onto my right side and dropped towards the Erasers, picking the closest one and working out angles. He reached out with his claws and, instead of dodging I locked my hands around his arm and wrenched it towards me. For a moment nothing happened, then I shot over him and his arm snapped back with a crack. Unfortunately it was at that point I realised I should have let go about half a second ago, we were going about the same speed but he was a lot heavier and that meant that physics was firmly on his side.

I let my wings go slack as I was dragged in a rough circle straight down, it was that or lose them. The computers were screaming projected trajectories at me as I was spun like a top but I could take a rough guess at when not to let go, and that was any point where I was heading towards the ground.

The sky suddenly flashed into view and I loosened my death grip on the Eraser’s arm, catapulting me into the air. The Erasers were still hot on my heels but for the moment I was okay and had just reached the apex of a climb that had cost me basically no speed. I folded my wings behind me and began to fall, right towards the Erasers, now this was going to be fun.

I flicked the edges of my wings, first fainting left, then right, then left again and slipped effortlessly through the first wave of Erasers. The second wave was right on their heels and I threw myself into a barrel roll to avoid grasping claws that whistled past within scant inches. I wasn’t really expecting the third wave and almost lost a wing when an Eraser suddenly loomed into view on a collision course and didn’t seem about to do anything to avoid me.

I guess I should really be thankful that there wasn’t enough to make a fourth.

I pulled up inches above the water and accelerated away from the Erasers, the San Francisco skyline was rapidly rising to my right and it would only be a minute or two before I reached where the boat was moored. Whether I’d reach it in one piece or not was still up in the air, but the Erasers were at least a reasonable distance behind and none of them were shooting which was nice. Of course aiming while flying is like target shooting on a mechanical bull, so I wasn’t overly worried.

One thing I may not have mentioned before, I can go one hundred and sixty with ease, doing that for a long period of time though… Well it’s like running a three minute mile and three minutes was about how much as I could keep sprinting. I was over Aquatic Cove before I even noticed the shore looming ahead of me and I glanced over my shoulder to see the Erasers lagging behind slightly. Maybe I couldn’t sprint for an hour but they were seriously tired and it didn’t look like they’d be able to keep up much longer.

Of course right now if I stopped they’d be on me in five seconds flat, I was going to have to lose them. I flashed over a small park and the cable car turntable and dropped to street level, there was no way I wouldn’t be spotted but right now I couldn’t care less. We were leaving soon anyway. I banked suddenly right and almost hit a building as I rounded the block, then nearly caved my skull in on a carelessly planted tree, stupid civic planners.

A block flashed by before I’d even levelled up and I went with the roll, flipping onto my left side and pulling up sharply to make a corner before doing a whole two hundred and seventy degrees to get back to vertical. A quick glance over my shoulder told me that I’d lost about half of the Erasers which was actually a little better than I expected but still landing was out of the question.

I rounded another corner at blistering speed and roared over a car park before skimming over a roof top and coasting for a block or two. The Erasers didn’t seem to realise that I wasn’t using the roads any more or at least I didn’t spot any following me, but it would only be a matter of time before one of them thought to get some altitude in order to spot me.

I dived into an alleyway, flaring my wings as I did so and felt the strain in my joints as I once again mistreated my wings, it was just to bad I was going a little fasted than I anticipated. I flung my wings back as the walls leapt up around me and my eyes locked onto a fire escape, specifically the ladder, just above ground level and a little flick of my wings sent me hurtling towards it.

This was also going to hurt.

My hands slammed into the metal and I winced as my shoulder screamed in protest, it wouldn’t kill me though. Suddenly something went ping and the ladder began to drop along its tracks, and I dragged my legs up as I swung scant few inches from the ground and flipped into the air, letting gravity cancel out my momentum and landed gracefully on the paving slabs.

Then my knees gave out.

A minute or two later I emerged onto the streets of San Francisco, nursing some interesting bruises I’ll admit, but I blended into the crowd well. Besides there was no way the Erasers be able to spot me from an inconspicuous height, unless, they were wolf/bird/ human hybrids, but I think Cam’s test group is a testament to how it’s really not a good idea to start mixing that many species.

It didn’t take me long to find the boat and I figured out to jump start it with my power with just a minute or so tinkering. Technically I owned it, but I wasn’t really going to wait around to get the keys off someone, so it was kind of a half steal. Besides I didn’t think they’d be willing to hand it over to a rather scruffy a thirteen year old and if they played their cards right they’d get my money and the insurance.

The boat itself was, as Gale would say, just the kind of thing I would buy. I won’t go through the technical details, mostly because I don’t understand them, but it had two outboard motors, four and a half seats and a big red stripe down the side, it could also do about one hundred and forty and that was without Weird super charging it.

After stalling it at least three times on the way out of the marina I finally reached the open water and gunned the engine, just as the Erasers spotted me. Oh well, you can’t win them all. Also, my phone started ringing.

“Shit!” I thought very loudly as bullets ricocheted off the hull and I ducked into the foot well, slamming the throttle forwards.

“Nice to hear from you too,” Gale snapped back over the sounds of a battle going on in the back ground, something very disconcerting to hear happen in your head. “Now where the hell are you? The Erasers are at the door step.”

“Give me two minutes,” I thought, glancing over my shoulder at the Erasers who’d fortunately stopped firing but were closing fast. “I’m on my way now.”

“What I wouldn’t do for a gun,” I sighed and tried to get a satellite feed of the area, not that that made any difference; the Erasers aren’t actually big enough to show up on a satellite feed.

I skimmed under the Golden Gate Bridge just as the Erasers caught up and I threw the boat into a spin, an Eraser streaking over me and I punched him in the stomach, flicking his gun out of its holster with my other hand. Okay I’ll admit it; sometimes my power can be cool, though I had been planning that for a minute and a half. I fought to get the boat under control as it fish tailed, pun unintentional, and I tried to fire at the Erasers but the gun only went ‘click’. Then I realised I had the safety on.

“Stupid thing!” I swore and opened fire bringing two Erasers down in a burst of feathers then accelerated towards the headland.

“Hawk!” Gale roared over the phone line. “We’re getting overrun. If you don’t get here soon Weird says she’s going to have to do something drastic!”

“Thirty seconds!” I yelled back, as I roared past the cliffs which couldn’t have been a dozen yards away, a stray swell could have dashed me against the rocks that point but there was no time to lose. Also, I didn’t quite realise that at the time.

It was almost a shock to see our hideout, mostly because it was crawling with Erasers, literally crawling, I could barely see the cliff face because of them. I had no idea how the others were going to fight their way through that sea of vicious wolf monsters. Quite frankly it looked hopeless.

Then the side of the cliff exploded.

I guessed that would be Weird doing something drastic.

I cut the throttle for a moment as the computers scrambled to make sense of the falling rocks, Erasers and miscellaneous junk that had made up our home and then, with spilt second precision I gunned the engine, diving headlong into the sea of falling debris. Gale was the first person I spotted, mostly because she still had the blue aura and was actually fighting an Eraser as she fell, the others weren’t hard to spot either and surprisingly Weird looked like she was still conscious, which given her track record is quite unusual.

“Head’s up!” I had my palm pilot roar to attract some attention, far beyond what it should have been able manage usually but given mine have a life of about five days I wasn’t overly worried about breaking the speaker.

A massive boulder smacked into the water literally inches away and the swell crashed into me, almost knocked me clear overboard and I only keep myself from landing in the drink by clinging on desperately to the wheel. It wasn’t fair, I’d already had my monthly bath.

“Stupid…” I began when another rock crashed into the back seat and I realised that not only had I dragged us off course but I’d forgotten to account for the swell from the rocks. That wasn’t good by the way. I desperately spun the wheel to avoid a rock the size of the damn boat just as Eraser crashed into the water right in front of the prow. I hope he dived because there was no way I could stop the boat in time and I definitely did not look back.

“Cool boat!” Cam exclaimed landing in the back seat and I resisted the urge to yell ‘shut up’. If I got distracted now we were sunk, literally. Suddenly I spotted a sheet of solid steel falling almost lazily right into our path and desperately I fish tail the boat to try and lose some speed, slamming it into reverse as I did so.

We didn’t quite make it, the sheet hit the water flat with a huge ‘smack’ and the whole boat juddered as the propeller slammed into it. The propeller came off worse.

“Shit!” I roared, and scrambled to unhitch the broken engine and move the working one to the centre, only just remembering to turn it off in time. See, I knew we were going to lose an engine somehow.

A rock no bigger than my fist slammed into the one remaining engine, knocking it out of my hands and leaving a foot deep dent. The engine then sunk like a rock.

“Oh come on!” I screamed at no one in particular just as Gale landed gracefully in the boat.

“Come on Hawk, lets get a move on,” she snapped.

“We have no engine,” I snapped back as Tapper landed silently next to Cam. “I hope you brought oars. And where the hell is Weird?”

“Here,” Weird answered also landing gracefully on in the back seat. “Why aren’t we moving?”

“Because we have no engine,” I muttered angrily. “Which is just great because that means we’re marooned in water that is not only infested with sharks but also pissed off Erasers.” A shot whistled over my head. “With guns,” I completed.

Also, no I don’t know how the guns were still working after being soaked in water. What do I look like, a metallurgist?

“Hawk stop bitching and get steering,” Gale growled, crossing her arms and glowering at me as Weird started drawing in power.

I got steering.

“Fine,” I said sulkily, sliding into the driver’s seat. “Everyone find what approximates to seat belts on this thing. Unless of course Weird’s learnt to be subtle.”

Something flicked me in the back of the head. Okay so maybe I deserved that one.

“I can do subtle,” Weird said darkly and suddenly we were skipping along the waves at about two hundred miles an hour and already past the mouth of the bay.

“See.”

“Well,” I said after a moment’s pause, looking over my shoulder for any sign that the Erasers were following us and not finding any. “I think this means we escaped.”

Have you ever been lying awake one morning. Knowing that you don’t have to get up for a little while yet, and just let your mind wander?

Yes.

Well have you ever realised something really obvious that you didn’t realise earlier?

“Damn it!” I swore sitting bolt upright and making Gale, who was sitting half asleep in a chair, jump.

“What is it now?” she asked blearily. That morning’s watch’s always a killer.

“I just thought of a really simple way that we could have gotten away from the Erasers,” I explained grumpily. “Why didn’t Weird just accelerate us?”

“Oh yeah,” Weird said, also waking up and thinking about that for a moment. “I thought you guys didn’t like me messing around with your forces though.”

“All rules can be broken,” I said rolling my eyes and digging myself out the blankets that had managed to entangle me in my sleep. Oh yeah, we’d checked into a hotel last night, after ditching the boat. Hopefully we’d be long gone before anyone tracked us there, though I’d still failed in finding a room with more than three beds. That was why I was sleeping on the floor, again.

“Including the laws of physics,” Gale pointed out, getting up and shaking Cam awake.

“Hey, I haven’t broken the laws of physics yet,” Weird said defensively. “It’s more like bending them.”

“Says the girl that can throw lightning,” I pointed out then immediately regretted it as Weird’s face fell.

“You can too,” she said in a small voice just as Gale pulled the sheets out from under Cam and he hit the floor with a bang.

“Anyway, now that we’re all up,” Gale announced, defusing Weird and mine’s conversation before it got ugly. “We should probably decide where to go next. San Francisco’s off limits for awhile now and… Actually, where are we anyway?”

“Somewhere between San Fran and Los Angeles,” I explained. “Basically from here we could head north into Canada, go back to the East Coast or head down into Mexico.”

“Any preferences anyone?” Gale asked, looking round.

“If the days are shorter in Canada, can I sleep in longer?” Cam asked groggily and we all ‘looked’ at him.

“I was just asking,” he said sheepishly and Gale shook her head sighing.

“Anyway,” she continued. “I’d rather not fly clear across the country again, and Canada’s cold.”

“Mexico then,” I suggested.

“Don’t they have mosquitoes?” Cam cut in.

“And what about Itex?” Tapper asked, speaking for the first time and probably asking the most important question yet

“Let me check,” I sighed, firing up my palm pilot.

“Well?” Gale asked after it had started up.

“Err… Let’s avoid Mexico,” I said after a moment, gingerly putting the palm pilot down. “And most of South America. I think Itex owns it.”

“Canada then,” Gale said sighing.

“You do know it’s really cold there,” Tapper pointed out. “Especially at this time of year.”

“Right, Japan it is then,” I said brightly.

“No!” Gale yelled in panic. “We are not flying across the Atlantic.”

“Pacific,” Weird whispered.

“Pacific!” Gale corrected, still shouting.

“Joking,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “Anyway if we can’t decide where to go why don’t we just let luck decide?”

“And how just would we do that?” Gale asked sceptically.

“Random number generator?” I suggested.

“Not with your electronic tricks,” she countered, pointing the finger.

“How about we spin a top?” Tapper proposed, getting up and walking over to the little desk which in my opinion just took up valuable sleeping space.

“We have a top?” I asked sceptically as Tapper grabbed sheet of paper.

“Soon will,” she said with a ghost of a smile and put a little mark on the edge of the paper. Suddenly, her hands seemed to blur and she half closed her eyes as she folded the sheet into a upside down pyramid and balanced it point down on the desk, it didn’t even wobble.

“Wow,” I said after a moment. “I didn’t know you knew origami.”

“Got to do something to pass the time,” she said softly, shrugging.

“You know we do have two telekinetics,” Gale pointed out.

“You can tell when the other’s using their power, can’t you?” I asked simply.

“Probably,” Gale said, sounding unsure.

“Yes,” Weird said, much more definitely.

“Okay then. Spin it Taps.”

She did.

“We’ll go whatever way it’s pointing, right?” I checked, getting up and walking over to the top which was still spinning, Tapper’s apparently quite good a making these things.

“As long as it’s not over the Pacific,” Gale confirmed, the top rattled to a stop, pointing east north east.

“Well you don’t have to worry about flying over the ocean at least,” I said, checking the bearing against Google Earth. “We’re going to Chicago.”

Gale groaned at the thought of flying across America again and I looked round to see Weird looking puzzled.

“Weird?” I asked cautiously, I’ve learned through long experience that if something’s worrying Weird you should start running.

“Nah, its nothing,” she said off-handly. “Don’t worry.”

“Really?” I asked, looking at her concernedly.

“Really,” she assured me.

“Okay then,” I said, brightening up. “Food time.”

***

We left the hotel quietly about an hour later, after massively exploiting their all you can eat breakfast buffet. They wouldn’t be happy to see us again but it wasn’t like we were planning to go back.

It was about four hours later and we were somewhere over the Colorado Rockies looking for somewhere to stop to eat when the computers pinged me.

“Gale, could I talk to you for a moment?” I asked quietly, flying as close to her as I dared.

“Yeah Hawk,” she sighed, dropping back slightly from the others. “What is it?”

“Err, I’ve been doing the Math on some of Weird’s tricks,” I explained, checking to make sure Weird wasn’t in earshot. Actually with Weird I don’t know why I bother anymore, but, if she happened not to be paying attention we’d be fine. “And well…”

“Yes Hawk,” Gale chivvied.

“Well, you know that near teleport-y thing she does?”

“Yes,” she said impatiently.

“The energy demand came out in mega tonnes.”

“What!” she exclaimed in shock, forgetting to flap for a moment. “You can not be serious.”

“Okay that’s the high end estimate,” I admitted, defensively. “Low end was enough to vaporise everything for about three blocks though. The trick with the Humvee dropped the temperature about five degrees for ten miles and I don’t even want to think about how much energy is needed to throw around lightning, let alone start controlling the weather.”

“Weird’s controlled the weather?” Gale asked, rubbing her eyes.

“Oh yeah, you weren’t there,” I said, suddenly remembering. “Yes, and by the time we got out of there the ground was freezing, you’d be surprised how much energy it take to simulate a thunderstorm.”

“Great,” Gale said angrily. “Any idea what she can’t do yet?”

“Chemistry,” I reported. “And she hasn’t yet figured out that matter and energy are the same thing.”

Gale paused for a moment, thinking that one through. “No,” she said after a second. “I’m not even going to ask about that one,”

“Good, because I don’t understand it.”

“Right,” Gale sighed. “So Weird’s powerful enough to take on a small country. Got any good news?”

“She’s on our side,” I pointed out fairly.

“Touché.”

There was a long silence in which I drifted close enough to the others to hear Cam’s eye spy game, which I had specifically forbidden until he learned to spell.

“Earth?” Tapper guessed.

“Nope,” he said brightly.

“Ear?” Weird asked.

“No.”

“What is it then?” I asked tiredly, swooping over.

“E,” Cam announced.

“No,” I said rolling my eyes. “What is it? Not, what letter is it?”

“Yeah, it’s an E,” he continued still beaming. “Look, down there.”

I glanced where he was pointing and saw that there was indeed, a large E shaped building nestled amongst the mountain tops.

“Hawk,” Gale asked cautiously. “What is that place?”

“I’m not sure,” I told her, peering more closely. It looked deserted, or at least there weren’t any cars nearby, or even within thirty miles. “I’ll find out.”

There was a moment’s pause as I did a quick scan of the internet for the building.

“Okay,” I reported. “The buildings owned by a Jeb Batchelder, employed as a lead researcher at a company with some major links to Itex up until two years ago, apparently he got the building as a parting gift but currently he’s currently in Florida for some reason or other, so the building’s probably deserted.”

“Probably?” Gale asked sceptically.

“He isn’t married,” I informed her. “And doesn’t have kids. This is probably the most deserted place in the country.”

“Does that mean we can stop there for lunch?” Cam asked hopefully, thinking with his stomach once again.

“Weird?” Gale asked, glancing in her direction meaningfully.

“There’s nothing moving in there,” she answered after a moment. “I don’t even think the power’s on.”

“Sounds like a good place to spend the afternoon then,” Gale admitted and Cam dropped suddenly, yelling.

“Race ya!”

***

Cam won, mostly because we were only a thousand or so feet above the building and I was still sore from some of my acrobatics yesterday. I’d have to get him back later.

The house was only loosely locked and Weird quietly unlocked the back door. I then loudly kicked in said door and burst into the room brandishing a gun and sending my eyes roving around the room for any surprises.

“Okay, it’s clear,” I called over my shoulder and Gale sauntered in, rolling her eyes.

“You do know that gun’s not loaded,” she pointed out.

“I do,” I countered. “But they don’t.”

“Who don’t?” she asked incredulously.

“The people who would be in the room, if it were occupied,” I said simply, as if it were obvious and Gale cradled her head in her hands. I get that reaction a lot.

“Is Hawk done being melodramatic?” Tapper asked, entering.

“Hey!” I protested.

“I’ve got a headache, so yes,” Gale answered, ignoring me.

It was my turn to roll my eyes and I went off to inspect the kitchen as the others set up for lunch. The kitchen was, odd, to say the least, despite being about as far from civilisation as you could imagine without leaving the U.S.  The table was set up for seven and for some mysterious reason there was actually a high chair tucked away in a cupboard, despite the fact that this Batchelder person didn’t have kids.

There were other, more subtle things off too. Two chairs left out from the table when all the others were tucked under, plates and glasses just left in the sink and there was even a half eaten can of beans slowly gaining sentience on the kitchen work surface. On their own they probably wouldn’t mean much, but the place looked like it had been abandoned suddenly. Not in a rush, but unexpectedly enough that things had been missed and that implied that something was up.

On the other hand the amount of dust suggested that the place hadn’t been used in months and when you’re on the run, nice dry places to stop and rest are at a premium.

The meal passed relatively uneventfully, though relatively may be a bit of a misnomer when just about everyone at the table is capable of an incredible feat, especially now Cam’s learnt to make the head of his loaded spoon disappear.

“Is this place giving you the creeps too?” I asked Gale, sitting back from the food fight that Weird was now dominating.

“Yep,” she confirmed as she telekinetically lifted the bits of tomato and instant mash from my clothes. “Now stop squirming or I might take a piece of arm off.”

I stopped squirming.

“Do you think Cam and Weird are through yet?” I asked after a moment, glancing over at Tapper who had, quite sensibly, moved out of the firing line as soon as the food started flying and was finishing her lunch behind the breakfast bar.

“Cam is certainly,” Gale said, gesturing at Cam who was waving a napkin in surrender and coated in a fine film of miscellaneous food.

“He didn’t think this through did he,” I sighed, standing up. “Anyway I’m going to check out the rest of the house.”

“I’ll get them to clear up this mess then,” Gale said, rolling her eyes. “We don’t want to leave too easy a trail for the Erasers to follow.”

“I’ll be back in a minute then,” I told her, and went to see what was up with this house.

The place really was, distinctly odd, every so often you got random stains on the carpet and I swear there were the traces of doodles on the walls, not to mention just how large and lived in the living room was. It didn’t look like somewhere a White Coat would live, especially from what I knew about this Bachelder person, though admittedly that wasn’t a terrible amount. If I’d had to call it I’d say the house had been occupied by a group of kids for some time but that didn’t make sense, we were about fifty miles from the nearest town and this place was so far off the beaten track that finding it would be impossible except from the air.

If you hadn’t guessed by now I had a sneaking suspicion as to who this house’s previous occupants had been.

I wandered into the corridor and pushed open one of the doors. Something immediately told me that it was a girl’s bed room, despite the fact that I’ve never actually been in a bedroom before in my life. There were two beds, both used; only one made and lying on the floor next to one of them was a very large feather.

I picked it up, a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was about three foot long, kind of cream, with brown blotches though not nearly as regular as my own. A mutant bird kid feather, I realised. No doubt about it, and if this place was a known haunt then it was only a matter of time before the Erasers showed up.

“Gale!” I roared bursting into the corridor and sprinting back towards the kitchen. “We’ve got to move!”

I skidded to a stop, almost breaking my neck as I skidded in a patch of pulverised food and grabbed Weird and Cam, catching Gale’s eye as I did so and somehow communicating just how panicked I was in an instant.

If the Erasers were watching the building there would probably be an ambush waiting for us outside any of the doors though, as they hadn’t stormed the place yet suggested that we may win a straight fight, either way, best to confuse them and do something unexpected.

I tore off back down the corridor towards the large widow located directly over a precipice, Gale quickly gathering the few supplies that hadn’t been devoured behind me and Tapper following in my wake. Also I was half dragging Cam and Weird who at least knew me well enough not to ask why we were running.

“Weird break the window!” I yelled in a rush, though it came out more as ‘Weirdbreakthewindow’, and slid to a stop as the glass exploded outwards, picked Weird up bodily and hurled her into the air before rounding on Cam.

I almost didn’t hear the ‘thunk’ but I saw the flash as Weird flared so bight that you couldn’t even bear look at her and I spun just in time to the lights die and her fall, a tranquiliser dart lodged firmly in her arm.

I hurled myself out of the window without a second thought, or possibly a first, and flung my wings open, flapping fast and angling steeply downwards. The second shot zipped past just above my trainers and I flapped harder, trying to get some element of randomness into my flight to shake whoever it was shooting at me. The third shot got clipped by my wing and went spinning past about an eighth of an inch from my eyes. I couldn’t afford to try and dodge, Weird was only a couple of dozen yards bellow me but we were running out of height fast and there was no time for fancy flying.

It was a shame really because fancy flying was exactly what I needed just then.

The fourth dart hit me in the side and I knew instantly as the numbness spread around my body that I was probably going to be unconscious before I reached Weird and definitely before I reached the ground, though that was almost certainly a good thing. But you know me by now, I’m kind of stubborn.

The computers started taking over from my brain as parts of it went numb, flight, vision, everything was fading and the computers roared to even get a twitch out of my sleeping limbs but I kept going. It was going to be close I realised, as the tree line rushed up to meet us and my wings pumped harder, throwing me forwards and I caught Weird under the shoulders. Then forgot just what I was supposed to do next.

The computers screamed at me and my wings slackened a moment, my legs swinging like a pendulum behind me and I spun, flaring my wings out of sheer reflex, shedding speed but not nearly fast enough. I think technically I passed out at that point, or at least I was only really thinking with the computers and it was difficult to even try and move. To bad I still had to land.

The trees loomed below me and I tried to pick out the easiest route through, a task made somewhat more difficult as I think my eyes were asleep, not to mention the fact that I was kind of limited on processing power. I flipped back to upright and furled my wings at the last possible second, lifting Weird into a death grip at about shoulder height and hit the trees with a crash.

There are many ways to fly through trees, falling far too fast through a really dense piece of canopy is not one of the ways to do it, though fortunately I was long past the point where my nerves were sending pain signals.

It would hurt in the morning though.

The branches whipped around me as I fell and I slammed my chin against my chest, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t hit anything big and that nothing big would hit Weird. Some rescue that would turn out to be. The ground suddenly rushed up to meet us and I hit with a bang, desperately trying to roll with it, and smacked my head into the earth. That was also going to hurt in the morning.

At that point Weird landed on top of me. Knocking out any breath I might have had left.

I lay there for a moment. I was technically, unconscious, Weird too, and I was running my personality entirely online but I wouldn’t be able to keep that up for long without getting in trouble. From what medical knowledge I could access I guessed that we were both going to survive but there was no way I could get myself to move, and that meant we were almost certainly going to get caught. The others too maybe, and there was nothing I could do about that.

I slowly closed my consciousness down, making sure I knew where every part of ‘me’ was, in two days I’d check to see if I’d reconnected, if I hadn’t then I’d have to come up with another plan.

It would be fine though.

If I woke up.

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