Marcus started to show Cassie the clips, but once he started Jaclyn showed up, and then as he backed up to find the start for her, Daniel stepped out of the elevator.
We decided at that point that we were better off waiting for everybody.
It didn’t take more than ten minutes for everyone to show up, making it eleven o’clock before we got started, guaranteeing that I’d be tired at school the next day. Vaughn and I were both out of our costumes by then.
Travis and Haley arrived last, and together — probably directly from the same restaurant.
Haley walked up to me, and leaned on me for a moment. “I feel like I’ve been standing all day.”
Then she pulled out a chair from under the table and sat down.
As it occurred to me that I was probably supposed to ask her about her day at that point, Marcus killed the lights and started the clips going.
Cassie gasped when Mr. Sledge drew the connection between Vaughn, herself, Kayla, and I. Travis muttered, “Shit,” when Hardwick started talking about the Executioner.
In her chair, Haley leaned forward toward the screen.
Marcus stopped it a few minutes later than he had with us, letting everyone watch as Hardwick’s group descended into pointless argument.
When the lights came on, Jaclyn stood up from her own seat. “Well, it’s obvious we’re going to have to do something about this.”
“Damn straight,” Travis said. “I say we wipe their memories.”
Standing next to me, Daniel said, “By ‘we’ you’re meaning me, but I’m saying no. It’s not going to work. The Hardwicks have been resistant in the past, and beyond that, I’m not comfortable with just going in and treating people’s minds like my personal toy.”
“You did it last time.”
“It’s not the same. Red Bolt and Future Knight knew where HQ was, and they were going to get other people to take us out the first chance they got. These people are just guessing. We can still do something else.”
Travis eyed him. “What?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I’m sure we can think of something. Travis, the human mind isn’t like a chalkboard. You don’t mess around with it, and expect to erase it without side effects. Every time I do something like that, I risk getting rid of something important too.”
“And anyway,” Vaughn said, “it still won’t work. Daniel’s right about that. My uncle would start remembering again pretty soon.”
“Then do the rest of them, and leave Hardwick alone. We’ll make him see that joining up with the Executioner isn’t a good idea.”
Rachel said, “Planning to go Jack Bauer on him? If he gets too scared, you know he’ll start taking juice and using it against us.”
Travis stayed quiet for a moment, his face unmoving. Then, “Easy for you to say. It’s not your family that the Executioner will go after first.”
“Nick caught him,” Rachel said. “I’m sure we’ll be on the list.”
“But he knows us by sight,” Travis said. “We need to stop them, and we can’t hesitate.”
Vaughn waived his hand, “Hey everybody, maybe we could just make a deal with them? If they don’t help Ray, we’ll help them against what’s left of the Cabal.”
Cassie nodded. “I like it. Making a deal would be simpler than mindwiping everyone but the Hardwicks. What bugs me is that there are a lot of them. It only takes one to be secretly working with Ray, and they’ll know everything about us.”
“And we can’t risk that,” Travis said. “That’s why mindwiping makes the most sense.”
Daniel frowned. “But it’s off the table because I’m not going to do it.”
Travis opened his mouth, probably to start arguing with Daniel, but Jaclyn talked over him.
“We’re out of our depth.” Turning to Travis she said, “You’ve never done this before. I’ve never done this before. We should talk to someone who has. Daniel, is your dad around? And if he’s not, what about the rest of the Midwest Defenders?”
Daniel shook his head. “They’re not around. I mean, there’s a skeleton crew in Chicago, but most of them are off-planet right now.”
That was an interesting coincidence. I wondered how much context Daniel was picking out of my head as I asked, “Off-planet? The Southern California Defenders were doing the same thing when I was in Los Angeles. What’s going on up there?”
Daniel shrugged. “Wish I knew. Dad hasn’t said anything, and believe me, I’ve asked.”
Jaclyn looked around. “Then who else can we talk to? My grandfather would be happy to help, but I don’t want to pull him into the middle of this and get him hurt.”
“There’s Larry,” I said.
Travis smiled a little. “Larry’s great if we wanted to take out a building, but not something like this.”
Haley looked up, pursed her lips and said, “What about Isaac Lim? We can’t be the only heroes with secret identity problems.”
“What’s he going to do?” Travis asked, “Drown them in bureaucracy?”
“I don’t know. We could ask him.”
Cassie nodded. “Don’t underestimate him. He’s got a lot of connections in D.C.”
So even though it was nearly midnight, we called him. I expected we’d just get voice mail, but he actually answered the phone.
Normally we got video, but not this time. The FBI seal appeared on the screen, easily visible against a blue background.
“Heroes League,” he said, “What’s on your mind?”
Cassie spoke first. “Vaughn’s uncle knows who we really are.”
“So why is that a problem? Not an uncle that likes him? Or is it something more interesting?”
I didn’t feel comfortable handing the Impregnator over to the government, so I’d never told Isaac that we had one — which made the question of what Cassie was just about to tell Isaac more than a little interesting.
Too bad we hadn’t agreed on a story before calling.