Vaughn, Cassie and I got into Vaughn’s car.
I told them what happened, finishing with, “… It’s a relief we didn’t go that route. Until we suit up, the worst they can do is leave us nasty voice mail messages.”
“I’m imagining the call to Sean’s,” Vaughn said. “‘Hi, I’m an evil overlord, is your son at home?’ Not that I should make light of it. I’ve done stupid shit myself. But it’s not just him, you know. They’ll go after everybody. Well, maybe not Lucas. I think he’s the only one of them that hasn’t made his identity public. And since he doesn’t hang out with the rest of them, he might actually stay secret.”
“But they know everyone else,” Cassie said.
“And Prime’ll figure it out if Justice Fist holds any team meetings in public,” I said. “They do that.”
“The whole public identity thing is so dumb.” Cassie turned to address me, as Vaughn backed his car away from the fence, and started driving toward the parking lot’s exit. “Didn’t a bunch of people try that in the 70’s and 80’s? Are any of them still active?”
“Well…” I thought about it for a second. “Not many at all. It’s been twenty or thirty years. Most heroes don’t stay active that long. But now that I think about it, all those people at the San Francisco Compound, and a lot of people in the Defender unit in Los Angeles. They’re active.”
“You visited the Defenders on spring break. How did that go?” Cassie asked.
“Strangely,” I said. “You know how people always say superheroes with public identities are going to be more like regular people? They’re not. The Defenders live in a gated community, and they’re all pretty wealthy. They’re like regular people in the same way movie stars are. I mean, people just give them stuff like free cars.”
“That could be cool,” Vaughn said.
“But if they want us to be like normal people, we’ve got a better chance with a secret identity. That’s all I’m saying.”
Cassie scowled. “If they knew who we were, it’d be like it was after Keith tried power juice in the parking lot only all the time. Did I tell you about the reporter that practically camped out in my yard?”
I said, “No,” about the same time Vaughn said, “Yes.”
Cassie said. “He just wouldn’t leave, but then some new story came up, and then he left.”
“Wow. I got a few calls, but nothing like that.”
“Right,” Cassie said. “You know what we need? A team meeting.”
I almost groaned. “Why?”
“We can’t just all respond to Prime randomly. We need a plan.”
I couldn’t argue with her.
* * *
Cassie sent everyone a yellow, but it wasn’t really a team meeting. Travis and Marcus had to work. Rachel had a performance scheduled, and she wasn’t going to skip it for a meeting. Daniel’s family sometimes went to the Friday night service, and with his dad being out of town, he had to ask his mom if he could skip, and she said, “No.”
We had a “most of the team” meeting — including Cassie, Jaclyn, Vaughn, Haley and I. We sat in HQ, pizza on the table next to the computer monitors, and listened to the recording of Sean.
Jaclyn shook her head as it ended. “I was going to bring it up after the last meeting, but we don’t just need more communication with each other. We need more communication with Justice Fist. Sean destroyed your suit because he wasn’t thinking about you, and they appeared out of nowhere. We should have an arrangement. Maybe we could even run some exercises with them. That’s what we should be doing.”
Haley wrinkled her nose. She didn’t look particularly happy about the idea.
Jaclyn noticed. “Haley, I know you and Sean have history, but there’s a bigger picture to look at here.”
Haley sighed, and sat a little lower in her seat. “I know,” she said, “but I don’t want to. Did you notice him after the fight on Wednesday? While Nick was sitting, and we were helping the police clean up, Sean came up and tried to make conversation. I wanted to tell him to go away the whole time, but I had to be nice.”
“Oh, god,” Cassie muttered.
“So that’s what he was doing?” Vaughn said. “I saw him over there helping you and Dayton get people into Boxes and ambulances. I didn’t know he was trying to pick you up. See, that’s the bad point about secret identities. If he knew who you were, he wouldn’t have bothered.”
“I don’t know,” Haley said. “Even when we were going out, he wouldn’t always leave me alone when I told him to.”
Jaclyn paused, and took a breath. “OK. So even if we’re not going to do anything with them soon, we might want to coordinate against Prime because it sounds like he’s planning to kill all of us.”
“We could talk to Lucas,” I said.
“Right,” Jaclyn said. “How about tonight?”
Vaughn leaned back in his chair. “If we do, I’m not saying anything. Even with the Feds’ doubles, he still might figure out who I am.”
I grabbed a mouse, and started clicking. “I know I’ve got his number somewhere.” We’d gotten his cellphone number early on when we bugged his house, and I’d put it into the computer system.
As I looked, a yellow box appeared in the bottom corner of the screen while something in HQ started beeping. Red letters in the yellow box spelled, “Intrusion.”
I clicked on the box, and got a view from the camera on top of the League’s building near downtown. I sent the picture to the wall screen.
It pointed downward, showing the front of the building, following it down to the sidewalk.
A dead man in a ratty trench coat hung between the first and second story. Metal glinted from under the collarbone on each side of his body. I guessed the metal might be the heads of railroad spikes.
Prime’s threat suddenly felt a little more real.