Jillian’s boyfriend straightened up, letting go of Jillian’s arm, and standing in between her and Kid Biohack. Meeting Kid’s eyes, he said, “I told you I wasn’t going to do the hero thing after graduation. The system’s corrupt, and I know you know it. We talked about it back—” and there he blinked, “—in days we can’t talk about.”
Jeremy glanced over at me, and I guessed he’d recognized the same thing I had—the slack-jawed look of a guy whose psychic block had kicked into action.
Haley grabbed Jillian’s arm and whispered into her ear while pulling her backward, and nudging Camille and the guys next to her.
That was the smart play. Getting a ringside seat at what might be a superpowered fight was not.
Meanwhile, the conversation hadn’t stopped. Kid Biohack said, “I know it, but you’re not just dropping out of the system. You’re actively working against it, and the people you’re hurting aren’t the people we had a problem with. It’s normal people you’re hurting. You’re part of the group that’s robbing the armored cars.”
Jillian didn’t go immediately, reaching out and touching her boyfriend, “Alden?”
He just said, “Go.”
After a moment, she did, or at least she tried to. All the people coming out of the theater had created a crowd behind us and on both sides. Going forward didn’t seem like a good idea. Our only option aside from revealing ourselves was to push sideways, and so we did.
We just couldn’t do it quickly, and so we got to hear more of the conversation than we wanted.
“You’re my best friend in the world, man, but if you’re in this, I have to bring you in.”
Alden shook his head, “I know, but hear me out first. You know there’s something wrong. It might be the Nine. It might be that heroes we’ve believed in are too powerful, have too much influence. It’s hard to tell, but when you’re outside the system, you’ve got the freedom to look, and I’m looking.”
Kid Biohack replied, his arms shaking as he said, “You’re not doing detective work, all you’re doing is hurting people!”
Alden held up his hands between the two of them, palms out. “No. There’s no hurting involved. We don’t hurt civilians and we never kill. We’re careful. Precise. We only rob businesses. They’re all insured. The crime’s practically victimless.”
Kid Biohack brought his hands to both sides of his head, and might have pulled his hair if he weren’t wearing a mask.
Bringing his hands back down, he said, “Look, robbing armored cars isn’t the only thing you could have done. People are always looking for speedsters. Even if you didn’t want to do hero work, you could have worked privately or for the government—”
Alden shook his head. “You know better. The Nine are in government, and even if it’s not them, my dad would never leave me alone. You know what he’s like. He’d hound me and I’d be in a Defenders unit within the month.”
In a much quieter voice than he’d used before, Kid Biohack asked, “Is this all about your dad? I know he’s not the best—”
Alden didn’t let him finish. “I don’t know. So what is it? Are you going to let me go, or are we going to fight?”
“Shit,” Kid Biohack said, sighing. “I think we’re gonna fight.”
After that, I didn’t so much as see them fight as feel the wind as they rushed each other, and see the blur. From the spybots’ logs, I learned that they fought in the parking lot for a little while, but I never saw them.
Bare moments later, they weren’t in the parking lot anymore, instead, they were fighting all over the city, only showing up briefly in the spybots cameras before disappearing again. Alden wasn’t caught that night, but I had no way to know that as we led Jillian to the van, climbed in and drove back to campus.
I made a quick check of my phone before I got into the van. Travis, Chris, Marcus, and Sydney were trying to use the spybots’ images to select a good spot in the city to set up an ambush. Chris Cannon’s grandfather came on the comm to offer them suggestions, one of which was, “Just give up. You don’t have anyone fast enough.”
He was, as I mentioned, completely correct about that, but they still gave it a try.
I put the phone back in my pocket, figuring that I’d help if anyone asked. Just then, however, we were in a much better position to capture Alden than anyone. Granted we couldn’t capture him directly, but we could get information that might help.
We couldn’t leave the parking lot at first. Jillian sat down in the second row of the van, but Jeremy stood behind her, leaning forward toward her, and everyone else crowded around the two of them.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“I’m fine,” she said. As non-answers went, it was one of the best, but it didn’t save her from the followup question.
“Did you know he was a criminal?” The words came out of Jeremy in a rush.
She hesitated, but finally said, “N-No.”
I didn’t need to notice Haley’s frown to guess that Jillian was lying.