The League jet still dripped water even though they’d stepped out of it two hours ago. It stood inside a huge room made of gray concrete. A car that resembled a black 1965 Corvette had been parked next to two motorcycles, one normal, and the other red, white, and blue.
Metal shelving ran across the walls, holding tools and spare parts.
Joe stood in the hangar, still wearing the Rocket suit. He’d expected to be done by now, but he had to admit that he probably shouldn’t have. They’d packed the League jet practically to the top of the cargo bay.
It was like moving, but only if your house had been stocked with alien artifacts created for the purpose of destroying alien civilizations and bending what was left to your will.
A man in bulky, gray armor exited the jet’s cargo bay. Even if Joe hadn’t known his name, the horn extending from the mask hinted at his codename.
Joe could have called him “Rhino,” but opted with, “Hey Larry, is that what I think it is?”
Larry put the device down on the hangar floor next to the rest of the pile. He popped his mask open, stared down at it.
It wasn’t shaped like a chair, more like a slab, but the indentation on the slab was obviously human shaped. Made out of the same green-gray metal Joe had seen in so many alien spaceships, it didn’t have any straps, but did have a large mass above where the head would be and smaller masses near where the arms and legs would end.
If the metal adjusted itself, the metal masses would be at the right spots to restrain someone. Not coincidentally, they were at the same spots he’d placed them in the power impregnator design he’d used for Giles—assuming you stretched the chair out and turned the device into a big slab.
He thought about that. It was a big slab, made to handle creatures as big as twelve feet tall. Joe thought about that. Either the Abominators had made humans that tall or they expected humans to become that big after the treatment.
He walked over, stopping next to the featureless bulge along the side. The bulge held the controls, some kind of miniaturized computer that assisted the operator, and some kind of wireless transmitter/receiver that allowed the Abominators to control it without touching it.
Dissections of Abominator bodies had hinted that they’d grown matching transmitter/receivers inside their own bodies.
He shook his head. He didn’t want direct mind to mind connection with anything the Abominators designed.
Larry looked up from the device, brushed his hair back from his face with one armored hand. He kept his hair long in back, but it didn’t always stay there.
“It looks like the power impregnator.”
Joe nodded. “That’s what I thought. Imagine what the devices we don’t recognize could be.”
Larry shrugged. “Can’t be too much worse than the ones we do recognize. Remember the one that melted the Crusader’s leg? I mean, damn. I nearly puked in my helmet.”
A tenor voice cut in before Joe could reply. “That’s all of it. The cargo bay is officially empty.”
Freddie Nation walked out of the bay carrying a big grayish-blue box. It glowed dimly. Joe had no idea what it did. They’d never seen it used.
He’d carried it onboard though, so he did know what it weighed—approximately a ton according to the Rocket suit.
Pointing at the box, he asked, “Have you got that?”
Freddie nodded. “It’s completely under control.”
Then he tripped, giving look of comic horror so perfect Joe knew it was intentional. Freddie got his feet back under himself, and the package balanced in a move that went too quickly for Joe to see what had happened.
Freddie had the physique to do it. He’d shucked his costume before they’d even arrived back on the planet. Wearing a t-shirt and the black, bullet resistant underlayer to his costume as pants, Freddie’s muscles were obvious.
Joe couldn’t blame him for that. He’d have been getting out of costume as soon as possible if his had been designed to resemble a yellow burrito too.
Freddie grinned under his mustache. “Thank goodness I saved this device of unknown, cosmic evil from hitting the ground.”
Joe shook his head. “No one likes a smartass, Freddie.”
“Since you guys have so much energy, why don’t you put all that in storage room three? If there’s not enough room, put the rest in four. When you’re done set the rooms to high security.”
Joe looked from one to the other of them. “Got it?”
Larry picked up the alien power impregnator. “What are you going to be doing?”
“I’ve got a call to make. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Joe pulled his helmet back on, watching as the system checked connections to the armor. When it was over, he tapped on his palm, calling Cannon’s number.
While the number rang, he watched Freddie and Larry move the alien artifacts out of the hangar. They were good kids. Granted they weren’t that young. Larry was sixteen, and Freddie was nineteen. They were old enough that he’d taken them to war. He wasn’t sure if he should have, but he needed the help, and they’d more than proved themselves.
Besides, he was in his fifties. He wasn’t sure when he was going to stop, but he knew it would happen sooner rather than later. They’d need the next generation to be experienced.
Someone picked up the phone. Cannon said, “Who is this? I had to walk out of a damn important meeting.”
Setting the helmet to standard Rocket voice, Joe said, “You know who this is. I’m calling because we’re back, and it’s over.”
“About goddamn time. The fuckers sent a strike force that I had to fight on my own, and when it was over, the cops tried to arrest me.” Cannon made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a sigh.
“Well,” Joe said, “it’s over. You can go back to trying to beat the hell out of me knowing that the League owes you one.”
Cannon laughed. “How much of one?”
“Not enough to get you out of jail if you land yourself there, but enough for a couple near escapes, more if you’re willing stop this side project where you’re building armor for supervillains.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cannon said, and hung up.
Joe sighed. He should have known better than to mention the armor, but it had been a pain in the neck for months now.
Well, at least it was over, he thought. All he had to do now was get the Abominator equipment safely stored. After that, life could get back to normal. Maybe he and Romy could go on vacation together, and get caught up. Joanie was the only one of their kids who was too young to stay home for a few days on her own.
Maybe she could stay with a friend.
He’d have gone further into that thought if HQ’s phone hadn’t started ringing. It wasn’t just any phone either. The double ring told him it was the red phone, the one state, federal, and local law enforcement called in case of emergency.
He took the call with his helmet.