After the attack of the week before, we’d made the patrols less obvious. No more swinging through the streets, or even flying low for Vaughn and Daniel. We concentrated on stealth, or at least on keeping a low profile.
We didn’t see any more snipers.
They’d apparently decided to go for another method of attack — and so had we.
We planted roachbots with improved video and audio collection abilities all around the city, particularly downtown, on major roads, and in a few neighborhoods we thought might be good for an armed group to hide.
They collected hours and hours of video, too many for us to go through.
Despite all our efforts, the next move came from them.
On Wednesday, I went to practice, came home, and had supper, and had gone through about half of my calculus homework when my cellphone rang.
It was Marcus. He’d been stopping by HQ more lately, mostly on the way too or from work. He’d been checking the League’s official voice mail and email messages — which was good. I never did.
“Nick, I’ve got something you’re going to want to look at. It’s big. Hurry, and bring Rachel.”
I told Rachel, interrupting her while she sat on her bed, drawing something. It looked like plans for a metal sculpture.
As we opened the door to go out, Mom called out, “Where are you going?”
Rachel glanced over at me. “Grandpa’s house.”
“You’re not getting together with your friends now. It’s a school night, and you already went to martial arts practice with them.”
“Mom,” Rachel said.
“I know it’s not a school night for you, but for Nick –”
“Mom, we’re leaving. Superhero stuff. Bye.” She walked out the door.
Mom didn’t say anything, or if she did, she waited so long that we’d already left.
I had to wait for the elevator to come back up when we got to the house. Rachel decided not to, floating down through the floor.
Jaclyn, Daniel, and Vaughn were already there when I came down. Cassie, Travis, and Haley came down a few minutes later. Marcus waited to play the voice mail until everyone arrived.
“Everybody, I found this one when I checked the main voice mail today. They sound really serious.” He put his monitor view on the wall screen, and we watched as his mouse pointer clicked on a voice mail labeled “Today — 3:17 PM.”
I didn’t recognize the voice. The man’s accent sounded normal to me — which was to say, Midwestern — and not unusually high or low.
“Heroes League. It’s time we talked. We’ve gotten in each other’s way lately, and we don’t have to. You’ve got interests in this town. We’ve got interests. Let’s all meet tonight around nine in the middle of the Ottawa Trails Golf Course. I’m sure we can work out something between you, us, and Justice Fist that lets everyone get on with their lives. If you don’t show up, we can’t do much to you, but it’s too bad Justice Fist doesn’t have secret identities.”
“And that’s it,” Marcus said. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
The clock in the lower right corner of his screen showed the time as “8:43 pm.”
“I wonder if it’s a trap?” I asked.
“Of course it’s a trap,” Travis said. “I’ve played that course, and there’s no cover. When we show up, they’ll shoot us from the edges.”
“And if we don’t show up,” I said, “they’ll go after Justice Fist.”
“Oh, then let’s not,” Jaclyn said.
“You can’t mean that,” Haley began. “They’re not all –”
“Of course I didn’t mean it. I was joking. Look, someone’s got to go. I’ll do it.”
“Right,” Travis said, “but we’ll have to go with more of us so that they don’t think there’s something wrong. I’d say you, me, Nick and Rachel. The rest of you spread out, and hunt down the people in the trees around the golf course.”
“It’s 8:50,” Marcus said.
“Let’s suit up and move out,” Travis said.
“Wait a second,” Cassie waved her right hand for people’s attention. “Whose turn is it?”
Haley bit her lip. “I think it’s mine. I was supposed to patrol with Marcus tonight. I don’t feel comfortable leading everyone. Not for this.”
“I’ll take it,” Travis said.
Jaclyn shook her head. “No, I’ll do it. I’m on for tomorrow, and I doubt they’ve got anything that can take me out.”
“Maybe the different groups should have different people in charge?” Haley said, looking over at me.
I said, “I think that’s a good idea.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Rachel said. “Jaclyn can take that group. Haley take the outside group.”
Haley said, “But I –”
Travis sounded a little annoyed, but he said, “No, that’s a good idea. Haley can smell and hear where they are. I’d say Daniel and Vaughn might need to act independently, and help whoever needs it.”
“It’s 8:52,” Marcus said. “We need to go.”
We left. Well, they left.
Putting on the 80’s Rocket suit took longer than the regular Rocket suit. Even going as fast as I could, I didn’t finish until 9:00 pm. Fortunately, it took all of ten seconds to get to the golf course by air.
Despite the near darkness, the suit’s night vision showed me nearly perfect (if a little washed-out) versions of Jaclyn, Travis and Rachel standing in the middle of the golf course. Six people in black body armor walked toward them. Just like the other people we’d fought, they carried submachine guns.
Along with the people, came labels in blocky, pixelated lettering indicating objects hidden in people’s clothes. It did a good job with wallets, guns and knives, but put “unknown” in a lot of spots, including some obvious cellphones.
The software probably hadn’t been updated since 1983.
Everyone looked up at me. At triple the weight, and held up by a more powerful rocket pack, it definitely wasn’t stealthier than the regular version..
I landed next to Rachel.
“Long time, no see,” she said.
Travis looked over her head at me. Our eyes were level — which, considering that he was close to seven feet tall, was unusual. “I don’t know why you don’t use that suit all the time. It’s a hell of a lot more intimidating.”
“Maintenance,” I said. “There’s five times as many things that could go wrong.”