If worst came to worst, Haley or I could summon her grandfather’s car. The only bad point would be the intervening walls. If we didn’t care about the property damage, the car would come right to us and we could get in and change — or just use the car to take out the problem.
If I wanted to use the roachbots, I’d need to modify them a little more, but the flying ones would definitely be useful as a distraction.
I thought a little more and one of the most obvious ideas ever came to mind. Four of us would be there. If we combined our efforts. we could get a lot more done.
I called Cassie, figuring that she tended to stay up late anyway, and that she’d at least have a chance of answering her phone.
Even though it was a few minutes after ten, she picked up.
“Calling on the League line?” She asked.
“I didn’t think to block Caller ID. Actually I should just make that the default.”
“Whatever. Too late now. What’s up?”
“I thought we might want to coordinate if something happens at prom.”
“I was going to talk with you about that at lunch… And then you left with Chris Cannon. You know he’s Man-machine’s grandson, right?”
“It’s hard to forget.”
“What were you talking about anyway?”
“He’s interested in putting together a new suit based on technology his grandfather hid from the FBI.”
“Are you helping him?”
“Well… It’s better than being surprised.”
“What are you planning to do if he figures out who you are?”
I thought about it for a moment. Assuming that he didn’t go the way his grandfather did, it would be better to let him know from the beginning. That way he wouldn’t think I’d just been spying on him. Grandpa had told me the story of how he first fought Man-machine, but I didn’t remember it. I heard it when I was a little kid, and so what impressed me most about the story was that Grandpa had gotten a dog out of it.
He’d loved the dog. I’d run across its collar in League HQ just recently.
From the other side of the phone, Cassie said, “Nick? Hello?”
“I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m hoping he won’t.”
“Well, think about it. For now, let’s plan for tomorrow.”
“That’s why I called. Did you come up with something?”
“Vaughn and I had a few ideas. We could have him flood the room with fog while we change into costume, and you’ll have the stealth suit along, right?”
“Order people out with the sonics.”
We discussed other possibilities for half an hour before we hung up.
* * *
I pulled into Haley’s family’s driveway around four-thirty in the afternoon. We planned to be at the restaurant around five, and to prom by seven-thirty.
I’d set the color of Night Wolf’s car to red, making it look like a normal ’64 Stingray. Knowledgeable observers might notice unusual details, but not many. I’d darkened the windows so they couldn’t see the inside.
I tried to remember the last time I’d been there, and didn’t come up with anything because I hadn’t. When I was a kid, and my grandparents occasionally picked Haley and Travis up, they’d lived in another house.
Now they lived close to the edge of the city limits in a new development. No houses seemed to have less than three car garages or two stories. Their house was no different — and I really mean no different at all — just bigger and longer than most. Not that they all looked alike, but the neighborhood’s houses did look like they’d all been designed by the same architect, and then mixed and matched so that it was less obvious that they were all variations on the same three or four designs.
Haley’s family’s was brick. The neighbors had vinyl siding, but they all had arches above the front door (and pillars alongside it) that reached the second story.
However redundant its design, the front door opened and Haley stepped out just as I stopped in the driveway.
She wore a knee length, green, strapless dress. I could see why she’d said she couldn’t fit a costume under it.
I stepped out of the car, taking her corsage with me.
She walked down the steps and down to the walk before I even made it off the driveway.
“Nick, you look great. I like it when you dress up.”
“Thanks.” I felt like I should be saying something similar, but what exactly? I thought she looked great too, but if I said that, I’d just be repeating her. I could have said that she looked attractive except that “attractive” sounded like something from a catalog. The dress looked elegant, but, she looked too happy for me to say she looked elegant. And how interesting was any dress really? I wanted to say something nice about her.
“Sorry. I was… just looking at you.”
She blushed a little.
Assuming that I’d said something right, I decided to move on before she noticed how much I sucked at this sort of thing.
Holding up the corsage, I said, “I’m supposed to put this on you, right?”
“I can help if you want…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.”
Immediately I noticed a problem. I’d assumed that I was supposed to pin the flower arrangement to the strap of her dress — except this dress didn’t have straps. On the bright side, it was basically an engineering problem. I had to figure out a way to attach the corsage without groping her breast or stabbing her with the pin.
After a false start, I managed to get the pin through the dress, the wrapped stems, and then the dress again. It would have been near impossible if the dress had been cut lower.
We went to the car, and I opened the door for her. I never did that normally, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
When we were both in the car, she said, “Where are we meeting your friends?”
“Keith and Courtney? I know how to get there, but I don’t remember the name. It’s not Italian though. Can you imagine ending up at one of your family’s places?”
She grinned. “It’s happened. I think I spent more time talking to the wait staff than my date.”