Page 23 of Extras (Uglies 4)

And somehow she doubted it was Rangers overhead.

The car wheeled violently, dropping in front of them. The grass shimmered underfoot, roiling in the tempest of the lifting fans. Whirlwinds of dirt rose from the baselines of the baseball diamond.

Through the windshield, two drivers gazed back at her with a strange calm - their eyes set too wide apart, their skin pale and hairless, just like the ghastly faces in the tunnel.

She stumbled to a halt. Like Miki had said that night, they didn't look human.

Frizz pulled her back into a run, angling around the hovercar. Flying dust forced her eyes half-shut, and her dress billowed like an open parachute around her.

As the car settled to the ground, its side split open, spilling a wedge of light across the field. Two more figures stood silhouetted inside, visible for a moment among rolling clouds of dirt.

Then Aya heard a cry - Ren and Hiro zooming out of the dust storm, two empty hoverboards following them.

"I've never ridden one of those before!" Frizz shouted.

"Just stick with me!" Aya leaped onto a board, pulling him on behind her. They veered wildly for a moment, Frizz swaying like a littlie on a balance beam.

"Stay close or they'll jam you!" Ren yelled, waving the trick-box as he shot past.

Aya leaned into a hard turn, following Ren and Hiro. She felt Frizz's arms wrap around her, his body pressing close as they gathered speed.

Behind them, the whine of the hovercar rose again, the wind of its fans battering the air. Aya thrust her arms out wide, wishing she hadn't worn platform shoes tonight. At least the last two weeks were paying off: Riding double through a roaring wind wasn't half as tricky as mag-lev surfing.

Frizz's extra weight was a problem, though - Hiro and Ren were pulling away. Aya leaned forward, urging the board faster. If they fell too far behind Ren, they'd drop like the jammed hovercams.

And they weren't even wearing crash bracelets...

"Hold up!" she shouted, but the scream of the pursuing car erased her words.

Luckily, the mansion wasn't far away now. She could see partygoers on its roof watching the chase, probably wondering what sort of publicity stunt this was.

The hovercar roared overhead again, the wash of its fans sending her and Frizz into a series of serpentine curves. Aya twisted her body, barely keeping them onboard.

"Up there!" Frizz shouted.

Two figures had jumped from the open hovercar door, their freakish arms and legs splaying wide as they fell through the air. They hover-bounced, spinning in the whirlwinds beneath the car, but quickly gained control. Aya spotted lifter pads bulging from their thin-limbed bodies.

"They're wearing hoverball rigs!" she shouted. "Not good!"

The figures were zooming toward them now, riding the car's wash like windsurfers in a gale.

"Hold on tight!" she cried, and spun the board into a quick reverse, heading back across the field.

Frizz's arms wrapped around her tighter, his weight shifting with hers.

But the inhumans were closing the gap quickly. When Hiro and Ren turned to follow, the spindly figures shot past them without a second glance.

Aya Fuse was who they wanted.

She headed for the nearest trees, trying to urge the board faster. But it was a city toy, nothing like the Sly Girls' high-speed boards.

The trees rose up before them, and Aya twisted from side to side, banking between thick trunks.

Beams of light from the hovercar stabbed through the leaves, scattering bright coins across the forest floor.

Frizz's lips pressed against her ear. "Why aren't we crashing?"

Aya blinked - Ren and Hiro had to be fifty meters away.

"Of course!" she cried. "They had to stop jamming to use their rigs, which means...Moggle, come here! I need you!"

"Aya!" Frizz shouted. "On the right!"

One of the figures was swooping down at them, long fingers splayed like talons. Frizz dropped down, pulling both of them into a crouch as the figure swept past.

"Ouch!" Frizz flinched behind her. "Something stuck me!"

"What?" Aya stood again, pulling the board into another hard turn. She craned her neck to look at him. "Are you okay?"

"I think so. But I feel a out!"

Aya whipped her head around to find the other inhuman waiting directly ahead, arms out wide, fingertips glistening with needles.

She twisted her whole body to one side, banking the board to a halt. But Frizz's body was going limp, his arms slipping from around her waist.

"Frizz!" she called out, but heard only a groan in response...

And then he was toppling from the board.


She reached out to grab him, but he was already tumbling through the air. He flew straight into the waiting inhuman, their bodies colliding with a grim thud. The spindly figure crumpled, its long arms wrapping around Frizz, both of them flying backward into the darkness.

Suddenly free of his weight, the board went into a lopsided spin. Tree trunks whirled around Aya, sharp branches whipping her face and hands. She knelt and clutched the edges, letting the board gyrate its momentum away.

When it had slowed a little, Aya let go and rolled off into the leaves. She stood and ran to where the two figures lay sprawled and unmoving on the forest floor.

Her eyes were drawn to the inhuman's strange face. His skin was pale, his arms thin and weak-looking, but the needles on his fingertips were unambiguous - they were designed to do some damage.

But the strangest thing was the inhuman's feet. Bare and misshapen, they looked almost like hands, their long toes curled up like a dead spider's legs.

She dragged Frizz free of the tangle. "Can you hear me?"

He didn't answer. Then Aya saw the tiny red mark on his neck. One nick from those needle fingers had knocked him unconscious ... or worse.

She pulled him closer, her head swimming. The hovercar still drifted overhead, spilling a trembling light through the leaves. The shadows slanted as it moved, as though the whole world was swaying.

"Aya!" came a shout. She looked up, and saw Hiro and Ren angling through the trees.

But in front of them flew the other inhuman, zooming straight toward her, arms outstretched and fingers glistening. His pale skin glowed in the darkness.

She pulled Frizz closer, feeling utterly abandoned. Where were the wardens? Where were the half-million others who'd been watching her every move five minutes ago?

He was ten meters away, five...

A small dark shape shot from the shadows, barreling into the inhuman's stomach. He crumpled into a ball with a grunt, then whirled past Aya, the hoverball rig keeping him airborne as he spun.

"Moggle," Aya breathed. The hovercam bounced away, crashing through the brush.

The inhuman hung unconscious from his hoverball rig, his handlike feet swinging a meter from the ground. A groan escaped from his lips, and his eyes began to flutter open...

Aya ran toward him, leaping up to grab his shoulders. They glided across the forest floor together, the rig adjusting to her weight.

His hand reached for her, but Aya grabbed his wrist and stuck a handful of needle fingers into his own neck. He sputtered for a moment, eyes widening, then passed out completely.

"Aya!" Hiro banked to a halt. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." She jumped down, glancing up at the hovercar. It waited overhead, unmoving, lights probing through the leaves uncertainly. "Help me with Frizz."

Hiro glided to a halt. "He'll be fine, Aya. They don't care about him."

"Yeah, but I do." She ran to Frizz's unconscious body, towing the hoverboard behind her. She knelt and pulled at his arm, trying to get his weight up onto the riding surface.

He let out a groan.

"Are you all right?"

"Feel weird," he murmured. "Heavy."

"Tell me about it!" Aya strained. "If only we had a way to ..." She glanced at the inhuman lying next to Frizz.

Hiro stepped off his board beside her, staring down at the inhuman. "Whoa. You left this out of your story?"

"Help me get the hoverball rig off this freak." Aya grunted, tugging at the inhuman's shin lifter.

"We can put it on Frizz!"

"All right," Hiro said, kneeling. "Here's how you do it."

He loosened the straps with practiced fingers, pulling the lifter pad free and slipping it onto Frizz's leg.

"What happened to him?" Ren asked, joining in the scramble.

"That freak stuck him with those needle fingers." Aya glanced up at the hovercar. Its side door was opening again, light spilling out around two more silhouettes. "Crap. More coming!"

"I'm done." Hiro was strapping the last forearm pad into place. "I've set the rig to neutral. He should be zero-g."

Frizz lifted easily from the ground, suddenly weightless. She wrestled his drifting body onto her board and knelt across him.

Hiro and Ren slipped up on either side and reached out their hands, pulling her forward like a littlie between two parents. Soon they were shooting ahead through a gap in the trees.

"Are they following us?" Aya asked.

Ren looked back. "I don't think so. They're picking up the other two."

"Two freaky bodies are worse than one live witness, I guess," Hiro said. "Speaking of which, you have some explaining to do, Aya."

"When we get to safety."

"Which is back at the party, right?"

"No. We're doing what Tally says - we're hiding."

"Where?" Ren asked.

Aya bit her lip, holding tight to keep Frizz's unconscious form from slipping off the board. "The underground reservoir."

"Cold and wet," Ren said. "But it's the one place in the city with no cams."

"Exactly," Aya said. Something was skimming through the trees in the corner of her eye, and she dared a glance. It was a camo-black hovercam, still wobbly from a recent collision.

It flashed its night-lights happily, and shaky images began to spill across Aya's vision. Whatever the inhuman creatures were, this time they'd been caught by more than just her eyes. She found herself smiling.

Moggle had gotten the shot.


The new construction site glowed dull orange, the earthmoving machines resting quietly in their foundation pits.

"Check your pings again," Hiro said. "Before we get cut off."

Aya scanned her eyescreen, then shook her head. A few priority pings had come in on the wardens' channel - and maybe ten thousand more asking her what was going on, not to mention a million theories burning up the feeds -  but nothing from Tally Youngblood.

"If she's coming on a suborbital, she'll be out of contact for a few hours," Ren said.

Aya sighed. "As long as she gets here fast."

They dropped toward the tunnel below them and slipped inside.

"Hey, am I passing out again?" Frizz groaned, his weight shifting as the darkness closed around them.

"No, we're just going underground." Aya squeezed him tighter. "No lights, Moggle. Too obvious."

"Your dress," Frizz murmured. "Sparkles."

Aya nodded, flexing her fingers, and the party dress sputtered to life. The battery was down to its last dregs, but the flickering embers were enough cut the gloom.

"Told you this was the right dress, Hiro," she said.

"Very funny. Are you going to tell us about what happened back there?"

"Not yet."

They descended, the orange worklights of the surface fading behind them. After long minutes, the echoes of trickling water reached their ears, then the tunnel opened over the reservoir's huge expanse.

Aya brought her board to a halt in midair.

The cavern flickered with the dying lights of her dress, the ceiling shimmering with the water's trembling reflections. Moggle seemed to remember the place, and was soon drifting in nervous circles around the cavern, checking for hidden Sly Girls with lock-down clamps.