I tried to think of ways I could stop the True’s creation without leaving a trail. The best option that came to mind was one I’d thought of earlier. Cassie had been cloned from her father’s DNA plus an X chromosome from an unknown source and a structure in her brain that allowed her to control Abominator technology.
She’d be able to turn off the birthing machine or better, set it to almost, but not quite, follow directions.
The only problem was that she’d been created by Dr. Mind, Nazi brain in a jar, and enemy of her father, Captain Commando. Dr. Mind had either played a role in founding the Nine or they’d acquired his equipment and records. The Nine had been looking for her for years and putting her within their grasp wasn’t the brightest of all possible moves.
Isaac Lim grinned. “Keep on thinking things through. Going undercover requires caution balanced with a willingness to take the right risks. If it helps, I think you can handle it. Do you have any questions?”
Neither Haley nor I could think of any in that moment and so we all said goodbye and hung up.
As the video on my monitor disappeared, Haley shook her head. “I should have asked him if there were any way to get me into Higher Ground.”
“There probably isn’t.” How could there be? Even if Higher Ground needed more people, Haley wasn’t majoring the sciences. She was majoring in graphic design.
She frowned. “I know, but it still would have been nice to ask. It feels like the summer all over again. You were in danger and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“I know,” I said.
We’d discussed it at least twice since I’d gotten home.
“It’s easier when we’re both in the middle of everything. Then I don’t have time to think about what’s happening to you—I’m too busy keeping myself alive. And besides, at least then we’re together.”
I couldn’t deny that made sense. “Sitting around with no ability to help would be awful. Of course, being together means we might see each other die and have to live with it.”
Haley bit her bottom lip. “I know, but I’d rather have a chance to help than none at all.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I worried about her too–but not most of the time. Grand Lake wasn’t a New York, Los Angeles or Chicago—big cities that supported competing superhuman gangs.
Of course, now that the secret to activating latent powers was public, we did have more of that.
Haley leaned sideways on her stool, putting her elbow on the counter and resting her head on her hand. Then she sighed.
It didn’t take a genius to guess that something else was bothering her. “What are you thinking about?”
“The Nine. Two years ago, they kidnapped Cassie and put Marcus, Travis, Vaughn, and Courtney into the hospital. I know, technically we brought them to my cousin because he’s a doctor, but they should have gone to the hospital. Then when we went in to save Cassie, they released nerve gas in their own building, blowing it up with a nuclear bomb, and firing nuclear missiles at us on the way home.”
I thought back to my freshman year, remembering how we’d crossed into Canadian airspace without permission and nearly fought Canadian supers because the Nine had enough power in the Canadian government to trump up a story that we were planning to attack Ottawa, their capital.
That wasn’t just true of Canada. They infiltrated governments all over—including our own.
Before I had time to drift off into my thoughts, Haley leaned forward. “And that was back when they didn’t have any experience with us. I’m sure they thought of us as a bunch of kids—except then we won. Plus, you blew up Rook’s hand—”
“He was aiming nukes at the League jet and you were flying it—”
“I know… I’m glad you stopped him, but now it’s got to be personal. If Rook’s high up in the Nine, he’s got to be waiting for a chance to pay you back.”
I nodded. “He might not be in the leadership. No one knows who is in their leadership except that it’s a council of nine. So, yeah. He might be in it, but theoretically, anyone could be. Some are more likely than others though. I could easily believe Rook would be, but I’d doubt Russell Hardwick would be. Back when we were in high school and fighting the Cabal, Russell Hardwick wouldn’t have needed our help to survive if he’d had the Nine to call on.”
Haley blinked. “Why are you thinking he’d be a possible member?”
I cocked my head, eyes to the ceiling. “I don’t know. I was just talking. In favor of the idea, Russell Hardwick is powerful and uh… ethically challenged, an ideal recruit. Plus, if they do hate us, maybe they’d deliberately recruit him to have someone here. Um… Huh.”
Haley and I met eyes.
“Shit,” she said. “That makes a lot of sense. We should run it by Tara and maybe Hal. I know Hal’s thing is military strategy and tactics, but he is an AI.”
“And he’s always gathering intelligence. Yeah. We should.” I paused, still looking into her eyes. “I’m glad you thought of that. I’m glad I’m not doing this alone.”
Haley looked down. In a quiet voice, she said, “I wish we weren’t involved in it at all. This is too big for us.”