The Rocket cocked his head. “Are there a lot of small details that you have to see?”
C laughed. “Or put another way, will my blindness kill you all? Don’t worry. I’m going to show Control, you and Two, how to operate it right now. It’s not hard. It was made to be used by people who don’t understand how it works.”
He gestured almost in the “starplate’s” direction. “Come on. Railgun, take Control’s station. The rest of you can do whatever you want, but it wouldn’t hurt if a few of you checked the spybots’ feeds. You never know what might appear.”
Accelerando walked with him and the others to the starplate’s metal platform. Despite not being named, Bloodmaiden followed them, the red gem on her black armor glowing.
“Well, well,” a voice said as they went, “It’s been a few years since…” Gunther said, naming two of the worst missions of my military career and a third that I didn’t think he’d been involved in.
When I repeated the third’s name, he shrugged. “I was on the other side of that one.”
Before I could stop myself, I said, “You bastard.” People I knew had died on that mission too.
“I didn’t do any fighting. You’d have noticed. And anyway, I was only technically on their side. I was on someone else’s payroll.” He grinned at me.
Gunther was as well known as the League, the nonmember who started appearing with them during the war, rumored to be a Nazi who switched sides. No one knew what the League had on him, but when he wasn’t with them he served as a mercenary, serving with anyone who could pay his fees.
It’s become clear over time that he’s immortal. Internet forums speculate as to his origin with dragon, alien, and fallen god being leading contenders.
All that anyone knows with confidence is that he’s dangerous.
Briefings that the State Department has made public advise people not to approach him. His status as a fighting instructor for the Stapledon program shows that not everyone in government agrees. Stapledon, however, is full of former Heroes’ League interns who may know something the rest of us don’t.
I took a breath, considering how best to apologize to a being that frightens governments all over the world, but I didn’t get to.
“I was disappointed to learn that you’d left the service,” he said, “but I get it. There’s more to life than war. Still, I look forward to seeing you in action again.”
Then he stepped away to talk with Ghost. All in white with two pistols on her belt, a modern update to Ghostwoman. I caught a little of their conversation. They were talking about guitar chords.
I listened long enough to realize that they weren’t going to stop talking about chords any time soon.
I took a look around the room. The members of the League that weren’t at the Starplate clustered around the tables in groups watching monitors and talking.
I tried to decide what I should be doing. On any other day, I’d have tried to interview the League before they went into combat and try to catch the little details that would humanize them on the page, but today?
Today I was in the League even if I wasn’t one of them.
In my old unit, I knew what to do with the waiting. I’d prepare, if there was any preparation left to do, talk if we didn’t need to be quiet, or check in on the little rituals and superstitious habits a few people performed.
It had been almost four years, and I missed them, and if not them, knowing who I was when I was with them.
I took a breath. I pulled myself together, knowing what was going on. I was about to take to the field for the first time in years without ever having trained with them, unsure of the chain of command…
I let my breath out. It was going to be okay. I was a journalist. Getting questions answered was what I did. Alright, who would know the answers? Gunther might. C, Control, and the Rocket would, but they were busy with the Starplate.
The Mystic stepped out of the crowd and walked over to me. “I couldn’t help but notice that you had some questions.”
He had an easy grin and what I could see of his face made me suspect I’d have been crushing on him as a teen. “Do I need to ask questions or do you already know what they are?”
Captain Commando laughed. “She’s got your number.”
The Mystic shrugged. “I try not to invade strangers’ mental privacy.”
“No,” Captain Commando said, “he saves that for friends.”
A few other League members laughed.
He glared at Captain Commando, and she laughed again. Ignoring her, he said, “I try not to invade people’s privacy, but I think I know what you’re worrying about. If we get attacked again, you’ll be going in with Blue, Accelerando, and Troll. Rocket and Night Cat will be in the League jet. There might be a couple more, but you’ll be the point of the spear. Blue will probably command the group.”
“Good,” I said. “I’m better off in the front.”
From the middle of the crowd, Railgun said, “There are more extradimensional openings detected. One. Two. Three. Four? Four openings. No, there’s one more, but it’s in the air above Grand Lake. I’m pointing spybots in its direction and toward the other openings.”
Pictures on the screen changed from news stations to the air above Grand Lake.
Storm King stared upward. “Does that look like Godzilla to you?”
Ghost shook her head. “Godzilla doesn’t have feathers.”
Night Wolf waved his arm, shouting, “Everyone, look at the screen. Are you ready?”
Railgun’s voice came over the room’s speakers. “We just got a message from the dinos over the League’s old comm frequency. They told us to ‘surrender or die,’ and that they’ll be broadcasting our defeat.”