As she peered over Sky’s shoulder, Naomi’s breath caught in her throat. The man who had fallen from the tree was lying motionless, one arm twisted grotesquely beneath him and the other flung out, hand open, a submachine gun lying just beyond his fingertips, as if he was desperately reaching for it. He’d never stretch those last few inches, though: he was dead. The slackness of his jaw and the blankness in his eyes told the story.
The dime-sized hole through the centre of his chest was a bit of a giveaway, too.
“How did you do that?” demanded Naomi in a harsh whisper. “Have you been hiding some kind of tiny weapon?”
“Shh!” Sky placed a finger over her lips and perked an ear up. Then she grabbed the dead man’s gun and pressed it into Naomi’s hands.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” said Naomi.
Sky shrugged and whispered, “I don’t much care, as long as you don’t point it at me. Stay close.” She laid down flat on her stomach, edged around the tree, and peered along the driveway towards the house.
The brushed metal of the gun’s trigger chilled Naomi’s finger. Did people actually get used to holding these things? It felt so deadly, so alien, so wrong. Her heart began to race, and her hands trembled.
Still prone, Sky was ignoring her, evidently staring hard at something.
Naomi edged closer. “What are you…?”
Sky reached back with one hand and gestured for silence. Naomi swallowed the rest of her question and crouched down, pressing her shoulder against the tree. Shifting her feet, she accidentally stepped on the dead man’s corpse and stumbled. Stifling a shriek, she instinctively flung her hands out to arrest her fall, dropping the gun. It flew away from her in seeming slow motion, flipping end over end before it struck a tree root and discharged a three-shot burst with an ear-piercing thunderclap.
Naomi landed on her back, covering her head. By what seemed like a minor miracle, she didn’t seem to be hurt. Yet.
Get up! she told herself. You can’t just lie here. GET. UP. With a tremendous force of will, she opened her eyes and rolled onto her hands and knees. The gun was lying where it had fallen, pointed away from her. To her left, Sky had kept her focus, facing the house.
A noise drew Naomi’s attention: running footsteps were crunching over the gravel of the driveway. She looked for the sound and saw two more men in uniform, guns held at the ready, charging towards her with murderous looks on their faces.
Before Naomi had time to decide whether to go for the gun she’d dropped or leap behind the tree for cover, she heard Sky’s fingers snap twice and saw a red dot appear between one guard’s eyes and another bloom in the middle of the second guard’s neck. They crumpled as Naomi looked on in horror. She could hear gurgling gasps coming from them.
Sky charged out from the cover of the tree, hands held in front of her, ready to snap again. Arriving beside the not-yet-dead guard, she finished him off with one more snap of her fingers, then looked back at Naomi expectantly. “I said stay close.”
The tone of her voice left Naomi no options but to obey. She scrambled to her feet and bent to retrieve the submachine gun.
“No; leave it,” said Sky, rolling her eyes. “I wouldn’t want you to drop it again.” Turning back towards the house, she began striding determinedly towards it.
“Two more dead,” Griff reported as he sensed the nearby lives fading out into nothingness. “They’re coming up the driveway now.”
“How close are the rear sentries?” asked Francis.
“Still another minute or so out, at this pace. Too far away to stop the intruders before they reach the house, probably. But the intruders don’t seem to be hurrying their approach…”
“They think they’ve defeated our security already,” Francis suggested. “But we’re not out of tricks quite yet. Their overconfidence is just wasting their window of opportunity.”
“Maybe,” said Blondzilla, pacing the length of the kitchen and clutching the walkie-talkie in his beefy hand, “but I still think we should get you downstairs right away so you can recover for long enough to put up another illusion field.”
“We’ll have things under control before I need to put up another one myself,” said Francis. “As soon as Fiona gets here she can…”
As if on cue, her identical twin rushed in, eyes full of sleep and still wearing her pajamas.
“Speak of the devil,” said Francis. Seeing her sister reach for the Starbucks on the table, she snapped, “No time for coffee. Drop a field on the house—just the house, not the driveway or surroundings—and hold it for as long as you can. The guards just need enough time to clean up the mess outside.”
Fiona nodded, took a deep breath to settle herself, and closed her eyes.
“There,” said Francis. She stood, wobbling slightly—putting these fields up apparently took more energy out of the women than they liked to let on, Griff realized—and pushed her own chair underneath her sister, allowing Fiona to carefully settle down into a more comfortable position.
“Now the sentries have a five-minute window to handle things,” said Francis.
“I can make it up to six-and-a-half if I have to,” said Fiona between deep, even breaths.
Francis squeezed her sister’s shoulder supportively, but with a cool glare told Blondzilla, “Make sure they get it done in five. Griffin: follow our friends’ movements, in case they try anything ‘clever’. I’m going downstairs to talk to our van-driving guest.”
Griff and Blondzilla nodded acceptance of their orders, and Blondzilla quickly started relaying information over the walkie-talkie to the guards outside.
Well, that’s that, Griff thought. How can anyone break into a place they can’t see?
Naomi watched the building disappear from sight and shook her head in awe. What an incredible power! She thought they’d already gotten past the invisibility obstacle. Now it had simply been put up again, and as far as she knew they didn’t have any clever plans in place for dealing with it a second time.
But Sky didn’t miss a beat. She just kept stalking forward, placing one foot in front of the other until she suddenly spun on her heel and took three steps back towards Naomi.
“Um,” said Naomi, “where are you going?”
Sky shook her head. “Ah,” she said. “Went fuzzy for a few seconds there. It’s right about here, then.” She turned around again and shook her arms out like an Olympic swimmer preparing for the start of a race.
“The edge of the field,” said Sky. “If we figure they extended it about twenty feet away from the walls, and follow the line of the driveway to the garage, the proper angle should be just about…” She turned herself 45 degrees to her right and spread her arms out as wide as she could reach. “Oh, you might want to cover your ears.”
Then she clapped.