Over the next two days, I settled into a more normal routine. The spybots didn’t pick up anything worth mentioning. Kid Biohack didn’t try to contact us. I had time to hang around with Haley, which on Thursday night turned into all the people who happened to visit my room—Camille, Vaughn, and Courtney. We didn’t talk about anything even related to Stapledon or superheroes because a number of Jeremy’s friends also came through including Jillian, the Kid Biohack fan we’d met while moving in.
Sean even dropped by to talk to Vaughn. It was the first time I’d seen him since leaving Colorado. It wasn’t precisely awkward. We’d talked a few times after everything that happened—fighting faeries, the dragon, and so on, but no heart to heart talks or anything. We’d acknowledged each other and left it at that. Thursday was no exception. Sean and I nodded at each other. Sean and Vaughn stepped out to talk, and then Vaughn came back alone.
It wasn’t exactly a homework-friendly situation. I didn’t get anything done until after everyone left. On the bright side, it was still the first week of school, so there wasn’t much homework to speak of.
On Friday afternoon, though, normal life ended—at least for the weekend. All the local heroes that were in Stapledon met up at Heroes’ League HQ—the real one, the bunker built hundreds of feet below my grandparent’s house and a nearby lakeside park.
It really was everyone. Not only did we have Travis, Camille, Haley, Vaughn, and I, but also Sean, and his friends Jody (a short speedster who’d always hated me), and Dayton (a big, likable guy with the ability to learn moves by watching them). That wasn’t all. We also had two more former teammates of Sean. Julie, a thin, blonde girl, who could command people with her voice, and Shannon, her cousin, who could create darkness, and was a barista at a coffeehouse Haley and I went to on dates a few times.
As per directions from the school, we were all in costume. I couldn’t help but notice that none of Sean’s former teammates wore their old Justice Fist costumes. Sean, Dayton, and Jody wore new costumes with a quasi-military look. All black with helmets that covered the upper half of their faces, they included a jacket, pants, and boots. Flexible plates of ceramic armor had been sewed into the fabric over his chest.
I recognized the materials. They were among the better ones my grandfather made available to supers a few years before his death. I couldn’t help but notice that whoever made them had paid attention to looks. Unlike real military uniforms, the costumes were form fitting, emphasizing Sean’s height, Dayton’s muscles, and Jody’s slimness.
None of the costumes had insignia.
“Like them?” Sean asked. “We’re part of a new team. They’re prototypes, but they’re all black to get people looking.”
“They do look good,” I said, noting that Jody’s boots were designed more like running shoes than boots.
Julie, whose costume was a stock gray Stapledon costume, said, “It’s great,” in a tone of voice that could also be used to say, “Go die in a fire.”
Next to me, Haley muttered, “Julie and Sean were dating when they were in Justice Fist.”
“Huh,” I said. I’d completely missed that.
Haley smiled so quickly I’d have missed that too if I’d blinked. Meanwhile, Sean had obviously caught Julie’s tone too, and replied with a quiet,”Thanks.”
That was interesting by itself because from my personal experience Sean wasn’t shy about telling people exactly what he thought of them. Maybe he was more tongue-tied with girls he’d dated? I didn’t know.
A blast of white noise saved us all from finding out more. A bright hole appeared in front of us, and we walked through, leaving behind us the League’s hangar with its concrete floors, tools, and vehicles including the League’s jet and Wolfmobile.
We walked into a warm Colorado day, appearing in the Castle Rock, Colorado super compound. We stood in the shadow of the stone wall that surrounded the compound as well as the shadow of the rocky foothill that the compound had built into a multi-level hidden complex.
I couldn’t see any sign of the fight with the dragon and its forces. That didn’t surprise me. Earthmover, the super who’d carved the whole place out of the rock was fantastically gifted.
I didn’t have any time to think about this because I’d recognized a small, balding man in a brown suit. It was Chancy Harris, a man I’d last seen when we were trying to track down where the Hrrnna, a group of horselike aliens, had hidden. He’d helped them cover their tracks—which would have been fine if they were friendly, but they’d actually been trying to destroy the human race.
In his defense, he didn’t know, but I’d always wondered if he’d gotten in trouble for that.
Haley gave him a little wave.
He didn’t wave back, glaring at all of us instead. “All of you, move, move, move! I’ve got to bring in nearly 700 people today, and I don’t want the next group tripping over you.”
Sean shook his head, “Can’t the dude just move where the portal opens?”
Chancy glared at him, probably considering dropping Sean in the nearest volcano. I’d had similar thoughts myself in the past, but I didn’t have the means to do it. Chancy did.
Vaughn noticed Chancy’s expression, glanced at Sean and started laughing, shaking his head. “Let’s get walking.” Giving Chancy a nod, he said, “Thanks for the ride.”
Chancy gave him a barely perceptible nod in reply.
After that, we all walked toward the big rock in the middle of the compound. Once we were inside, we found our rooms, the same ones we’d had during the summer, met up with Daniel, my sister Rachel, Jaclyn, and others. After everyone changed out of costume, we descended on the buffet which doubled as a school assembly where we were welcomed and learned what we’d be doing over the course of the semester.
It wasn’t much different from last year.
By the time that most of the student body left to socialize, Amy led a group of us down to the magic labs. We’d met in my personal lab for secret meetings during the summer, but the group had grown.
In the common area in front of the magic labs, someone had put out folding chairs, and we sat down. It was a big group. We had those of us who brought back the Heroes’ League—Cassie, Daniel, Travis, Rachel, Haley, Vaughn, Jaclyn, and I. We had Rod, Samita, and Tara who we’d gotten to know through school. Plus, we’d brought in Camille, Courtney, and Izzy. Amy, of course, was leading the meeting.
Amy stood in front of the group. She wore blue jeans along with a white blouse with ruffles that struck me as somewhat Victorian in style. The red gem on her necklace glinted in the light.
Raising her right hand to get our attention, and stop the talking, she began with, “Last summer, for reasons you all know, and I’m not going into, we discovered that one of my kingdom’s enemies, The Thing That Eats, was masquerading as human and had become part of Turkmenistan’s government.
“We’re going to find a way to destroy it.”