Not that we had time, and to judge from how they handled the True, if they were anything but decent, we were so screwed.
I’d never seen Vaughn target more than one person at a time with lightning. He’d told me that he didn’t think he had enough control to do it without straight out killing people. Whoever the person behind the lightning I’d just seen was, he’d taken out everybody near the entrance to the alley all at once.
Glancing upward identified him instantly—the red costume with a lightning bolt under an arch with Egyptian hieroglyphics on the chest? That was Red Lightning’s costume. I’d always thought the lightning, plus the arch, plus the hieroglyphics was a little busy, but I’d never gotten to complain to Red Lightning himself about the questionable logo design due to him being dead.
It appeared that I might get the chance now. This wasn’t Vaughn. This wasn’t Vaughn’s cousin Lucas, or his Uncle Russ, Lucas’s father. It was Giles Hardwick, the original Red Lightning.
The one that went bugfuck nuts.
OK, I couldn’t tell that absolutely, positively, for sure. I’d never seen the guy in real life—only in old pictures of the League, and Grandpa Vander Sloot’s personal pictures. Giles had been Grandpa’s oldest friend until he’d started raising legions of drug-addicted superpowered criminals to attack the League, and take over the world.
But anyway, back to the question of was it really, really the crazy Red Lightning? That was my bet. Why? First, this guy wasn’t wearing a mask, and his face looked like Giles Hardwick except that he appeared to be in his sixties while our Giles Hardwick had died in his forties. He had Giles’ thin nose, round face and wide cheeks.
The True, mostly the Greens with rifles, started firing at him, and bullets bounced when they hit. Now, it wasn’t like Superman in the comics where bullets basically mean nothing, but it was a little like that. Red Lightning held up his arm to shield his eyes, but he didn’t try to dodge.
At the same time he pulled up his arm, the Rocket appeared, and yes, it was definitely Grandpa. All the same, I knew the suit more by the “R” logo than by the suit itself. It was gold, and it did have a rocket pack on the back, but it didn’t look like any Rocket suit Grandpa ever wore. It looked a lot more like one Nick designed as a joke.
He’d tried to make it like an Apple product—rounded corners, and a glossy finish instead of the more practical dull finish Grandpa used. Nick had even designed the helmet so it showed the lower half of the user’s face—more like Batman than any version of the Rocket.
Even in play on the computer though, Nick had been practical enough to use transparent metal instead of leaving his face uncovered, and so had this guy.
This guy. This Rocket. This version of Joe Vander Sloot. This Grandpa.
He wasn’t big on the secret identity thing though, because the lower half of his face left no doubts. It was Grandpa from the 1980’s, but not the 80’s Rocket suit.
It had all the standard Rocket equipment though—sonics, for sure.
The Rocket aimed his arms at the True, and they held their hands over their ears or simply ran in one direction or another, mostly aiming for alley ways so they could get out of the direct blast.
They didn’t make it. The Rocket opened up on them with flying roachbots, and not the roachbot bugs that Grandpa invented on his own, but the roachbot missiles Nick modified them into. They exploded into grey strands, wrapping themselves around the target, and making it impossible for them to move.
He wasn’t alone either.
Floating in the air near him was me. She had the same costume as I did normally—an all white costume with a white mask. Plus my guns. Plus a gun Nick was making for me. I’d seen it in the lab before I’d left for Stapledon.
That’s what was in her hands.
She fired, and her “bullets” exploded into to grey strands just like the Rocket’s.
Soon the True that weren’t dead were lying on the ground, wrapped in grey. Ghostgirl and the Rocket even hit the unconscious ones with goo.
And if you’re still thinking, “Wait a minute, dead?” Yes, dead.
Günther had stood on the edge of the fight, making daggers appear in his hands, and throwing them with freakish accuracy. Most of the time, he’d gone for the True’s legs, forcing them to fall over, but any time anyone began to point their rifle toward our alley, they took a dagger to the throat.
He had a sword in one hand as I noticed him, and saluted me with its bloodied blade from the other side of the street.
I gave him a wave. As I put my hand down, Ghostgirl shot Julie with a goobot, and landed in front of me.
Putting the gun back into its holster, she said, “Hey there, fellow me.”