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Authors: Michael Carroll

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BOOK: Super Human
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Lance swallowed as he slowly circled the bench, unable to keep his eyes off the jetpack.
This has to be one of Paragon’s hideouts. The guy in the Pinto must have stolen his keycard or something.
He reached out his hand and ran it along the jetpack’s cold, smooth surface, then realized what he’d done and used the sleeve of his jacket to wipe off his fingerprints. From his backpack he took out the latex gloves and pulled them on.
But if the guy stole the keycard, how did he get the number for the alarm?
Lance stepped back and looked around. The shelving units were loaded with identical blue plastic storage boxes. He picked one at random and popped the lid. Inside was a pair of severed hands.
He yelped and dropped the box. It fell on its side and spilled out its contents—not a pair of hands after all, just a set of gloves. They looked like something a knight would wear: strong leather covered in small hinged plates that allowed the fingers to move. But the plates were made of some sort of hard plastic, not metal. Lance picked them up and pulled them on over his latex gloves, flexed his fingers, and punched his right fist into his left palm.
Lance grinned.
Nice! They’ve got to be worth a few bucks!
He put the armored gloves in his backpack and opened the next box. It contained a half-dismantled complex-looking mechanical device.
Too heavy to take, and I don’t know what it is anyway.
The next three boxes housed similar devices, but on the next shelf the boxes contained what looked like sections of Paragon’s armor: lightweight arm, leg, and chest pieces, all highly polished silver or chrome. Lance pulled out one of the chest-plates and turned it over in his hands. Like the gloves, it was composed of hinged sections and padded on the inside. He held it up against his chest, but it was way too big for him.
On the next row down he found something else he had seen that day: Paragon’s grappling gun—or something very much like it. The gun was bulky and heavier than it looked, made of a thick black plastic. A red gas cylinder was fixed to the back, and a three-pronged hook protruded from the muzzle. A thin steel cable trailed from the hook into a spool beneath the barrel.
Lance just had to try it out. He hefted the gun in his hand and aimed it at the far wall. His eyes half-closed, he squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened.
Probably needs to be charged up or something.
He put it into his backpack anyway, and resumed looking around.
The backpack was getting full now, so he knew that he couldn’t take much more. He felt a little disappointed at that.
I’m not going to get another chance to come back here.
He walked back to the workbench and stared at the jetpack. He knew that if he took it, it would be missed a lot sooner than the gloves and grappling gun.
It’s got to be worth a fortune.
Lance remembered a newspaper article about Paragon that had said no one knew exactly how it worked, but dozens of engineering companies all over the world were trying to duplicate it.
He reached out and picked it up. It was very heavy, but not unbearable.
He couldn’t stop himself: He slung the jetpack onto his back and fastened the clips across his chest. It didn’t seem quite so heavy with the weight distributed across his shoulders.
Lance grinned as he pictured himself soaring and swooping through the air.
Man, that would be so cool!
From the other side of the garage door there was a loud
. Lance froze.
That was a car door being closed.
A motor whined into life and the garage door began to rattle upward. Lance looked around for somewhere to hide.
Oh God . . . Paragon’s gonna beat the crap out of me!
He wasted three seconds trying to unclasp the jetpack, then gave up. He grabbed his backpack and ducked down under the workbench.
He heard a man’s voice say, “Marcus ain’t gonna talk, but that don’t mean we’re safe. They’ll have their forensics guys all over him.”
Another man’s voice, much quieter: “So . . . What, we’re taking
? That’s gonna take hours!”
“Go a lot quicker if you ain’t complaining. Start loading the truck.”
“But what’s the point? We’re not gonna
mosta this stuff now!”
From his position underneath the workbench Lance could see their legs, so he was able to tell which way they were facing as they moved about the warehouse.
The door to the front office was still slightly open, and it was only a few feet away. He figured he’d need five seconds at most to get through the door.
Come on, turn around, turn around!
Minutes passed, and Lance’s right leg began to cramp. The two men had made several trips out to their truck, but only one at a time.
Eventually, the one with the softer voice said, “Listen. . . . About Marcus.”
“What about him?”
“If the cops
get him to talk . . . we’re toast.”
“All the more reason to stop shirking and start working. If the cops find this place with us still in it, The Helotry are gonna come down on us like a ton of lead bricks.”
The other man muttered, “I’m more worried about Paragon finding us.”
“He won’t. Marcus’s stuff all got burned up with his car.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because we’re here and Paragon ain’t.”
“Yeah, well, I’m just sayin’. It’s taken our guys years to reverse-engineer his armor and jetpack and I didn’t even get a chance to try it out. If the schedule hadn’ta been moved up we coulda all had jetpacks and armor and everything.”
“Yeah, well, if Marcus hadn’t been dumb enough to take the thing out for a test flight, then Paragon wouldn’t have noticed him and he wouldn’t have got caught. So . . . Hey—where
the jetpack?”
Under the workbench, Lance cringed.
“I just loaded the crate inta the truck,” the other man replied.
“Not that one. The one Marcus was working on earlier. It was right here on the bench.”
Right now, Roz Dalton despised the “one thing at a time” limitation on her telekinesis. If she’d been able to control more than one object, she might have had a chance to get away.
Instead, she’d been captured. The gray men had rushed at her, knocked her to the ground. At gunpoint they’d cuffed her wrists and ankles, and carried her inside the power plant.
Now she was sitting on the unfinished concrete floor of a large room. Except for a single large wooden desk at one end, the room was devoid of furniture. The gray man who’d been wounded by his colleagues was now sitting on the desk as one of them bandaged his arm.
Roz’s brother and the Rangers were on the ground close to her, similarly cuffed. Whatever these guys had hit the men with, it was still affecting them. Max was lying on his side, moaning slightly, his legs twitching every few moments.
Ox and Lash looked to be completely unconscious. They too were on their sides. Lash’s mouth and nose were leaking a puddle of saliva and thick mucus onto the floor. His breathing was ragged, uneven.
Ollie French was awake, but not in good condition. He sat with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. He was shivering uncontrollably.
What did they do to them?
Roz wondered. Whatever it was, it had disabled two of the world’s most powerful superhumans and three highly trained former U.S. Army Rangers.
Roz’s wrists and ankles chafed from the cuffs, and her backside was numb from sitting on the hard floor, but aside from that she felt fine.
Her telekinesis was still working too, but there was no way it could help her now: Five of the gray men were watching her at all times. Like the Rangers, these men had also been well-trained: They said nothing, kept to the shadows so that she couldn’t get a good look at them.
A door opened somewhere behind her, and she heard soft footsteps approaching. A woman’s voice said, “Do not turn around. Understood?” Roz nodded.
“How are you feeling?”
Roz wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. She’d been expecting something more along the lines of “Who are you?” or “What are you doing here?”
“A little uncomfortable,” Roz said.
The woman asked, “Is that all?”
“A bit scared too. Is that what you want to hear?”
“No dizziness, nausea, muscle aches?”
“No. Aside from the bruises your friends gave me. And I need to use the bathroom.”
Roz heard the woman move closer. “So you are Rosalyn, daughter of the late Malcolm and Roberta Dalton. Sister to the famous Maxwell and ten-year-old Joshua. Max is a mind-reader; you appear to have psychokinetic abilities. . . . It will be interesting to see what powers—if any—Josh will develop.”
Without turning her head, Roz looked around, hoping to catch the woman’s reflection in a window or door. “Josh can create illusions so convincing that you can’t tell what’s real from what’s fake.” She forced a smile. “Like the illusion that you are still inside the Midway power plant and that your men have captured me. But the truth is that you’ve already been arrested. You’re in jail. Everything you think you see and hear is just a fantasy created by Josh.”
“Very clever. But you haven’t thought that one through, have you? Josh is too young for any superhuman abilities to have developed.”
It was worth a shot,
Roz thought. “What are you people
here? The power plant isn’t even operational yet. There’s nothing to steal. And you can’t escape—the whole area is surrounded.” But the fading footsteps told her that the woman was walking away.
Roz slumped forward with her head lowered, trying to give the impression that she felt defeated. But the gray men had cuffed her hands in front of her, not behind: She could see the cuffs, and if she could see something she could manipulate it telekinetically.
But there was a problem: She had no idea how the cuffs’ locking mechanism worked. She could see the outside of the cuffs, the strong double-chain linking them, but that was all. She concentrated on splitting one of the chain’s links. It wasn’t working. She could move the individual links, but not twist them out of shape or break them.
Physically Roz was no stronger than an ordinary human, and now she began to understand why she wasn’t able to use her telekinesis to lift very heavy objects: It was somehow tied to her physical strength.
Maybe that’ll change,
she thought.
When Max was my age he was only able to read minds. It took him a couple of years to learn how to control them too. Maybe my power will get stronger as I get older
. She let out a sigh.
A lot of good that does me right now.
I could be an Olympic runner. If I don’t tell anyone I’m a superhuman, I could be the world champion.
Abby de Luyando had kept to the alleyways and side streets as she ran, then increased her speed when she reached the open road. The nuclear power plant was twelve miles from the diner—less than twenty minutes after she left, she could see it high on a hill a mile away, its massive cooling towers tinted orange by the setting sun.
But she couldn’t get much closer. The police and army had set up roadblocks, and a dozen helicopters were hovering in place encircling the plant. Another two army trucks came roaring up the road behind her. Abby vaulted over the low fence on her left and ducked down in the long grass.
A voice right beside her said, “You know, you’re pretty fast, but I could hear you coming a mile away.”
She whirled around, but there was no one there.
The voice said, “All that jangling and clinking. It sounds like you’ve got a pile of loose change in every pocket.”
Abby raised the visor on her helmet. “Are you . . . Are you invisible or something?” Even as she asked that, she knew it couldn’t be true—the grass around her was undamaged. Anything invisible would have left a mark.
“No. Look to your left.”
Abby looked. She couldn’t see anything but fields and trees.
“I’m right here,” the voice said. “I’m waving. Look.”
Then she spotted it: At the far side of the field an arm was waving back and forth.
“I see you. Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the same reason you are, I think. I want to help out.”
“Stay put. I’m coming over.” Keeping low, Abby ran across the field. She was all too aware now that her chain mail made a lot of noise.
I’ll have to glue it all down or something.
“A little closer,” the voice said.
Then Abby saw him. A tall figure dressed in a skintight black and green costume. He was masked and gloved, but didn’t look that much older than she was. They stared at each other for a moment. “So . . . ,” she said. “Who are you, then?”
“Who are
BOOK: Super Human
4.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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