He’d never told anyone exactly what he was, but when Lee took a form, it became near impossible to think of him by any name but the one he’d chosen.
Gunther smiled at us, a wide grin full of white teeth.
Picking up a long spear from the pile of weapons in front of him, he said, “Today we’re going to talk about the Greek phalanx—not because I expect you to fight with spears, but because of what it represents.
“The Greeks, and most armies that were any good, fought as a group, not as a bunch of heroes who happened to be on the same side. They had shields that covered themselves and the man next to them.
“Sometimes you’ll be in that situation. Sometimes you’ll be fighting enemies alone. What I intend to teach you is when to fight in formation, when not to, and when to avoid fighting at all. I’m told that other people will talk about loyalty, duty, courage and other values you’ll need to live up to, but let’s be honest, that’s not my field.”
Gunther grinned briefly, and started class moving. We spent most of the time doing a series of games and exercises that used simple formations without any real fighting or power use.
I stuck around after class, stuck around until the last person left. The last person being Dayton, one of Sean’s friends.
Dayton could see any technique and mimic it. He was going to get a lot out of training with Gunther.
Anyway, the metal door shut behind him, closing with an audible click as the bolt slid into place.
Gunther in turn shifted form, changing into an Asian man with shoulder length, black hair, wearing a shimmery blue, button down shirt and black jeans. He was a little shorter than six feet now—around my height.
It was the form I was more used to seeing him in. He tended to fulfill people’s expectations. His “Gunther” identity had been what the Nazis got when they attempted to call up an immortal warrior. Grandpa had met him in that form, and he’d ended up associated with the Heroes League.
“Lee” had been the form he’d used when starting up a martial arts studio in the 1950’s.
“Seeing you here was bit of a shock,” I said. “The government’s got you on the National Security Threat List.”
Lee picked up a spear, and twirled it around like a baton. “So I’ve heard, but this isn’t a government installation.”
Lee stopped twirling the spear, and threw it toward the concrete wall. The point sunk in, disappearing while the shaft quivered.
“You’re in a joint program. The Defenders have money too—in the form of a foundation, and some deep pocketed donors. This is their training facility. Whenever you’re here, I’ll be teaching. When you’re on a government base, you’ll have different people, but I still might show up if I’m in the mood.”
“Huh,” I said, wondering what would happen if he did show up unexpectedly. “Well, that wasn’t the main reason I stayed—”
“Yep,” Lee said. He didn’t seem surprised. Immortality had easily given him time to develop enough social awareness to detect geeks with ulterior motives.
“—I was really hoping to ask you some questions.”
Lee looked up toward the corner of the room. A camera hung there. It wasn’t the only one. Cameras hung in each corner of the room, and from the ceiling.
“Private questions?” He asked.
I thought about that. “They don’t have to be.” I said. Then I tried to think of how best to phrase them so I didn’t give away too much.
“I know the power impregnator was an Abominator thing. Was power juice? No one ever said it was, but it seems logical.”
I thought some more. “You said that lots of Abominator stuff contained traps. How well did Grandpa do with the power impregnator? I know what happened to Red Lightning, but was it the machine, the juice, what?”
Lee picked up a sword, gave a practice swing. “They did a good job with the power impregnator. I’m not a techie, but I doubt that was the problem. He was a little off before they ran him through the machine.”
Lee lay the sword back on the floor. “That it?”
“No. What about the combination of the two?”
“That couldn’t help.”
“Have you seen any modern versions of the power impregnator or power juice? What did you think?”
Lee smiled at me. “Haven’t seen a new power impregnator, but if they’re based on your grandfather’s design, things should be okay. As for the juice, well… I’d say the government’s new version is safer than the original, but I don’t know how much.”
So in Lee’s opinion, even the new power juice might be risky. In that light, the government’s ban might be a good thing. On the other hand, Lee couldn’t know for sure.
“OK,” I said. “Thanks.”
Lee put his hands in his pockets. “You’re missing something.”
“The traps are a sham. Sure, they’re real. Sure, people can go nuts, but that’s not it. People are supposed to notice the traps and remove them. The real trap is something people won’t ever remove.”
Lee eyed the door, and took a step toward it.
“The powers themselves. That’s the beauty of it all. In the lifecycle of a normal species, powers show up around the time the species figures out how to do most of the same stuff with technology. They’ve had years to adjust their culture, and set up rules about what’s appropriate, and what’s not. With you guys, and all the other species the Abominators modified, you’re getting these abilities long before you can actually handle them—at least in theory.
“I mean, think about it, if some guy can crack the planet with his mind, how are you going to stop him? And if you do, what if he’s got kids? Or cousins? No, the next hundred years or so are going to be interesting.
“Chances are, the power levels are going to rise.”