Control stopped at the table in the center and directly in front of the giant screen. She grabbed a mouse and started tapping, starting by clicking on a button under the word “Status,” changing it from green to red.
Immediately a text message started appearing on another part of her monitor.
It said, “Accelerando: How bad is the red?”
Control shook her head. “I wish she’d give me a second…”
Control typed, “Extradimensional particles. Protocol puts them at red, but we’re still waiting on information.”
Another text message appeared as she typed, “Rocket: Investigating.”
“Good,” Control muttered. “He’s paying attention.”
The words “Calls from:” appeared on the screen followed by the words, “Night Cat, Night Wolf, Ghost, Captain Commando, Gravity Star, Railgun.”
Control groaned. “Just give me a second.”
Ignoring them, she opened up an empty message window, addressing it to “All.”
Even as she typed the words, “Extradimensional particles detected. No contact. Await action.”
More names appeared as many of the first group flickered out—Blue, Paladin, The Rhino, C, Brawn, Midwest Defenders: Guardian, Midwest Defenders: Mindstryke, FBI: Superhuman Affairs Branch…
Control looked up at the names, and groaned, followed by a nervous giggle. “I don’t suppose you’d like to handle phones?”
Giving me a sidelong glance, she said, “I’m kidding. I’m kidding. They’d kill me. Well, not really, but they’d be mad.”
Metallic clunking noises came from my left, followed by a screech as the metal door that went from the floor to the ceiling of the wall there opened.
Another figure in a gray Heroes’ League uniform ran out of the opening. It wasn’t completely open, but through it anyone could have seen a long room filled with clutter and some of the most iconic vehicles of the late twentieth century—the all black Wolfmobile, Captain Commando’s red, white and blue motorcycle, and the silvery gray Heroes’ League jet.
Distracted by what I’d seen, I didn’t notice that the new person had come to a stop next to the table. Slightly taller than the Rocket, his mask covered all of his face except the mouth, and his short, straw-colored hair.
Ignoring me, he said, “Do you need me to suit up?”
From his voice, I guessed that he might still be in high school.
Control shook her head. “Not yet. We still don’t even know if anything came through.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“The Rocket’s looking into it,” Control said, “but if you’re not done with vehicle maintenance, you might want to finish.”
“I’m done,” he said, “but I’ll go prep our suits and the particle accelerator rifles in case this gets bad.”
“I’m writing an article about the Heroes’ League,” I said. “What should I call you, and how long have you been with the League?”
He held up his hands between us in a gesture that said, “Stop.”
“Sorry, ma’am. I’m not talking. If you have to call me something, call me Two, but better yet, leave me out of the article.” Then he turned and ran back to the hangar.
“Two?” Control shook her head. “I guess what we called him last time was too obvious.”
“Ma’am?” That took me back, but he’d probably said it because he thought I was old. I’m thirty-two.
Wide-eyed, Control watched him go. “Sorry, I’m sure he was just trying to be respectful before um… being rude. That’s a hazard with techies. They’re just not people people. I know four of them now. The Rhino’s the best with people, and that’s no surprise since he’s um… older.”
I felt sure older wasn’t what she’d been about to say, and I intended to follow up on it, but a door slammed. I turned to see the Rocket crossing the basketball court sized room in the odd gait common to the super strong that’s half run and half a series of jumps.
I’d seen footage of the Rocket’s black, cloth costume. That’s what he wore then, and he crossed the floor in steps that weren’t any shorter than ten feet long.
It wouldn’t be accurate to call him elegant, but each foot landed and pushed off with perfect timing. By all accounts, the Rocket has no powers, but he’s in complete control of whatever technology runs his suit.
The Mystic flew above him. They landed next to the table at the same time.
The Rocket didn’t say anything. He stepped in front of a computer terminal and started typing.
The Mystic smiled at me, reminding me of why his face appeared on so many online magazines aimed at teenage girls. His mask hid the upper half of his face, but what they could see must have been enough.
He turned to me. “We’d intended to have the Rocket give you a tour of HQ, but it looks like circumstances have changed. We can call in some favors and get you teleported out. If you want to stay, I should let you know that our enemies have made it into HQ before. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s often enough.”
I nodded and smiled. That wasn’t the first time I’d heard that speech or a variation on it when things got rough. It was kind of them, if self-serving, but I couldn’t fault them trying to make their jobs less complicated.
I met his eyes. “You won’t have to protect me. I can handle myself. I served in a powered unit in the Army Airborne.”
The Mystic turned to the others. “She’s telling the truth.”
Ignoring him, the Rocket tapped on his keyboard. “The spybots are in place and we’ve got a picture. I’m sending it to the big screen.”
Numbers disappeared from the giant TV screen, replaced by old brick buildings and a downtown alley. A rectangular gateway glowed in the alley’s shade. Things walked out of the gateway. Covered in brown feathers, they wore bulky clothes that made me think of combat gear.
The rifles in their talons couldn’t have been mistaken for anything else.