“They’re okay with that?” It seemed like something I could ask. The Galactic Alliance requirement that we couldn’t copy their technology had passed into general knowledge.
Dr. Strazinsky nodded. “The aliens aren’t as concerned about the math as the technology. I like to think that I’m exploiting a loophole in the system. Don’t tell anybody. The administration might get nervous.”
I thought about that. I’d heard of people doing that kind of thing in STEM courses. Our scientists and engineers seemed to be more bothered by the Alliance’s version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive than your average guy.
You could argue that the idea had some wisdom behind it. If a world got technology before they’d had any chance think through the technology’s potential impact, they might destroy themselves before they figured out how to integrate the new technology into their culture.
I knew of at least one alien race that was deliberately passing out new technology that would be far outside any species’ natural technological development. They were counting on younger species’ lack of experience to destroy those species.
“Are you sure?” I could play the clueless undergrad as well as anyone.
He smiled and in a voice that was likely intended to be reassuring, he said, “Yes. There’s nothing to worry about. Better minds than mine cleared the idea.”
“Okay,” I said and tried to think of something that would help me understand what was going on here.
The only thing that came to mind was, “Which super villain was it?”
Keeping his voice low, he said, “The Master Martian—not the first one. The second.”
My implant didn’t give me a massive brain dump worth of information. So either the Xiniti didn’t know anything about the second Master Martian or I didn’t yet have the right information to trigger recognition.
Still, it made sense in a way that someone whose schtick was claiming to be the son of the last Martian might be working with jump drive math.
My grandfather and his best friend, Giles Hardwick, had fought the first Master Martian and won back when they were twelve or something.
I frowned. “The second Master Martian… Is he still out there?”
Dr. Strazinsky nodded. “The last I heard. We were studying his journal to find out what he was up to next. I don’t know what the others learned, though. I only got the sections with math.”
I thought about that, remembering an unrelated but important event that I didn’t want to miss at home. “Is that it?”
Sitting back in his chair, Dr. Strazinsky said, “Yes. That’s it. You’re the only one who’s ever solved that calculation. That means that you’re either brilliant or that you’re very smart and happen to have the right background. Either way, people are going to be watching what you do. Make the best choices you can, ones that you’ll be able to live with later.”
“Sure,” I said, not sure why he felt compelled to start giving advice. “I try to make the best choices I can.”
Then we said goodbye and I left, unsure of what had happened there. All I knew for sure was that contacting Isaac Lim to find out if he knew something about Dr. Strazinsky was now on my list of things that needed to be done. That and checking if the Federal databases we had access to included anything about him.
I’d be able to do something about that sooner rather than later because I wasn’t living on campus this year, meaning that it was time to go home.
I stopped by the parking garage and grabbed my van, driving across Grand Lake in about ten minutes. It wasn’t a bad drive. I had the window open because it was still in the first week of September. The temperature was in the low seventies, the grass green, and sometimes, when the highway ran alongside it, I smelled the lake.
I rolled up to the small, white 1920s bungalow I’d inherited from my grandfather and drove inside the garage. The van barely fit. Making my way past the shovels, rakes, trimmer and other implements of lawn care that hung on the wooden wall, I crossed the distance to the house and walked through the door.
No one greeted me and I hadn’t expected anyone to. My grandfather was three years gone by now and the only one of my housemates that was home right now was waiting downstairs.
I took the hidden elevator down into the Heroes’ League’s headquarters. When the elevator opened, I stepped into the main room. Over the last year, it had come to look like a working superhero base again. We’d long since removed the cardboard boxes of memorabilia and placed them out of sight. Bearing in mind that one of the trophies our grandparents had collected had actually contained the disembodied essence of a supervillain, we’d gone over all the other trophies by technical and later magical means to make sure there wouldn’t be any more surprises.
As of now, none of the weapons on display worked. The big, black and silver disc that I referred to as the starplate still worked, but I’d set up a system that should allow us to catch anything that appeared on it whether we were there or not.
On the other side of the room stood a huge screen and in front of it several tables with smaller screens, but that was a long ways away.
The people were over here with me. As I stepped out, I heard Kayla say, “People should have been here by now. I hope nothing’s wrong. They haven’t called for backup or anything—oh, it’s Nick. So, I’m guessing that everyone’s just late.”
Two figures stood in HQ’s open kitchen area. Kayla was the smaller of the two. Tan with shoulder length, dark hair, thin, and a little taller than average for a woman, Kayla wore a gray Heroes’ League costume as she had at work for the past year.
Next to her stood Tara. Unlike Kayla, Tara wore street clothes (jeans and a green blouse) and carried a duffel bag. Two big suitcases stood next to her.
Maybe an inch taller than me, Tara’s shoulders were a little wider than many women the same size and her arms and legs hinted at muscle. Knowing what she was—the offspring of two nearly identical lines of genetically engineered super soldier—her size and strength made sense.
What I’d never understood is why the designer of the True had made them attractive. With dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and wide lips, Tara could have modeled.
If I were making super soldiers, I wouldn’t have made them stand out so much.