I pointed at the back of the chest section. “If you could pick that up and hang it on my back, it would be a lot easier.”
Tara’s gaze followed my hand, and I realized that I wasn’t doing all that well. Almost everything was in the same place. I clarified. “Uh… The piece with the rocket pack on the back. It’ll be heavier than you’d expect.”
“This?” She picked it up without a problem, and placed it on my back.
I felt the weight, and stepped backward with one foot to brace myself. Then I started plugging cables into the stealth suit, and pulling out sections of frame that the breastplate would lock into.
Tara handed me each piece of armor, and it went quickly.
When we only had the right arm, the left arm, and the helmet to go, she said, “I’m grateful that the League sent Rachel and Travis to my father’s memorial service yesterday.”
She handed me the armor’s left arm, and I put my hand inside, listening as it locked into place. “They wanted to go,” I said. “Besides, you know them. It wouldn’t have meant much if we sent anyone else.”
She shook her head. “It would have meant something. When we were on the run in Infinity City, we met more than one version of you—”
“You?” I asked. “As in me or the whole League?”
“All of you,” she said, “the whole League, starting with your grandfather. I feel like I know you because I’ve met all of you before for most of my life.”
“That’s…” I thought about the possibilities. “That’s mindbending to imagine. With infinite possibilities, I can’t imagine that every version of us was good.”
She smiled, but it struck me as a fragile smile. “My dad kept us moving between places that were strong enough to keep us safe, and your grandfather helped design equipment for the authorities in a lot of those places. You did too. That kept us out of places where you were criminals.”
“Yeah? That’s good.”
She handed me the armor’s right arm. I put it on.
Tara checked the door. “A couple people are in the gym. We’ll need to be out there to help, and I need to ask you a question.”
“Sure.” I picked up the helmet, but didn’t put it on. It didn’t quite seem like the right moment even though I couldn’t do a final check of the suit’s systems without the helmet’s readouts.
“Do you think he could have survived?” The hint of hope in her voice was painful to hear.
It also wasn’t as completely out there as you might expect. Even though the early news reports said no survivors, three days after the blast they found Heartrock, a super with the ability to change into a rock-like substance, in the ruins.
For the record, I was glad to hear he survived, but I still thought his name sounded like the name of a bad cover band. What exactly was a “Heartrock” supposed to be?
I thought about Tara’s dad, knowing how the explosion had passed out from the bomb, burning everything. He’d have been incinerated.
I opened my mouth to say so as Tara held up her hand. “You don’t have to. I can see what you’re going to say. I know I sounded crazy, but I needed to ask.”
They probably hadn’t found a body, not an identifiable one anyway. Ronin had to have been effectively cremated, allowing her to have a hope, however small—which I’d just taken away. I looked at her, wondering what I should be saying. Was the responsible thing to make absolutely sure she knew the truth?
Daniel had given his memories of the moment to me before either of us had really thought about it. I’d felt her father’s life end secondhand, but I couldn’t tell her that.
I heard voices talking outside the door, and Tara said, “We should go. Günther will want to talk to us before class.”
She said it calmly—extra calmly in fact, causing me to look at her face more closely. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes looked moist.
“He would have wanted to die fighting, doing something that helped people. It was a good death.” She turned and walked out the door. Putting on my helmet, I followed her out, watching the startup checklist pass near the top of my vision.
When I passed through the door, I found most of the first year Stapledon students gathered in the gym with the rest arriving, mostly in groups.
Günther stood in the corner with his assistants—mostly upper year students like Tara, but also Cassie. I walked up and joined the group.
“Let’s go through the plan for the class,” he said. “I’ve got pieces of paper with the exercises I’d like you to lead.”
We finished before class officially started, but not by much. Sean, Dayton, and Jody came through in the last big rush.
Tall, and wearing his Justice Fist uniform—green with a fist outlined in white—Sean glared as he passed me. I wondered why. He couldn’t have already heard that we weren’t going to consider him for the League, could he?