I didn’t feel quite right about it the next morning.
Parts of the news report stuck in my head — the accidental activation of the weapons, for example. If someone had gotten hurt, it would have been our fault too.
Also, we hadn’t started the fire in the warehouse. Syndicate L must have done that themselves. They’d had something to hide there.
I wondered if we shouldn’t have just given the warehouse’s address to the police.
I got dressed and managed to get downstairs before the hotel’s continental breakfast closed, making myself a waffle with their machine, and sitting down to watch the flat screen TV they’d hung on the wall. The channel was set to a local NBC affiliate, but kept cutting away from the Today show to follow a car chase.
A blue hummer from the Syndicate L warehouse roared down the highway. I could tell because Jenny had spray painted that one too. The back window said, “Syndicate L Sucks” in red. Blue Streak, the cop who had flown over to talk with me the day before, flew after him, sometimes flying alongside, talking to the driver through the window.
The driver had apparently discovered how to operate the hummer’s hidden banks of missiles and fired one at Blue Streak, but didn’t hit.
The chase was still going when I finished my waffle, a danish, and some orange juice.
When I got back to my room, I sent some email and waited for Alex to call.
Instead, I heard Brooke’s voice in my room. “Nick? Do you mind if I open a portal? Don’t say yes if you’re still in bed.”
After looking around for a second, I recognized the silvery outline of a portal hovering above my bed. On the other side of it, I could see Brooke’s lips.
The small circle stretched into a larger than human sized oval. Jenny, Alex and Brooke, all wearing street clothes, stepped through to the floor between the two beds.
I shut my laptop and stood up.
“Have you been watching the news?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Alex said, “I don’t think we’ve done anything that’s gotten this much press before.”
“That’s not really what I meant.” I turned on the television and flipped over to the ongoing chase, watching as the hummer weaved through traffic. “If that guy gets hurt or kills someone, we’re responsible for it.”
Another missile shot off the side of the hummer. It missed Blue Streak.
“Where do you suppose that’s going to land?”
Alex shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Neither do I,” I said, “but if it hits somebody, they‘re probably going to die.”
“Got it. Got your point, but I look at it differently. We stole more than a million dollars worth of equipment from Syndicate L yesterday — and that’s not counting any special modifications they made to those trucks. Whatever they used them for — probably drug running and other stuff that’s just as illegal — they can’t use them now. It’s not like they’re going to go up to the police and ask for their fleet back. No way. They’ve got to put it together all over again.”
“That still means we’re responsible if someone gets hurt.”
Alex held up his hands, “Look, if anybody gets hurt, I will personally heal them. Problem solved.”
“Can you heal dead people?”
“Hey, nobody’s died.”
I looked away from Alex for a second, checking what the others were doing.
Brooke frowned as I glanced toward her.
Jenny said, “Alex, I think he’s right only I don’t think he went far enough. Syndicate L is big. They’re not going to just take this. They’re going to strike back somewhere.”
“I’m not going to worry about it. We were all in costume. They don’t know who we are. Okay, they might recognize me, but none of you have public identities, and I never got out of the hummer.”
“You said you’ve pulled other pranks,” I said. “You don’t think they’ll guess? They had to have seen a lot of Jenny.”
Alex began to open his mouth, but he never got a word in. Brooke talked over him. “Can we just stop talking about this? It’s finished. We did it yesterday. We can’t change it. Let’s just stay out of costume today, okay?”
“Sure,” Alex said. “That was the plan anyway. I pulled a bunch of tickets out of the Defenders’ stash. We’ve got Disneyland, Universal Studios, a bunch of museums, or we could just watch some movies.”
He spread them out in his right hand like cards.
“Why do the Defenders have all that?”
“Donations. Sometimes they give them out to people they’ve saved. Sometimes they pass them out to their families. Good publicity for the donating organization either way. You want to choose, Nick? We’ve been to all of them half a dozen times.”
“Isn’t there a Tar Pit museum or something like that?”
Brooke didn’t look happy. “Not La Brea. I’m not really in the mood.”
“I just went there for a school field trip a couple weeks ago,” Jenny said. “And I’m sick of movies. We already went to movies on Monday and Tuesday.”
“Okay,” I said. “No museums. No movies. Uh… Disneyland?”
* * *
We went to Disneyland. After Brooke portaled us back to the house, Alex drove us in his family’s silver Range Rover, and on the whole, it was a pretty good time.
Basically, if you keep in mind that there will be massive lines, overpriced food, and that while fun, it will not be the mind-blowing experience it would have been if you were ten, you’ll enjoy Disneyland.
To keep our spirits up, we made jokes about the people wearing Mickey Mouse costumes, and I had a brief moment of “inspiration” in which I imagined Mickey Mouse themed powered armor.
Jenny noticed me drawing and scribbling equations in a notebook when we were eating lunch (at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port…). “Nick, that’s insane. It looks ridiculous and anyway, Disney would sue you.”
“It’s more a joke than a serious design, but it would work… Did you notice that his buttons are particle accelerators?”
On the whole, it was a good thing that we had Disneyland as a distraction because I didn’t know what I would have done if I’d had to hang out with Alex alone. He spent a lot of time talking about the private school he’d been kicked out of, former bodyguards he’d had, and friends that he had in common with Brooke and Jenny, many of whom were children of famous actors.
Memories of childhood play dates (when his father visited my grandfather) were really all we had in common.
We left the park around ten and it took more than half an hour to get back to the house — well, almost to the house.
The gate didn’t open automatically as we approached, and, looking at the gatehouse in the middle of the road, I didn’t see anyone inside even though the light was on.
“This doesn’t look right,” Alex said.
Just as he began to back the Range Rover away from the gate, a figure ran out of the darkness, and smashed the hood of the SUV, popping both front tires, and forcing the front end into the road.