I blinked. I knew that Lim probably had an agenda, and felt fairly sure that in a choice between me and the government, Lim would choose the government, but I couldn’t fault a man who’d sworn to serve the United States for actually doing his job.
Plus, when it came down to it Lim had admired Grandpa as the Rocket, and I had a hard time believing he’d deliberately screw the League over without a reason.
Something of that must have shown on my face because Gordon sat a little straighter in his seat. “I’m not saying anything other people aren’t saying. Look, you weren’t here before the program exploded.
“When I started, the Stapledon program wasn’t more than a twenty people per class, sometimes not more than ten. It only expanded because the government wanted in. Before that, capes did it together, and funded it themselves.
“I didn’t grow up in a compound, but we were part of the cape community in Seattle even after my dad died, and I heard how this went down. They knew they didn’t have the manpower or the money to train all the capes that were appearing because of all the new power activation tech, and the government got wind of it. After some negotiations, they convinced them to split Stapledon half and half.”
That was new information.
I raised an eyebrow. “So this is all new? You weren’t here every summer?”
He shook his head. “No way. It’s been here before, but they’ve swapped the summer training around between groups. Sometimes it’s been in a compound. Sometimes it’s been at a Defenders base. They also used the bunker in Nebraska a lot. You know the one I mean?”
I nodded. “I hadn’t known it was in Nebraska. They never told us.”
He grinned. “I heard it from some of my dad’s teammates. Did you know that place started out as a fallout shelter? Back in the 1950’s, they were making them everywhere. I guess the capes back then set up their own system of shelters in case the world got blown to hell.”
“That part,” I said, “I did know. My grandpa was one of the people who created the plans for the shelters. He set them up with the idea of saving as many heroes and civilians as possible and then having enough supplies and equipment to begin to rebuild. The Heroes League’s headquarters is one too. That’s why it’s a lot bigger than you’d think.”
He sat back and raised an eyebrow. “Big enough to host Stapledon?”
“Well,” I said, “yes and no. Definitely yes for the old version of Stapledon, but not now.”
At the same time, I wondered how many people it could really hold. The hangar and the main room were all on the first level. We didn’t even use the second level. Of course, the second level wasn’t much more than a giant homeless shelter, and supplies for rebuilding the world.
Well, maybe. For all I knew Grandpa had filled the place with Abominator relics like he had storage rooms three and four.
What are you supposed to do with a fallout shelter when the nuclear apocalypse fails to show up?
Gordon pulled out his phone and checked it. “I should go. My girlfriend said she’d be done soon.”
“Girlfriend?” I wasn’t surprised that he had a girlfriend, but I didn’t know who she was.
“Dude,” he said, “you don’t know her? She’s in your specialty.”
That meant nothing to me. I barely knew anybody in my specialty–none of the older students for sure.
More to the point, I’d never seen him in the lab before. I didn’t know he knew where it was.
Frowning, he said, “Stephanie. You know Steph, right?”
I didn’t, and didn’t manage to say so before he said, “Hologram. I’m sure you’ve heard of Hologram.”
“Oh,” I said. “Not the original Hologram or she’d be in her fifties. If I remember, Hologram got most of her press in the 80’s and the early 90’s before she retired. Except then there was a Hologram in the 90’s who barely appeared before vanishing permanently.”
He checked behind him before he said, “You might not want to put it quite that way if you ever run into her. Her mom was the first Hologram. The second one was her aunt. And it’s not like they were nothing. They were both big at fighting human traffickers in the early 90’s.
“Besides, they’re a helluva lot more recent than the Heroes League.”
It took me a moment to absorb that last blast of… something. Hostility seemed like an overstatement, but if it wasn’t hostility, I didn’t know what to call it. Besides, where did it come from? I hadn’t insulted his girlfriend that I’d noticed. I didn’t think I was being particularly harsh in my summary–just factual.
He pushed his chair back and stood up. “Hey man, it’s been good to talk to you. I’m a little surprised you and the other techie didn’t stop the photographer, but I’m glad for what you could do. I’d have been pretty pissed if you’d done nothing. Can’t say what I’d have done. Nothing personal. Just protecting my brother.”
Then he started walking away.
I stood up to follow him, not sure what I was about to do. Had he just threatened me? That last statement almost sounded like he was saying he’d been planning to do something to me if it turned out that I’d done nothing to help his brother.
I didn’t get to ask him.
He took the hand of one of the upperclassmen who had labs near the front of the common area. Dark haired and half a foot shorter than Gordon, she wore shorts and a grey t-shirt that were somehow more stylish than the shorts and t-shirt I had on. The sleeves went a little past the elbow and billowed or something?
It wasn’t anything a guy could wear in any case.
He waved his hand at me as they walked away. She glanced in my direction and gave a brief smile.
Not sure what had happened, I walked back to the table and continued to test the bot.