I took the call, and Kayla’s voice came over the comm. “Rocket, Night Cat wanted me to tell you,” she said, and my stomach felt very tight, “that we won. We survived. She’ll call you herself in a little while. We saw you popping in on our channel and thought you might want to know.”
I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “Everyone’s okay, then?”
Kayla’s breath caught. “No. It was terrifying. Sydney’s in this clinic Night Cat knows about, and she’s hurt. She’s not the only one, but she got it the worst. They’re talking about moving her to the hospital.”
I thought about Haley. Having her friend get hurt while she was leading the team would be awful. I knew I shouldn’t assume that she’d been leading, but it had sounded like she was in charge.
Then I realized something else. I’d have to tell Sean what had happened to Sydney. I knew now, and this wasn’t the kind of thing you hid.
This was not going to go well for reasons that had to be completely obvious. And speaking of obvious, I hated to think about Sydney. She was in a position to take lots of damage. She generally fought with a coating of liquid metal surrounding her body, and the Hrrnna carried mobile plasma cannons.
It would be far too easy to heat the metal around her to the point that she’d pass out or die. Those were almost the kindest possibilities. The combination of heated metal and human flesh created horrible thoughts that I didn’t want to dwell on.
She had a costume between her body and the metal, but it wouldn’t do much.
I needed to design something better for her if she survived. The metal armor itself could be redesigned to shed heat better even before I redesigned her costume.
With all of everything going through my head, I’d lost track of the world around me. The relief at Haley’s survival, the fear for Sydney, and the realization that I had a duty to Sean even though I wasn’t the best choice were a whirlwind, and I barely dared to move.
Reality intruded as I realized that Travis had glanced in my direction, and then over at Sean, and shook his head. At the same time, the way he held his body seemed a little less tense.
Of course he’d heard everything.
“Rocket?” Kayla asked.
“Sorry, that’s big news. I’m trying to think about what I can do. We’ve got Paladin here—not right here, right now, but nearby. He probably isn’t in a position to heal her right now, but if she can survive a day or two, I think I can get him or his dad to Grand Lake. Maybe he can look at everyone else too.”
Kayla didn’t say anything immediately. “They weren’t talking about her like she’d die tomorrow. I’ll tell everyone what you said, and Night Cat will call you back, okay?”
“Okay,” I said, and sent a text message to Isaac Lim saying, “Call me when you’ve got a second.”
He didn’t reply, but I didn’t expect one.
On the ground next to the end of the pier, two paramedics were giving Izzy and Jaclyn medical examinations. Rachel stood nearby. She must have walked off with them. I considered bringing them in on the conversation through their wrist comms, but gave up on the idea almost instantly. At bare minimum, it could distract them. Beyond that, the paramedics might hear something they shouldn’t.
That left Travis, Sean, and Vaughn, and Travis already knew. Travis and Vaughn would probably be enough to restrain Sean if he tried to literally or figuratively kill the messenger when I told him about Sydney.
“I’ve got news about Grand Lake,” I said. Sean had been staring out at the river, but his head snapped toward me. Vaughn had been watching all of us, and barely had to move at all, nodding at me, hands in his pockets.
Travis had been sitting on the bench next to the one Izzy destroyed. He turned his head toward me slowly. His muscles flexed a little as he moved, reminding me that he hadn’t transformed back to normal—claws and fangs were still out.
I felt certain he was watching Sean even though his eyes were most obviously on me.
“It’s good and bad. The good news is that they fought the aliens there, and survived. Everybody survived. The bad news is that almost everybody got hurt, and some got more hurt than others. Sydney’s pretty badly hurt—“
Sean’s face contorted, and he took a step toward me. “What happened?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know, but you know what the Hrrnna and the ship they hired were like—plasma rifles, lasers… Heat everywhere, and she was covered with metal. It’d be easy to get hurt.”
With a stamp of his foot, he turned around and took to the air, disappearing into the dark.
“Whoa,” Vaughn said, watching him fly away. “How bad is it?”
“Bad,” I said, still watching Sean with the Rocket suit’s radar. “She’s at the clinic we use, but they’re talking about moving her to a hospital. I’m going to try to get Paladin or Preserver to visit her there tomorrow.”
Vaughn nodded. “They’re awesome. When Paladin healed my cousin last year he went from having no chance to practically a full recovery. I wish the Power had stayed.”
Travis cleared his throat, staring at something in the dark above the river “Rocket, over there.”
I checked Sean’s position. He’d slowed down, and changed direction. He was coming back.