When the dust settled, a flash of blue light brought me back to the Heroes’ League’s headquarters. I appeared on their starplate, a small version of the ones I’d destroyed. Control looked up from the controls to smile at me. “It’s over. All their gateways are gone.”
Then she stopped smiling. “Could you maybe step off the starplate? I’ve got to turn it off and I don’t want to accidentally send you somewhere, or worse, send part of you somewhere.”
“When you put it that way,” I told her, “I can’t say no.”
Her mouth twisted into a brief smile. “Thanks.”
I stepped onto the concrete floor, looking around the room. It felt familiar. Storm King, Gravity Star, Captain Commando and a few more stood together talking, sometimes laughing.
Shift sat in a chair, leaning back with his eyes closed next to one of the tables. On the wall screen, different windows showed local and national news. The dinos that survived were now captive. Except for a few isolated incidents, the fighting was over.
Next to one of the computer consoles, C and Gunther talked in low voices. I should have been interviewing them about the battle. Instead, I walked to the locker room and changed back into my civilian clothes.
When I finished, I walked back out to the collection of tables and computers they used as a communications center and started writing notes about my experience. I couldn’t say I missed being in uniform. I’d spent eight years protecting the United States and sometimes Earth. I’d destroyed cities, small armies and a battleship in the name of saving lives. I don’t know how many people I killed as collateral damage.
It wasn’t an easy life, but I could live with the deaths, knowing that I’d saved many more.
After what happened in Grand Lake last fall, people questioned the new Heroes’ League’s judgement, asking if they could trust kids to make those kinds of decisions. It was a reasonable question, and not one I can answer directly. I wasn’t there then, but I was in this battle.
They weren’t bad.
Before anyone else, they recognized the invasion for what it was, passed along what they knew to the rest of the world, protected their city, and held their positions against enemies they knew they couldn’t beat. Aside from what they did themselves, they listened to more experienced supers—Gunther, C, and whoever “One” turned out to be.
I’ve seen professional soldiers do worse.
* * *
I finished reading Nadia’s article, relieved at her endorsement at the end. I couldn’t say I was wild about the entire article. Vaughn had a couple spots where he looked bad, but not unforgivably bad.
On the other hand, I was grateful for what she’d left out. When we’d been talking about destroying the dinos’ starplates, I’d asked, “The inventory says we’ve got an atomic bomb, but I’ve never been able to find it. Do you know where it might be?”
C had shaken his head. “We used it. Mark it gone. I’d be more surprised if we’d thought to sign it out.”
It wasn’t our fault, but it could be used to paint us as the kind of people who lost atomic bombs, and that wouldn’t have been good.
She’d skipped a few other events too. She’d had to. You can’t include everything in one article, but this is what I remembered…
By five in the afternoon, the doctors had finished and left, and we’d been debriefed by the FBI. No one had suffered a major injury, but there were cuts and bruises—lots of bruises, in fact. The doctors examined us thoroughly to make sure that the bruises were only what they appeared to be, so it took longer. The new armored costumes didn’t let much through, but they didn’t absorb everything either.
Nadia was back into civilian clothes, watching as people pulled out cots and sleeping bags from storage, or disappeared into the locker room to change into their own clothes. I’d already changed—which wasn’t what we’d planned, but Daniel said she was safe.
She moved slowly, carefully, as if anything she touched might explode. She stopped next to me as I rolled out a sleeping bag. Haley and I could have gone home or back to the dorms, but with everyone here, we’d decided to stay.
“So what’s next?” Nadia asked. “A giant slumber party?”
I shrugged. “Kind of. We’ll probably order take out from somewhere. We might watch a movie. I don’t know. We might just talk. Are you planning to stick around and interview us?”
She shook her head. “I’ve got enough material already, and besides I’ve got to write a couple more articles than I planned about what happened here today. I’ll be up till midnight, I’m sure.”
I glanced over at her. “Do you ever miss this?”
She shook her head. “The fights? Not at all. I don’t miss worrying about killing civilians or calculating the strength of everything I do. You know what I do miss? The people. I could tell you some great stories, but given the people involved, half of them are still classified.”
She sighed. “You want some advice?”
She didn’t wait for me to answer. “Do something with your friends that doesn’t include beating up supervillains.”