Kayla sat in a chair in front of a computer screen inside one of the most famous secret bases in the world, and tried to stay awake.
It had sounded more fun when Cassie pitched it to her last summer. Cassie had been grinning the whole time. “We need someone back in the base to do research or call for help or whatever. You need money for college. This way you’ll be able to help, but you won’t have to be in danger, and we’ll be able to hang out all the time like we did before.”
“Before” as in before Cassie got her father’s superpowers, turned cape, and revived the Heroes League.
It was also “before” (though Cassie didn’t know it then) as in before the Nine targeted Cassie, forcing her to relocate to Washington D.C.
That left Kayla sitting in a secret base, a dark musty secret base with old boxes in a big pile, olive green carpet that had been installed a few years before the Reagan administration, and trophies and momentoes that bordered on creepy.
The gauntlet on the stand not far from her had been a weapon used by a Nazi super-soldier. The gun hanging on the wall near the big, flat metal disc could turn you from a man to a woman, or vice versa, but not back to your original gender. You’d grow back to normal gradually over several months.
It was only one of many objects in the room that she’d decided to never, ever touch.
She decided to open up Netflix. She’d finished all her homework during yesterday afternoon’s shift.
The computer pinged.
The square next to Cassie’s name blinked, and then her face appeared on the screen. Square jawed with light skin, Cassie had her blond hair in a ponytail, and wore a Grand Lake University hoodie. “Hey K!”
Kayla answered. “How’s it going?”
Cassie gave a disgusted look at someone off camera. “Badly. If Earth’s ever attacked by aliens, people should hope that we defect. Some of us are more dangerous to our allies than our enemies. Sean dropped a spaceship on us—a fake spaceship, but still.”
Kayla was still trying to think of a reply when Cassie said, “Not that it matters. We’re almost on our way home.”
Not much was visible behind Cassie, but it looked like a big building. People stood in groups, talking.
Cassie looked away from her phone’s camera. “I’d better go talk to Nick. I’ll call you back.”
“Kay,” Kayla said, and the screen went black.
She stared at it for a moment. She knew she didn’t want to be in their position, but being there looked like a lot more fun than being here. At least there would be people.
Something hummed, and it sounded like it was coming closer. She turned around in her chair. A Roomba moved across the carpet, the flat robot sucking up the dust. Kayla watched it for a little while, and then shuddered.
Nick had more than one, and he’d modified them. When she’d asked, he’d said, “I’m calling them Battle Roombas. At least until I come up with something better.”
She’d stared at the robot as it rolled across the floor. “Is it safe?”
“Well, sure,” Nick had said. “To us, but you know the League phone I gave you?”
“Uh… Keep it on you while you’re in here, and you’ll probably be fine.”
That hadn’t made her feel any better.
She touched the mouse, and began to click her way to Netflix again—only to be interrupted by a box that appeared in the middle of the screen. Underneath the words “General Alert” the message said, “As of forty minutes ago, Earth spacecraft detected a planetary bombardment. Guardian and various Defenders groups have been mobilized to attend to the situation. Metahumans should gather their gear and contact their local Defenders unit to find out if their services are required.”
The computer pinged again. Kayla checked the screen, expecting to see Cassie’s response. She had to have seen it.
The square next to the words “League jet” blinked yellow. A text message appeared. “Human,” it read, “I have urgent information for an authority figure regarding an attack on this place. The file is attached to this message.”
Authority figure? She thought about it. Who was even in Grand Lake right now? Everyone over eighteen was in the Stapledon program which meant they were all with Cassie. That wouldn’t do any good at all.
Also, how was it that an artificial intelligence didn’t even seem to know her name?
She shook her head. She clicked on the file, and forwarded it to Haley. If anybody was the leader between Haley, Sydney, and Camille, it was most likely Haley.
Haley texted back a reply. “Is this real?”
Kayla texted back, “Yes.”
Haley didn’t reply. After a short delay, she sent a yellow alert to everyone on the Grand Lake Heroes League channel.
“The League jet has detected that one of the asteroids was aimed directly at Grand Lake’s downtown. Another one is heading straight for New York. The jet’s AI thinks that it’s a feint or a distraction, and Lee agrees. All League members and friends near Grand Lake, please respond.”
Marcus, Camille, and Sydney responded.
A moment later Chris texted, “I’ll help, and my grandfather will too.”