Before making any calls, I walked to the campus parking garage. The van wouldn’t be as warm as my dorm room, but it was warmer than standing outside.
I turned the key, and it began to hum. After the fight where Rook had ripped chunks out of the van, and flipped it over, I’d done some fairly extensive repair work. Among other things, I’d switched the van’s power source over to the same fuel cells I used for Cassie’s armor—not to mention changing its engine substantially.
Its heating system didn’t work as well as I wanted, but there were tradeoffs.
One was that the new engine barely made any noise at all, and once it warmed up, I could comfortably sit inside without guzzling gas. Another, of course, was that the armor was vastly improved. There were a few more.
I dialed Rachel’s number. She answered, taking a deep breath as she saw me.
She was sitting in a chair, and I could see a bed behind her. She put her guitar into the stand next to her desk before saying anything. Once she said hello, I explained what I’d learned, and what I was planning to do about it.
I’d called Rachel because I’d promised I would, and her response would have been predictable if I’d given any thought to it at all.
“You didn’t listen to me at all,” she said.
“I did listen. I’m calling you and telling you what’s going on.”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “I told you to call me if there was breakthrough. I told you not to go flying in because that’s how you died, and that’s exactly what you’re planning to do.”
“I’m trying to do it differently. I’m taking different people—Vaughn and Cassie are coming—“
“Wait,” Rachel said, “instead of taking Haley and Daniel, who are generally levelheaded, you’re taking the most impulsive people on the team?”
“Uh… No. Not just them. I was going to talk to Daniel and Haley too.”
She looked directly at me. “Nick, I’m coming along.”
And that was that.
Calling Daniel went better, but there was a common element…
I’d been keeping him informed so when I explained what was going on, and asked him if he would come along even though he’d died with me in another universe, and even though it was Shabbat, he said, “You know better than that. Of course, I’m coming. My dad and my grandfather always broke Shabbat when people’s lives were in danger.”
“I was trying to give you an out,” I said.
He frowned. “I don’t need an out. You’re trying to avoid mistakes an alternate you made, and I can sense the future. I’m exactly the person you need to have along. Though, we should take Izzy too.”
“Because she’s your girlfriend, or because you think we need her?”
He sighed, “She’s not my girlfriend. We’re just friends, and I do think we need her. Jaclyn’s got that Stapledon thing for speedsters this weekend, right?”
“So we’ll need the muscle.”
I didn’t argue with him. After we hung up, I called Haley to see when she wanted me to pick her up. She asked me if I’d learned anything about St. Louis, and I explained.
She was lying on her bed. She’d placed her phone on top of her trigonometry homework. “You weren’t going to ask me?”
“I was,” I said. “I was hoping you’d say no, but I was going to ask.”
She made a noise. “You know what we need?”
“More people?” I asked.
Haley raised an eyebrow. “We should take Sydney and Camille along, and we should tell Kayla what’s happening so we have someone at HQ.”
“Sure,” I said. “Just don’t let Sydney bring Sean again, okay?”
So after all that, I had a team of eight people and I’d originally planned for maybe half of them. I couldn’t deny it was a different group though. I just wished that I’d formed the group with some kind of plan instead of caving in to everyone who thought they ought to go along.
The crazy thing was that Haley and I did end up doing something together on Friday night like we’d planned. It wasn’t as fun as it would have been if we hadn’t been facing the possibility of dying. We got coffee, but instead of taking a walk together, we ordered a pizza and watched a movie in HQ.
After that, we pulled out a couple of HQ’s cots, and slept there until the next morning. By 6:00 am, we’d picked up Cassie in D.C., Rachel in Ann Arbor, Daniel and Izzy in Chicago and were on our way to St. Louis. Vaughn, Sydney, and Camille had met us in HQ itself.
As we flew through the darkness, I was surprised at how much it felt like when we’d gone up against Rook last semester. Haley and I were at the controls, the jet felt full to bursting, and we were all in costume. The major difference being that we didn’t have Flick along to tell us when we were about to make horrible mistakes.
Knowing one thing I did have to do though, I opened up the jet’s communicator, and made a call to the Defenders unit in St. Louis. I’d never been entirely clear on whether the Midwest Defenders or the Dixieland Defenders covered Missouri, and it didn’t get any clearer when they answered.
A man’s voice said, “Heroes League, this is the Defenders St Louis unit. What are you doing here?”
“This is the Rocket. We’ve got reason to believe something major’s going to happen here soon, something that may destroy the city.”
“Are you kidding me? We had Feds scouring the city for explosives all last week.”
Haley and I looked at each other. In the row behind us, Rachel muttered, “Huh.”
That was interesting. Lim had told me not to worry about it.
“I’ve got new information,” I said.