“You’re missing something though,” Vaughn said. “You’ve got to remember that Uncle Russ is still Lucas’ dad. They don’t always get along, but I can’t imagine Lucas totally working against him. The guy you’d want for something like that is Sean. He wouldn’t care about going against his parents at all, and with Sean you’d get Dayton and Jody for sure.”
I was about to say something, but Haley spoke first. “But if they do it, Ray and his whole team will kill everybody. That’s what they always do to supers. Everybody knows that.”
“Besides,” I commented, “Sean’s never going to listen to us.”
“Well,” Vaughn said, “he’d listen to me. I paid him back, remember? That, and he wants me in his new club.”
Daniel put his hand to his chin, concentrating,and intentionally or not, getting everybody’s attention.
“How are you going to tell him?”
“Well, I can’t tell him I’m from the Heroes League. That’s for sure. How about this? I’ll tell him I’m from a faction of the family that’s worried about the direction Uncle Russ is moving in. And it’ll even be true. I’m the whole faction and I am worried.”
Next to Cassie, Travis nodded. “This is good. We don’t have a plan yet, but when we’ve got one, I think it’ll look something like this. We take our enemies one group at a time. First Prime and the Cabal leftovers, then Ray’s team. With the Feds helping, we may not have to worry about having Ray hit us while we’re fighting Prime. Hell, the Feds might try to keep us out of everything, but they won’t be able to. We’ve got the best intel on both groups.”
“And they’re both trying to kill us,” Cassie said.
“Exactly,” Jaclyn said. “That’s why I say that if the Feds can take them out, the more power to them. I don’t know about you, but I feel like this whole thing is eating my life. The end of senior year isn’t supposed to be like this. We should worrying about yearbooks and open houses, not about serial killers and thousand year old conspiracies.”
Marcus had picked up his sketchpad at some point during the conversation. He stopped drawing to ask, “Do you think the Feds will actually manage it?”
Jaclyn frowned. “No, but I’ll be happy if I’m wrong.”
“Me neither,” Travis said. “So here’s what we’ve got to do. Those of us who are good at stealth are going to find Prime. Vaughn, I’m thinking we ought to tell Sean, but not yet. We’ll wait for the right moment. Nick, the communicators work great. What are you working on now?”
“The paralysis blocker. I’ve got a bunch made, but we might need more. That, and more roachbots, and fixing one of the Rocket suits.”
“Put the suits higher on the list. I’ve got a bad feeling you’re going to need the armor.”
“Yeah, me too.”
* * *
With as many meetings, and as much anxiety as we had had over the weekend and Monday, I half-expected to find the city burning by Tuesday.
It didn’t, but I felt like it still could.
The Grand Lake Sentinel and all the local TV stations were covering the last few days of murders — the gang members, the homeless man nailed to the League office, and even the dog nailed to Sean’s front door.
I watched all of it on the TV in HQ’s lab while I worked on fixing the Rocket suit’s arm.
I’d declared the arm totaled earlier. Even though it hadn’t been completely destroyed when Prime’s flunky melted it, the melted parts had been connected to too many other parts.
I spent Tuesday after school finding the documentation on the arm, and the parts needed. Once I had the list, I inventoried our supplies for the parts we had, the parts I could buy, and the parts I’d have to create myself.
That took me till supper by itself. When I got back to lab after eating, I started ordering some parts online, and then dug around in the lab’s storage area for the molds for the arm as well as the components of the suit’s ceramic pieces.
The rest of the week went by in a haze — and a not particularly enjoyable one. It included miscast pieces, the discovery that I was missing some documentation, the realization that some of the parts I’d ordered weren’t coming as quickly as I wanted, and the general sense that I’d bit off more than I could chew.
Around ten thirty on Thursday night, I found that the artificial muscles weren’t adhering to the inside as well as I needed them to for the third time. I wanted to scream. For a moment, I considered picking up the arm and hitting it against something — except I’d probably have broken whatever I hit.
Naturally that was when the phone rang.
I clicked and the picture went to the computer screen. Alex, Jenny, and Brooke appeared. From the Foosball table in the background, I guessed they might be in the Junior Defenders room at the SoCal Defenders HQ.
“How’s it going, Nick?” Alex grinned at me, just as tanned as had been the last time I’d seen him.
“Any ideas about when you might need us? I’ll need a little warning. They’ve been keeping us on short leash.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “I wonder why? They estimate that when you were here we did literally millions of dollars in damage to Syndicate L. They put a hit out on Alex and me.”
Brooke quirked her lips. “I think they must be afraid of my dad.”
Guardian had enough range to teleport someone directly into space.
Jenny edged closer to the screen, brushing a stray strand of black hair out of her face. “What’s wrong?”
“The arm to my regular suit got destroyed, and my best spare suit got trashed. Recreating the arm isn’t easy, and I’ve got at least three other things I could be working on. Plus homework. Plus school. I don’t have enough hours in the day.”
“Easy,” Alex said. “Skip school. Problem solved.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why not? You’re a senior, right? You’ve got what, two weeks left?”
“Closer to one.”
“What, of exams or something?”
“No. If you’ve got less than five absences and a B or better GPA, seniors can skip exams.”
“So, you’ve taken four absences?”
“No. I got sick once. I’ve got three left.”
“Bro, I thought you were smart.”