Even if the architect who designed the place had recognized the impact of the view and designed to make use of it, he or she hadn’t wasted much of it on the access road for service vehicles.
I had to turn right almost immediately, and drive straight in toward the buildings on a road that ran parallel to the wall.
We quickly left any kind of interesting view, passing all the shops, and driving the van into an elevator three times its length.
It started moving downward immediately after the van stopped moving.
From the back, Vaughn said, “What do you want to bet the dorms are inside the mountain? We’re going to spend the entire summer surrounded by rock.”
“It probably isn’t a mountain,” I said. “I think we might be officially in the foothills of the Rockies at this point, so this is probably a hill. If it’s not a hill, it’s probably some technical name I don’t know.”
With exaggerated solemnity, Vaughn said, “Thank you, Captain Geography.”
I didn’t point out that geologists were probably the ones who were most interested in the exact term for the geological formation we’d entered.
When the elevator opened, I drove the van into a parking garage hewn from the rock around it. This was a little disappointing. The part where it had been hewn from rock was very cool, even mind-blowing, but when you consider the top ten things you might want to see at one of the Western Hemisphere’s seven known superhero compounds, a parking garage did not make the list.
It’s safe to say that for the vast majority of people, parking garages don’t make any list at all.
I chose the closest spot to the door I could find, and then we all got out. Our directions told us that someone would be in the parking garage to meet us. Of course, our directions assumed that we’d be riding on the bus. I’d gotten alternate directions through email from Dr. Nation when I’d explained that I was currently working on the van as a project, and more generally on the technology I used to form and repair it.
As we unloaded the van, I noticed that the arrows pointed in the opposite direction on the ground. I guessed they must lead out, probably to the first level of the complex.
Jaclyn grabbed her suitcases, purse and duffle bag. “I guess we’re early. I’m a little surprised that we’re not even seeing security people yet.”
Cassie jumped out of the back of the van, carrying a suitcase and her duffle bag, landing next to Jaclyn. “Could be their security sucks.”
Vaughn stood next to the back of the van. He’d grabbed his suitcases first. “Isn’t security the selling point of these places? You hear about supers and their families getting killed, but these places are supposed to be safe.”
Waiting next to Vaughn, I said, “They might be so good that they know we’re not a threat.”
Vaughn grinned. “I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered any security team that good. I’ve run across teams with negative values though. Back when I was having problems, I had a bad reaction to some drugs, but I was with it enough that I tried to get my dad since he’s a doctor. Except he works for my family’s company, so I had to get through security to get to him? They wouldn’t let me into the building. They called the police, and you know what’s crazy? The police recognized me and got me to the hospital. It was a near thing though.”
Haley stepped down from the back of the van, grabbing her suitcases’ handles, and pulled them away. “Your turn,” she told me.
I climbed up the back of the van, grabbing my suitcase out of the cabinet along with my backpack. I left the Rocket suit block inside. I could come back and get it later.
When I stepped out of the van, I shut the door, and said, “Lock.”
All the doors locked, and Haley’s window rolled shut.
“Nice,” Vaughn said. “Hope nobody left anything inside. What happens if someone tries to break in?”
“Not much,” I said. “It’s made out of the same materials as the Rocket suit, so mostly it resists being broken into by being hard to break. It would be cool if it fought back, but I don’t trust any pre-programmed reactions I put in to fit all situations. What if a little kid starts hitting it with a hammer or something?”
The door opened—not one of van’s doors. They stayed shut.
The door we’d been told to park next to had moved. Metal, and painted green with a big, white “1” next to the window on the upper half, it looked like a door that could have fit in any parking garage I’d ever seen.
At first glance, the man who walked through the door looked like he’d have fit in at any barbecue I’d ever seen. Wearing shorts and a blue and white shirt with spots that made me think of Rorschach tests, he could have passed for a football coach on vacation. A big man who looked like he’d passed from muscular to fat a few years back, he had close cropped white hair, and an equally white mustache.
Then I recognized him.
“Whoa,” Vaughn said, “Didn’t you used to be Earthmover?”
Earthmover had been a massively powerful terrakinetic—exactly the sort of person who’d build a small city into a rocky hill.
The man had been smiling, but at that he winced. Recovering, he said, “Still am, but I’m taking civilian work these days. As the most important employee of Earthmover, Inc., I’m heading to the United Arab Emirates to reshape an island next week.”
Vaughn nodded. “No kidding? I heard you were the most powerful terrakinetic ever. I’d think you’d get bored being out of the fight.”
His smile had become a little more genuine at Vaughn’s comment about being the most powerful terrakinetic ever, and by the end of Vaughn’s statement he appeared to be on familiar ground.
“Of course I miss all the Defenders, but there comes a time in a man’s life where you have to step back. Other heroes are more than capable of taking over for me, and I, in turn, am more than ready to let them. Now, everyone take your bags. You’ve beaten the busses here handily. As president of the Compound’s council, I’m here to welcome you to your temporary home. If we hurry, we’ll get you settled before your friends arrive.”