Haley turned around and started walking back toward the door.
“Where are you going?”
“They can’t do that. They don’t have any right to tell us what to do.”
I put my hand on her shoulder. “She’ll probably make you turn around again. Or something worse.”
Haley’s shoulder muscles felt tense, rock hard in fact, reminding me that she could literally generate tons of force. She didn’t move, and I worried that she might be about to leap into the coffee shop.
Proving that sometimes I worry too much, she didn’t.
She turned away from the door, and said, “I guess we should go to the car.”
“We could go for a walk.”
“I don’t want to do it around here.”
She’d parked her mom’s car a block down the street. We walked quickly past “Kevin’s Hotdogs,” a couple used bookstores, and stopped in front of “Sal’s Pizza Take-out.” All the stores on the block seemed to be brick buildings constructed about a hundred years ago.
We’d stopped short of where she’d parked the car though. I wondered why for a moment, and then recognized the car next to us. Within the last week or two Sean had gotten a car to replace the one Vaughn had smashed last year. It was a silver Ford Escort from the late 90’s.
I’d seen him drive off in it a couple times after school. I could only guess that Haley had caught his scent on it.
She checked up and down the sidewalk. Then her right hand changed, turning claw-like, and she stabbed a milky white nail into the front tire.
When she pulled her hand away, she left an inch wide slit in the tire wall.
We looked at each other, walked quickly to her mom’s car, got inside, and shut the doors.
“Wow,” I began, “you –”
“I shouldn’t have done it. I almost feel like I should tell them except –”
“They’d never let you get a word in edgewise.”
“I know. This is what I hate about it. When I’m angry or worried, I can always feel the change coming, and I always hold it back, but it’s hard.”
“Well, he kind of deserved it.”
“I’m not supposed to do things like that.”
“But you didn’t hurt anybody, really. Most tire shops will fix something like that for free.”
She didn’t say anything, and we sat quietly in the car.
As we sat, a gray BMW from the early 90’s parked on the other side of the street. I recognized the driver from pictures Vaughn had shown me — his cousin Lucas. Lucas was in his mid-twenties, dark haired, and dressed semi-casually — jeans and a green button down shirt. He carried an aluminum water bottle in his left hand.
I wondered if it actually held water.
Meanwhile, he got out and hurried toward the coffeehouse. In profile, his face reminded me a little of Vaughn’s.
Haley must have noticed what I was looking at because she said, “I wonder if we should listen in. I don’t have my costume, but I think I could get close enough.”
“I’ve got my backpack,” I said, which meant more than just the backpack. After what happened the last time I’d driven the Ball, I’d been prepared this morning. I brought the backpack that hid a small rocketpack, and contained my helmet, the stealth suit’s jacket, and my utility belt.
The utility belt included a pouch full of roachbots. Most of the roachbots were tied up, but I had enough for this.
I let a few fly out the window, and waited, pulling out the controller to watch what they saw.
Once they crawled through a gap in the lower, right corner of the doorway, I turned up the volume so we could hear.
I’d sent in four bots, so we had a choice of angles. The grainy picture showed Lucas pulling a chair away from an empty table, and sitting down with the rest of them.
“… to see that you showed up,” Sean said to him. “What were you doing?”
“Sleeping. I’ve been up for most of the last two days.”
From to other end of the tables, across from Shannon, Julie said, “Why?”
“My residency. They work you till you drop. But enough about that, where are you in the meeting?”
“Nowhere,” Sean said. “We’ve been waiting for you, dude.”
“Then what have you been doing?” He paused, then smiled, “Dude.”
Sean looked annoyed.
Jody laughed. “Julie kicked his ex and her loser boyfriend out, and told everyone they couldn’t hear us. Watch this…” He put two fingers in his mouth and made a piercing whistle.
No one looked up.
Lucas checked around the room. “Can they hear us, but can’t respond, or do they really just not hear us?”
Julie said, “How should I know?”
“We’d better find out because if there’s a telepath out there, they’ll be able to find out everything.”
“Just in case it works, I’ll tell everyone to forget this when we leave, okay?”
“That’s not really good enough, but it can’t hurt.” Lucas looked around the room again, and frowned. “Let’s get to business. My dad says you did a great job at Mejiers. Wish I could have been there, but they would have noticed if I left the hospital. You got on TV in costume. They even covered it on SuperTV for a minute or two. So we’re nationally visible now. It’s mostly because we’re in the same town as the Heroes League, and part of the juice story, but we’ll take what we can get.
“Related to that,” Lucas continued, “the best thing we can do is stay visible. My dad’s got connections in the police department, and he says that the Cabal’s gang is moving in on the Lake Street gang. If we keep watching them, we might get lucky.”
“And then what?” Dayton asked.
“We capture one of them, and Julie opens them up, and makes them into our own personal mole.”
“And then we take the bastards down,” Sean said. “And we don’t have them hanging over our heads anymore. I feel like they’ve been following me for my entire fucking life.”
“They haven’t.” Lucas said. “You’re not that important.”
“They bugged my house once,” Sean said.
“So you’ve told me.” Lucas didn’t look impressed. “I don’t think it was them, but I’m not going to argue about it. My dad’s already scanned in the Impregnator plans along with the modifications that’ll make it work on more than just my family, and passed it out to his engineers. They think they can put it together in a week.”
Haley looked away from the screen, talking over Dayton’s response to Lucas. “The Impregnator only worked on Vaughn’s family?”
I nodded. “More like only people with similar powers, but Grandpa’s plans showed how it could be modified to work with others. I guess that was in the journal too.”