The corners of Lim’s mouth went up in what was almost a smile. “I’m glad. You’ve seemed a bit down lately and I wasn’t sure you’d be up for it. I would have been okay if you’d said no. I wouldn’t have been excited about it, but we’d try another route to get at them. You can still say no, by the way. I’ve been in combat and even when you win, it still takes time to heal, physically and mentally.”
I thought about it. “I think I’m okay. I had a period where I didn’t want to put on the suit after I got back, but this isn’t putting on the suit. It’s kind of the opposite. So, I’ll be okay.”
He looked at me for a few seconds. “That might be the best mindset that you go into this with. If you do discover something they’re doing wrong, we need you to document it—not stop it. If you feel like they’re onto you, you need to report it to us and we’ll come up with an excuse to get you out of the internship. If something really bad happens and you need to be rescued, let us know. We don’t want you to blow your identity as the Rocket fighting these guys.
“If it really is the Nine, they might already know or suspect, but there’s no reason to confirm it or to accidentally make it public. We’ll keep a watch on you and be ready to come in if something goes wrong during the operation.”
If the feds were willing to watch me, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to blow my identity. I knew I’d take my own precautions, but if the feds were willing to watch me, it meant I wouldn’t be bringing any of my friends in to help.
Isaac Lim put his hand up to his lips and then put it down, a gesture I put down to absentmindedness rather than any wish to hush me. “There’s one more issue that you’re going to have to decide on. I could tell you what I think you should do, but part of working with superheroes is knowing that they’ll do whatever they want anyway.
“So here’s what I need to tell you. You know how I said that Hardwick Industries is an investor in the company that you’ll be working for? Well, they own the building that the company works in and they’re not the only company in the building. It’s part of a medical complex that Hardwick Industries owns and they’ve got a bunch of pre-med interns there. Vaughn, your teammate, is one of them.”
“Oh,” I said, running that through my head and watching as Isaac Lim sat up in his seat, watching my reaction and shaking his head.
“In your situation, there are two ways to play it. If you think you can trust his judgment and that he’ll put the mission over the good of his family, then tell him what’s going on. He’ll be a powerful asset. If you’re not sure that he can keep it secret or you’re not sure of where his loyalties will lie, then don’t tell him.”
Lim delivered the last line in a low voice that gave it a feeling of finality—at least in my head. I didn’t have much doubt that he’d keep it quiet.
I remembered the last time that Vaughn felt like I was keeping him out of things. He’d taken it badly and I hadn’t even known he was angry about it until Cassie told me. Even if I couldn’t trust him, I felt like keeping him out of this might cause a permanent rupture between us. Maybe I was overestimating how much it would bother him, but last time I hadn’t even noticed there was a problem.
It might be that assuming the worst would be wisest.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.
“Keep us informed,” Lim said. “Whatever decision you make, we’ve got to know who our people are. If he’s working for us, we’ve got to support him too.”
“He’s part of the Heroes’ League either way. I have to tell him about something like this—especially given how it all played out after Ray and the Cabal went after us. I mean, you remember that Russell Hardwick hired Ray to protect them from the Cabal after he escaped from prison. Someone, maybe you guys, were looking into charging Hardwick after that came out, but the charges were dropped. I always assumed it was because he had money, but if he’s connected to the Nine… Well, Vaughn should know.”
I watched Lim for signs of what he thought as I talked and was a little disappointed. Lim nodded as I talked about Ray, but said nothing.
When I finished, he said, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We don’t know Russell Hardwick is connected with the Nine. We don’t even know that the company you’ll intern at is connected to them. That’s what we need you to find out.”
Then Lim frowned. “I’ve never known how it was that Hardwick avoided getting charged either.”