Haley looked over at me, face tightening, but said, “I’m glad that almost everyone is there, but tell us if any of the missing people show up.”
“Yeah,” I tapped the palm of my glove, bringing me into the conversation. “Try to get everyone into the area Samita warded, and if you’ve got a second, read the email I forwarded to you. It’s from Samita. It tells you how to work the wards.”
“If I’ve got a second?” Kayla muttered something that I didn’t catch. “I’ll try.”
“Thanks,” Haley chirped. “We’ll be there pretty soon, so it won’t be all on you.”
“I hope so,” Kayla said. “I’ll see you soon.” Shortly after that, we hung up.
Not sure how much more I could say here in the prison, I only said, “HQ?”
Haley nodded and we walked outside, leaving the guards, handcuffs, concrete walls and spotlights behind us. We stepped into the van—sleek and ultramodern in its current form—and left, the van’s engine a quiet purr.
It made for a strange contrast. I wasn’t sure that I liked what it implied. It made us look young, wealthy and powerful while it made the guards look like servants—never mind the prisoner. They’d led us in and out, spoken only when spoken to, and generally acted like we deserved to be in charge.
It was easy to imagine someone coming to believe they deserved it. I mentioned as much to Haley.
She gave a smile. “Do you feel like you deserve it?”
“No, but I know that the van’s all show, and that we’re not headed back to HQ to drink champagne or something. We’re going there because we’re probably going to be fighting The Thing all night and that there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll get hurt. Even if we don’t someone on the team probably will—or worse, people might die, maybe people we know.”
She stopped smiling and nodded. “It feels like that to me too. A few of the girls on my floor were going to get together tonight. Yesterday I thought I might be able to go myself, but tonight… I think you’re right. We probably will stay up all night fighting this thing. Do you ever feel like you’re missing college? I hear about late night study sessions and midnight Denny’s visits, and I barely get to do them. We disappear every other weekend. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I miss a lot.”
I drove the van across the city toward our downtown office and the entrance to a tunnel that led to League HQ. I had a little bit of a thing for driving or flying at night. I didn’t know exactly about what it was but it had to be something about the interplay between light and darkness along with the bits of color revealed by the streetlights.
“I think I miss the social stuff less and dates that don’t get interrupted more. One thing I like about Stapledon though is that I can talk with people about technology and not worry that I’ve just introduced a major breakthrough into casual conversation.”
Haley looked over at me, grinning. “I think we had this conversation last summer and I was the one saying how nice it was to be near people who understood.”
I thought about it. “Yeah. Funny how that goes. I guess I’m missing that more now that we’re in the middle of something all magic—”
Both our comms beeped at about the same time the van’s comm started. Haley reached out and tapped it on.
Kayla’s voice came over the speaker. “Kid Biohack showed up at the downtown offices. He’s got no idea where HQ is. I wasn’t supposed to tell him, was I?”
Haley leaned in toward the comm. “We’ll pick him up. Can you let him in remotely?”
Kayla said, “I think so,” about the same time I said, “Yes.”
“Okay,” Kayla said, “I let him in.”
Haley nodded, but then spoke. “Don’t unlock any more doors, okay? He needs to stay where he is. He can’t go to HQ until we pick him up.”
“Got it.” Kayla said. “The tunnel door is locked.”
After Kayla left the call, I said, “I hope he’s not infected.”
Haley bit her lip. “I know. I hope the two of us can take him if he is. I didn’t want to let him through the tunnel on the off-chance that he would infect everyone, but if I didn’t let him in, someone outside might bite him.”
The press called the stretch of road our office appeared on “Medical Mile.” That had nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the hospitals and doctors’ offices that lined the streets nearby.
We were getting closer. I recognized an outpatient clinic. Though closed, the nearby streetlight lit up the glass and steel of its entrance.
As I drove, I continued the conversation, “I should get out and shake his hand or something. You’re best off if you can move. The Rocket suit will take the hit if he attacks in response to the pain. Amy’s wards protect us from being infected, but they don’t make us invulnerable to damage from it.”
Haley shook her head. “I’ll be fine. I can’t run faster, but I react faster. I’ll hit him with goo if he attacks.”
We were rolling up to our offices then, the Heroes’ League logo glowing on the front. I turned the van toward the building’s opening door, hoping Haley was right.