By the time we left Lee’s, everybody wanted in on it. Not everybody went. Nine people would have been overkill. Not to mention that we might not all fit in the room.
Prison cells weren’t known for their spaciousness.
In the end, only five of us got in the jet — Jaclyn, Cassie, Daniel, Haley, and I.
We all wore our costumes — even me. Grandpa had designed the seats to adjust to fit someone wearing a rocketpack.
With all the work it took to put the Rocket suit on, everyone else made it inside before I did.
I walked into the hangar, ignoring the ball, Night Wolf’s car, and Captain Commando’s motorcycle.
This would be the first official use of the Heroes League jet in years. I looked it over once before climbing the stairs. With its cylindrical, silver body and stubby wings, it looked like a futuristic jet, or spaceship, as imagined in the 1950’s.
I walked up the stairs and into the cockpit. Sitting down at the instrument panel, I took off my helmet and attached it to the seat where Grandpa had intended.
If its style matched the age of the jet’s outside, the panel would have been dials on a metal dash. It didn’t match. Dark plastic covered the dash and instruments glowed behind it. Screens showed the surrounding area, our position on GPS, and information that would be much more useful once we got into the air.
Haley sat next to me. The screens in front of her showed information about the jet’s weapons systems.
I ran through the pre-flight checklist, ending it by sending the signal that opened the airlock.
Haley looked up. “None of this was in the flight simulator.”
I took the fusion reactor off standby, and set it to scale appropriately to power demands.
“The flight simulator Isaac gave us only covers how it worked when it was a jet. It still handles pretty much the same when flying. It’s just got more power.”
Behind me, Cassie said, “How much more power?”
Almost at the same time Haley said, “Was a jet? What is it now?”
I clicked on the buttons that activated the anti-gravity panels. The jet began to float upwards and pulled in the landing gear.
“Seriously,” Jaclyn said, “What is it now, and when did it change?”
I turned around to look at them. “An alien fighter crash landed and Grandpa somehow got a hold of it. It took him a couple decades, but he managed to reverse engineer it. He swapped in the new drives in the 1970’s.”
Cassie stared at me. “This is a starship?”
I shook my head. “No. We don’t have a warp drive or anything. It’s a spaceship. We can get into orbit and move a lot faster than your average jet, but it’s not for long trips.”
Jaclyn thought for moment and then said, “I didn’t think we were allowed to have spaceships.”
“As I understand it,” I said, “the Xiniti and the rest are pretty flexible unless we were to start spreading it around. If I started selling fusion plants, we’d probably start a war or something though.”
“Nick,” Haley said. “We’re drifting.”
I turned back to the instrument panel. We were drifting slightly to the right. The right wing pointed downward, passing just above Night Wolf’s car.
Searching for what I’d done wrong, I moved the joystick to the left in an attempt to raise the wing — which helped. Then I noticed that I’d missed activating one of the anti-gravity panels.
I pressed the button, and the plane leveled.
Pointing the joystick forward, I sent the jet moving slowly into the airlock. The doors rumbled together behind us, and water quickly filled the room, covering the plane within a few moments.
“This would be a bad time to discover a leak, right Nick?” Daniel asked as the water passed the top of the cockpit. Then he laughed at the looks on people’s faces.
I, in the meantime, had opened the ballast tanks so that the plane wouldn’t bob like a cork in the water, or worse, scrape against the ceiling.
When the room filled completely, I turned on the underwater propulsion systems. Then, the huge doors on the opposite side of the airlock opened, and I followed the tunnel until we came out in Lake Michigan.
After that, the actual flight was almost anti-climactic. We’d spent more time getting out of League HQ and into the lake.
When we surfaced, I brought the main engines online, and we made it to the prison in about ten minutes.
Landing turned out to be easy. I stopped the plane above the parking lot and let it float down.
As we all walked away, Jaclyn asked, “How fast can this thing go?”
“I’m not really sure about the maximum, but I know it can reach escape velocity — that’s about 25,000 mph or…” I calculated it. “… roughly Mach 33.”
“True, though it’s not the fastest thing out there.”
“I don’t know, but Grandpa’s manual said it’s not.”
Aside from being near a prison, it felt like spring. The grass had turned green. The trees around the prison were still mostly bare of leaves, but looked like they might be budding.
Set in the middle of farmland and forest, the fences, towers and guards felt out of place. We walked toward the large, red, brick building, and prepared to state our business to the guards.
We didn’t need to. They’d been watching for the jet.
Guards led us through the building and into the yard. With the exception of the guards, it reminded me of a college campus. When we walked out of a door into the prison’s main area, I saw five buildings, all of them L-shaped, the point of the “L” facing inward.
The guard leading us said, “Cannon’s in the metahuman containment housing unit.”
Haley looked at me and said, “But he’s not a metahuman.”
The guard, a middle-aged, balding man shrugged and said, “It’s policy.”
Eventually we got inside. It felt like going underground. The only light came from florescent bulbs in the ceiling. I didn’t see any windows.
They led us into a small room. The chairs and tables were connected to each other in a way that reminded me of fast food restaurants.
Gerald Cannon, alias Man-machine sat at one of the tables. A big man, his knees almost touched the bottom of the table. It looked uncomfortable.
He wore an orange prison jumpsuit, and his legs had been shackled together. Two guards stood next to him.
Even here, his white hair had been combed and cut short, his face shaved clean. Except for the jumpsuit, and shackles, he might have been in church.
He raised his head and looked us over, giving a crooked smile. “It feels almost like old times except back then, I didn’t get caught. So, what do you want?”
Jaclyn stood in front of him. “The ball. Where did it come from, and how did you get it?”
“I can tell you, but I have conditions.”
“He’s setting conditions?” Cassie muttered to Haley.
Haley shushed her.
“First,” he pointed at Daniel. “He’s not in the room while I talk. Second, I want out.”