We pulled stir fry out of the refrigerator, heated it up, and ate. Afterward, I went upstairs to do homework while Rachel followed me upstairs and went into her own room. After an electronic crackle, I heard her play exercises on her guitar.
I finished the calculus homework in an hour. Then I took another half hour to read a short story and wrote the answers to some questions about it.
By that time, it was after nine.
I pulled my guitar controller out from under the bed along with the utility belt, helmet, the backpack hiding the small rocketpack. I pulled the stealth suit, complete with the second layer of jacket and pants out of my closet and put everything on. Then I opened the window, removed the screen and climbed out, hanging on to the window ledge.
I turned on the rocketpack, increasing the power slowly until I hovered in the air, leaving the window slightly open so I could get back in without drawing attention. I could have just let the block take care of distracting my parents, but better yet if no one had any reason to ask questions at all.
As I began to fly away from the house, I felt something touch my leg, but I didn’t see anything. I decided it had to be a stray branch from the tree outside my window. It would be easy to miss something like that in the dark.
I flew to the Drucker’s house, crossing the city in a few minutes, and landing on their roof as quietly as I could.
Worried that they might have heard me anyway, I lay down for a minute or so. Even the stealth suit’s rocketpack made some noise, and my feet had to have at least made the roof creak as I touched down.
As I lay there with a cool wind crossing my body, thinking that I didn’t really like the slant of the roof, I heard Rachel’s voice say, “They’re not coming up, Nick.”
I looked around for her for a moment before realizing that she had to be invisible.
“How did you get here?”
Phasing in enough to grab things while still being intangible had to be one of Rachel and my grandmother’s better tricks.
“I thought I felt something. Why did you come along?”
“It sounded like more fun than sitting at home alone.”
I sat up and pulled the the roachbot controller off my belt and opened my pouch. I sent the roachbots down to infiltrate the house, find people and broadcast back their conversation.
Rachel turned visible next to me. She wore street clothes — black jeans and a long sleeved black shirt. She looked a little under-dressed for sitting on top of houses, but at least she would blend in.
As the swarm of small, black, pseudo bugs crawled down the roof, she said, “Creepy. Yours or Grandpa’s?”
“Mostly Grandpa’s, with some modifications to update the technology.”
I flipped through broadcasts from the bots, watching for a view from inside the house.
It took a few minutes.
“They don’t move very quickly do they?” Rachel leaned over as I switched from one view of the roof to another. “I’m going in.”
I didn’t even have time say anything as she faded out and started sinking into the roof.
The screen on the controller flickered. The roachbots had made it inside.
Static broke up the pictures and some details were hard to make out, but I could tell the Druckers shared my mom’s mania for cleaning the house. Nothing looked out of place.
It was impressive, considering the size of the house. While not the size of some of the McMansions built in the suburbs, the three story Victorian had a lot of space. Not that it looked much like a Victorian inside. Victorian houses tended to have a lot of small rooms. They’d opened up most of the first floor, leaving the detailed woodwork, but carpeting over sections of the wooden floor.
The bots sent back images, and I noticed a girl from school sitting at the kitchen table doing homework. Haley had said that Sean had a sister named Sydney. Now that I knew what to look for, I could see the resemblance.
A woman stood in the room just off the kitchen, talking on the phone. I could see her resemblance to Sean more obviously than his sister’s.
She looked tired, and possibly a little angry.
“I don’t care who you are, I’m still not bringing him to the phone.” She clicked a button and hung up.
It started to ring again. She checked the caller ID, but didn’t pick the phone up.
I flipped the roachbots’ viewpoints.
None of them had found Sean yet, but they didn’t crawl very quickly either.
I waited for a few more minutes. I’d set the roachbots to search for heat and noise. About ten minutes later, the screen changed to a view of a unfinished room in the basement.
Sean stood in front of his father amid plastic vats that I assumed had to be full of power juice and a couple shelves worth of tools. More tools hung on the wall.
Mr. Drucker looked a lot like Sean. Both had blond hair, but his dad had a broader face. Their builds were almost exactly the same — tall — like a lot of basketball players. His dad had more of a belly, but didn’t look overweight. He wore a blue suit, but held the jacket as he leaned against the tool bench.
“Dammit, Sean. What were you thinking? Do you want to draw the Cabal’s attention?”
“Dad, everybody and their dog can make it now. It’s not going to give us away.”
Mr. Drucker shook his head. “You don’t fucking get it. We’re not hiding from the Cabal because we know about the juice. We’re hiding because when they want people to join up, they don’t take no for an answer. They kill you, and use your family for breeding.”
“Dad, the Cabal’s dead. The League took them down here and other heroes destroyed them all across the country. They’re nothing anymore.”
Judging from the way Mr. Drucker’s teeth clenched together and his hands gripped the edge of the tool bench, he didn’t agree. “You can’t know that! No one knows how long they’ve been around. I don’t think a bunch of kids could find them all. The original League never caught your grandparents.”
He seemed to be barely controlling his anger.
Then with a loud grunt or a small yell, he turned around and slammed his fist against the tool bench. “I can’t believe you’ve been so stupid!”
Sean flinched as if he expected to be hit himself.
Turning back toward Sean, he stopped midway, staring upward, directly into the screen.
He’d seen the roachbot.
I pressed the self-destruct for that unit, and sent the others the evacuate order.