“Wow,” I said, “you’re early.”
Mindstryke shook his head. “Not really. I told you the latest we’d be here was ten, and some of us happened to finish up earlier than expected.”
He was right. Now that he’d mentioned it, I remembered him saying that. I also remembered a couple other things he’d said.
“We’re still waiting on part of the current League, and one member of the board.”
I was about to ask him who that was when the words, “Entered: Accelerando, C. Retinal scan confirmed,” appeared on the bottom of my screen.
Shortly after that one of the tunnel doors swung open, and Jaclyn walked through with her grandfather. She wore her purple costume—not really more than a jumpsuit, but she didn’t need it for protection. The hard part was creating a fabric that could handle hitting the speed of sound.
Taller than Jaclyn, and with white, curly hair, C wore his costume too. It had last been redesigned in the 1970’s if I remembered correctly. It was orange with straight black lines that emerged around the “C” on his chest. Though a small part of me wondered if he’d already begun to go blind when he’d been shown the costume, most of me had to admit that he looked good in it.
Even in his eighties, his muscles looked strong, and he walked without a hint of weakness.
He did carry a cane, and wear sunglasses, but the cane wasn’t for holding him up.
Even as Jaclyn led him closer, telling him who was here, the screen announced, “Entered: The Shift, Night Wolf. Retinal scan confirmed.”
That was all of the current League, plus the board, plus Sydney, Izzy, and Camille. Twenty people. It was more than we usually had, but with HQ’s main room being the size of a basketball court, it didn’t feel like a lot of people.
Echoing my thoughts, Marcus said, “Whoa, everybody’s here.” With Travis, he stepped out of the same tunnel exit that Jaclyn and her grandfather had used.
Dressed in a costume that started green on his right and shifted into black on his left, Marcus had stayed in a human shape, and thus had light brown skin instead of the grayish color he had when he shifted.
Just behind him, tall and muscular like the football player he had been, Travis wore a dark gray costume with a wolf on his chest. He hadn’t transformed his hands and feet into claws, and thus just looked like an imposing guy.
With every bit of the confidence he looked like he should have, he said, “Welcome back.”
Maybe I should have said that, but I couldn’t say it after he had. Not really. I wondered what I should say, but then I stopped.
“You know what we need?” Cassie asked. “The folding chairs in the storage room over there.”
She was right. I followed her, and a few of us grabbed chairs. As we set them around the table, I overheard Marcus say to C (his grandfather), “I don’t think we’ve had this many people around in a while.”
C said, “You should have been here when we fought the Abominators in the 1970’s. We had two hundred people in here for the initial briefing.”
Marcus nodded. “Everything you’ve ever told me makes me wish I’d been around for all of it.”
C had been smiling, but his expression froze for a second. “I may not have been doing right by you if you heard it like that.”
Then he said, “Care to guide me over so I can sit with the rest of the board?”
By the time we’d all sat down, the board sat together at the far end of the table, and the rest of us filled in the empty space.
“Rocket,” Mindstryke said, “tell the board what happened from the beginning. No wait. Ghost, tell us about the very beginning, and Rocket take up where she leaves off.”
And so, for the third time in one morning, I told the story. With eight board members, and even more League members, I had all of the interruptions you could possibly imagine. I didn’t end up telling the whole thing either. Everyone who’d been there talked through their role.
It lasted for a while. Roughly forever. And sure, that’s a metaphorical forever, but it felt literal.
“One last question about this,” Mindstryke said. “Rocket, what would you say True Humanity planned to do with the neutron emitters?”
He sat in his chair, waiting patiently.
I know with near complete certainty that he’d asked the question because he knew the answer and wanted me to say it out loud.
Matching his calmness, I said, “I don’t think True Humanity quite realized what they had. I think that they knew the neutron emitters would kill, but I don’t think they realized how much of a range they had or that they were reusable.”
“Keep on going,” Mindstryke said. “What do you think the emitters are for, and who gave them the plans?”
“Oh,” I said. “I’d say that aliens gave them the plans since the League jet knew all about the technology. As for the purpose, I’d say it had to be human extinction. Really it’s the only thing they’d be good for. That, or threatening a city. Maybe a small country.”
Mindstryke nodded. “That’s it exactly.”
Vaughn nodded along with him. “So what are you guys going to do? Did you call us today so that you could tell us how to beat them?”
The board didn’t say anything, but they did look at each other.
Mindstryke gave a small smile, one that looked a little forced. “No. Our hands are tied. If we get too deeply involved, we’ll only mess things up. That’s what my dad said, and we’ve seen enough that we’re sure he’s right.”
Someone, and I think it might have been Travis, said, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
It might not have been Travis. Almost everyone had started talking at once.
Larry held up his arms, “Quiet, everybody.”
Flick cleared her throat.
“It’s like this,” Mindstryke said. “A long time ago, my dad realized that when you all came of age, things were going to turn very bad. The original League put a plan together to give you the best chance to live. Understand that this plan doesn’t necessarily mean that you win, but it gives you the best chance to live that they could manage.”
None of us said anything.
Mindstryke continued. “If we get too involved, you all die. I’m not sure why, but most of you don’t even make it to the age of 21.”
Rachel and Travis glanced at each other. They were both 20.