The point where the whole secret identity thing begins to get weird is when you start hearing about your exploits secondhand in real life.
I found myself stuck a couple people behind Sean Drucker and Jody on the way to class. Sean moved slowly on crutches. Jody carried his books. Apparently he’d had knee surgery almost immediately after our fight. I didn’t know the details. Anyway, with the hall as full as it was, it didn’t seem worth pushing past him. With my luck, I’d knock him over.
And that’s how I ended up hearing last night’s five minutes of terror and destruction reduced to…
“Captain Commando’s too thin and she’s kind of flat, but I’d do Night Cat. She’s short, but she looks okay.”
“The claws?” Jody asked.
“Well yeah, those are creepy. And the teeth, geez…”
So what would the appropriate response to that be?
I didn’t know. Going up and complaining about it would only blow everybody’s secret identity which, honestly, I couldn’t believe Sean hadn’t already figured out. He knew who Vaughn’s grandfather was. He had to have guessed that Vaughn and “Storm King” were the same person.
The only reason I could think that he hadn’t pegged Cassie or I for who we were was that Vaughn hung out with everybody. If he suspected all the people who hung out with Vaughn of being superheroes, he’d be watching half the senior class.
Absorbed in that thought, I missed anything else they had to say about how hot (or not) the rest of the League was. I did catch Sean say, “Did you see the clip from the end of the fight? When the Rocket knocks that guy out of the air and slams him into the street? That was so fucking cool.”
Jody nodded. “No doubt, but we’d do better.”
Sean shot him a warning look.
Jody laughed. “What? Do you think the Heroes League is going to beat up our grandparents?”
“Stuff it, Jody.”
Jody aimed an exaggerated, fake kick at Sean’s crutch. It didn’t connect.
“Fuck off, Jody.”
I turned in to my classroom, trying to shake the feeling that if they approved of me, I had to be doing something wrong.
After I got home, I put on running clothes. With Lee being in Grand Lake for a while, I’d decided not to be on the track team this year. Nonetheless, I still went running. Lifting weights wouldn’t make much difference because the suit determined my strength, but, if I worked on the endurance, I’d be able to fight longer.
Anyway, something about putting foot to pavement feels good.
I liked spring days in particular. Sixty degree days were perfect — neither too warm nor too cold.
Sometimes I wore an iPod, but, lately I’d been running without one. I felt better knowing that even if I found myself daydreaming about modifications to the suit or Cassie’s motorcycle, I’d at least have the chance to hear someone trying to run me down with a car.
I ran south of my parents’ house, toward the suburbs. I could have run to Haley’s house, but I didn’t feel like doing a fifteen mile round trip. As it was, I got to see the history of Grand Lake’s expansion as told in buildings — passing out of the blocks with houses from the 1920’s and moving into blocks from the city’s next big expansion in the 1950’s and 60’s.
I actually ran down Jefferson for a little while. The sign on Shorty’s Convenience Mart said “Closed” and a dumpster stood in the parking lot. People carried trash out in wheelbarrows.
Once I turned onto 48th Street and started running through quiet neighborhoods of ranch style houses, I got into the run. Unaware of anything but my own thoughts, I passed kids playing outside and other runners.
Just before the midway point, a horn beeped.
I turned to the source of the noise, already thinking about the best route to escape if it turned out to be hostile.
I hadn’t had the best of luck with people in cars stopping me while running or walking this year.
The car turned out to be a blue Prius — which was a little bit of a relief by itself because I had a hard time imagining anyone who wanted to hurt me being that into saving gas.
The car pulled to the side of the street and stopped. Isaac Lim stepped out, not looking much like an FBI agent at all. Skip the suit and trench coat, he wore casual clothes — a polo shirt, slacks and a light jacket. The bulge under his left arm had to be a gun though.
He went around the front of the car and across the lawn to the sidewalk.
“Hi, Nick, let’s talk.”
“It won’t take long. If someone comes up, I’m asking for directions to the airport.”
“Okay. What’s going on?”
“The men you fought last night didn’t have any record of working with Mayor Bouman, Magnus or the Cabal. They don’t have any history of showing powers. Basically they’ve bummed around all their lives doing petty crimes and working for anyone who would have them. Well, except for one guy. He used to be an accountant for one of the crime syndicates.”
“So who gave them the…” I searched for a word.
“I’ve no idea who they got it from. That’s what I’m here to check into. Have you heard of anyone else suddenly showing powers around here?”
Isaac sighed. “The last thing I need is to have us discover how to use this stuff, and then have it immediately get into the hands of organized crime. That’s the only lead I’ve got right now. They’ve all got connections to Syndicate L — small ones, but connections.”
“You think Syndicate L has somebody in the FBI?”
“I didn’t say that. Besides, they wouldn’t have to have anyone in the Bureau. All they’d need to have is someone on the power juice project. So, if any of you kids feel like checking something out, you might look into where the juice came from.”
“Just don’t tell me about it electronically. I’ll talk to you in person.”