Mike created a windbreak with the forward edge of his corona as he carried his team forward at insane speeds. The ground sped by far below. His people had clung to one another in order to hide their faces from the wind long ago. Or maybe it only felt like long ago. Despite his windbreak, despite his heating of the air, and despite his hardened body, their passage felt like hell to him. It would be worse for the others. Tracy and Smith had claimed the two motorcycle helmets that Sam and Jess had brought to them weeks ago and most of the others had the ability to harden themselves, but Joe the cop had no way to protect his face other than hunching down into his jacket until he looked like a headless man.
They had all complained when Mike first seized them with his corona to speed up their face. Since then, terror and wind had stolen their voices. Mike once more considered dropping his people off to complete this journey on his own. The idea was stupid, he knew. If he truly cared about saving lives, he needed to bring every resource he could into battle. Sparing people he cared about would externalize the cost to strangers unable to defend themselves. It would also delay his team seeing combat, which in the long run would be bad for them, bad for the EDA, and bad for the world. They needed the experience and Mike needed to see how his tactics matched up to reality.
Another swath of city concrete came into view along Route 270 South. By the sound of sirens and the circling of military aircraft above, Mike identified it as Washington, D.C. He slowed their pace, both to decide on their path and to give his troops time to recover from their ordeal. He had taken hours to fully recover after his aerial sprint with Marius, and that had been an easier pace than the one Mike forced his team to endure. As their streak became a glide, a helicopter rose upwards in their path, black chassis glinting in the afternoon sun as it rotated to face its side door at them.
Mike prepared to move laterally if they were shot at even as he slowed to a stop. He stared at the helicopter, prepared for either a showdown or cooperation.
A man leaned out the side of his ride and pointed South. After a moment, a loudspeaker clarified the intent of the gesture. "Arlington Cemetery."
The nerves within Mike stilled as a cold rage rose. He had never been to the national cemetery. He had never even given much thought to it. But learning that Nallit's latest batch of recruits had chosen to attack a place dedicated to servicemen and women who had given their lives for their country . . . . Perhaps he was wrong to find that so much worse than the attacks made against the living. Nevertheless, he would punish these hateful terrorists for their disrespect.
He flew closer to the helicopter, stopping when he was in shouting range. "How many are there?"
"We don't know. They are dressed as civilians. They don't show off their power."
Mike scowled. "How do we find them?"
"We need to prevent them from hitting the Pentagon. Follow us. We will take you to the boundary between Arlington and Pentagon."
Mike tailed the helicopter as it began to move forward, bringing his people forward so that he could shout a conversation with them. "We are going to use a bird formation. Smith is on the leftmost wingtip carrying Jess. Spencer is on the rightmost wingtip carrying Cody. When we encouter hostiles, I move forward to attack while the rest of you touch down to guard our flanks. Engage enemy combatants at will, but do so in teams of two or more. Use meme blasts and brain pushes together. And very important -- stay a safe distance from my fight. I will be swatting anything flying out of the sky with extreme prejudice."
Wide eyes stared back at him. They were still hyperventilating from the low oxygen conditions of their flight and now had the stress of their first battle to deal with. Less than a month prior, that had been him, fighting for his life against an ignited kinetic at a penitentiary. He intended to say something inspiring or comforting or even just distracting. But the enemy did not give him the chance.
A corona reached out in an instant and swatted at the helicopter. Mike spiraled around through the loop dimension to get upwise and suppressed the foreign power from doing more than stirring up some minor turbulence. "Contact with the enemy!" Mike darted forward as soon as the words left his mouth, racing in the direction the corona came from, wrestling every inch of it that came into contact with his into immobility until he had the source of the kinetic power in his grip. A massive man with shaved head sneered up at him, wearing cheap dress clothes that clashed with the tattoo of a swastika on his neck. Corpses littered the ground around him.
Before Mike could squeeze the man into paste, three of the corpses jumped to their feet, emanating coronas every bit as powerful as the first man. Mike spared a moment to suppress those as well, and almost fell from the sky when a stream of bullets tore into him from the shadow of a nearby building. He spared a moment to check his hardened body for injuries before stretching out his kinetic talent to forever silence the machine gunner with a savage twist of the neck. Behind him, an thunderous explosion announced the death of the helicopter. He spared a glance back to see his people fighting a swarm of hostiles who had appeared from nowhere.
A flicker of movement caught his attention. Mike turned his attention to the rapidly approaching blip. His vasted mind was able to identify a grenade without a pin just feet away from his face. It blossomed into fiery violence.