“Heroes League,” he said. He’d left it set to “Rocket voice.” There couldn’t be any doubt who’d answered.
The person on the other end gasped. “Excuse me? Sir? I’m Officer Smythe of the Grand Lake police force, and there’s a man flying through downtown. He’s been asking for the Heroes League, and Captain Schwarz told me to call you.”
Joe frowned. “Is there something wrong with the flying man? Should I be worried?”
Officer Smythe paused. “I… I don’t know, sir, but he’s big. Maybe twelve feet tall, and he doesn’t look happy.”
“Do you have any idea who he is? I know a lot of flying people these days.”
Smythe gave a short laugh. “No. I’ve never seen this guy.”
Joe had the feeling that Smythe was a rookie.
“Alright. Tell Captain Schwarz thanks for the warning and that I’ll be out there as soon as I can.”
He hung up the phone by touching his finger to one of the buttons on his palm.
Turning his attention to the pile, he found Larry holding a manhole sized disc in his armored gloves. Freddie must have been coming back from the storage rooms. He wasn’t holding anything, and he’d stopped moving almost directly in front of Joe.
“Change of plans, boys, we’re heading downtown. There’s someone who wants to talk to the Heroes League, and for right now, I’m all of the League that’s currently on the planet. So, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to go in by myself. Freddie comes in with the Burrito Gun and if the guy wants to get rowdy, Yellow Burrito sticks him to the ground. If extra cheese can’t keep him down, the Rhino and the Rocket will take him down the hard way.”
Larry laughed, “I’ll take a fight over moving alien crap any day.”
Freddie gave him a grin, “And I barely finished scrubbing the Abominator guts off my costume… Don’t defeat him before we get there.”
Joe shook his head. “If we’re lucky, we won’t have to fight him at all.”
* * *
He took the sewage pipe exit, flying out over Grand Lake before curving toward downtown. He wished he’d thought to ask where exactly downtown the man was, but dismissed it almost immediately. A twelve foot tall, flying man wasn’t going to blend in.
Even if he did, Joe decided to bet he could locate the man by following the old standbys—police cars and fire.
It didn’t take more than five minutes.
Smoke rose next to the new highway. The highway wasn’t finished yet, but the smoke wasn’t new construction or the exhaust of particularly polluting equipment.
It came from a burning police car.
The highway was supposed to be several stories above the ground, doing as little damage as possible to the buildings below while giving drivers a view of Grand Lake. A historic preservation group, supported by members of the Hardwick family, had enough power to mandate the elevated highway, but not enough power prevent the highway from being built at all.
Joe doubted the Hardwicks would have supported that anyway. As a family, they had a talent for pulling profit out of nowhere.
The highway, for all the outcry about it, would probably act as an advertisement for Grand Lake to everyone who drove through.
Case in point, he thought as he dove, the bulldozed lot below him. Surrounded by historic buildings—the lumberyard, an old furniture factory, and a paper mill, all of them Hardwick properties—the city would never have allowed the building that used to be in the lot to be knocked down.
It had been a furniture factory at one point, but had turned into one business after another. It had even made wooden speed boats for a few years during the 1950’s before Giles had decided it wasn’t worth it any more, and closed the factory.
He’d said it was too old, and that it couldn’t be brought up to modern standards. He’d also said it wasn’t making enough money for him to do anything more than shut it down.
He did, and Joe didn’t remember any more whether that was before or after he’d run Giles through the power impregnator—Giles’ name for the device. He’d been a better businessman than a wordsmith.
The factory had turned into Red Lightning’s followers’ training facility. No one had any reason to visit an empty building in the middle of five other empty buildings.
The family sold the land to the government, knocking down the building before the sale, and bulldozing the land. Within a few months there would be nothing but an offramp here and the remains of Giles’ work would disappear under concrete.
Some kinds of profit didn’t involve money.
Now a twelve foot tall man floated above the dirt. He wore grayish-green armor with the same strange sheen as the Abominator metal that Joe had seen all too much of in the last few months.
Joe didn’t think either the armor’s color or the location was a coincidence.
Armor covered all of the giant’s body but his arms and face. Letters from a strange alphabet ran down the middle of the creature’s chest plate, and around the armholes.
The bracer that wrapped around his right arm didn’t fit the rest. It was black, but hints of other colors cycled through. Remembering what the Mentalist had told him about recognizing psychic activity, Joe wondered if the colors were real.
Günther, or Lee as he was calling himself now that he’d opened a martial arts studio in Cannon’s old hardware store, had pointed out an artifact made out of similar material that they’d taken from the Abominators.
“I remember that one,” he’d said. He’d almost sounded nostalgic.
The giant’s eyes followed him as the Rocket flew over the brick buildings around the lot, and landed in front of the creature.
He’d never seen a man this size, but something about the giant’s face seemed familiar. Something about the crooked nose, and the giant’s scowl, brought back memories, and not from the distant past either.
He should know this guy, but he didn’t know why.