Jekyll Or Hyde: Part 1

Chris replied before I did. “The police saw some guy that looks it could be Haley’s or Travis’ relative—like when you got burned—except not in alien armor.”

Sydney’s mouth twisted. “I remember those guys. But not an invasion, right?”

Shrugging, Chris said, “They only saw one and no spaceships.”

Deciding they ought to know, I added, “I’m betting it’s from the Abominator birthing chamber where I work. It’s not the first creature created in the thing that’s been used lately.”

“Okay,” Sydney said. “I’ll go.”

“You don’t have to. You just got done washing up.” She was literally still dripping with water. There were dark spots on her shirt and a few on her pants.

With a curl to her lip that reminded me of her brother Sean, she said, “I want to. There’s no point to all the training we do if we don’t use it.”

She stopped and looked out of the lab into the main area of HQ. “The only problem is that Kayla’s gone home.”

Glancing over at Chris, I asked, “Do we need Kayla?”

He looked over at Sydney and then back at me. “We’re trying some things Tara recommended. So now we always have someone back at base to coordinate. We generally tried to do that in the past, but now we’re not making any exceptions.”

Then he added, “It’s okay, though. Tara said that she’d do it if Kayla wasn’t around. I’ll text her.”

It made sense that Tara would look through how we did things and try to improve our system as part of her internship. There was no way to deny that having Kayla or someone like her around to coordinate things back in HQ helped. She was different from how she’d been before she figured out who we were. All the same, it felt weird to have her involvement required.

It didn’t take long before Chris and I were in the air. Sydney ran and jumped below us, making better time than I would have expected.

It felt more like summer than fall. My HUD showed the outside temperature as 73 degrees and even though it was after 11 pm, I could still see people sitting outside at a few downtown restaurants and bars.

It felt nice to be in the air again. I’d flown in exercises during the summer at Stapledon but not much since getting back to Grand Lake. It could have been any night out with the team except that it wasn’t. Tonight I wasn’t with Daniel, Cassie, Vaughn, or Haley. I was with Chris, grandson of my grandfather’s nemesis Man-Machine, and Sydney, younger sister of Sean, a high school classmate that I’d fought both with and against.

Sean and I had had a better relationship since I’d arranged that she’d be healed after she had nearly been burned to death.

As we neared the downtown headquarters of Hardwick Industries, Tara’s voice came over our communicators. “Rocket and R2, please release some bots so that I can get a better look at the scene.”

Not all changes were bad. We could have used bots and a coordinator in the early days of our version of the League.

“Railgun stay in the front. R2 make a circle in the air above the main building. Rocket hover on the other side. Get as low as you think you can and stay out of sight. Tell me if you see something.”

R2 turned out to be Chris’ codename while wearing the Rocket suit. “Like R2D2?” I’d asked.

“No one thought about that until afterward.” The Rocket suit’s helmet had formed around his head. “They just didn’t want to call me ‘Rocket.’ It’d be confusing when you came back. You’re the Rocket.”

I thought about that as I hung on the other side of the building, noting the empty helipad where Vaughn and I waited during the week. Several stories high, the main building on the downtown Hardwick Industries campus was much longer than it was tall.

Even with the stealth suit’s night vision and the feeds from the bots I didn’t see much. In a sense, it didn’t surprise me. Haley and even Travis seemed to have a talent for stealth that went beyond anything they could have learned.

Tara said, “It’s Control again. R2 take another swing around the building and make it as slow as you can. Make sure you’re leaning on the sonics for your night vision.”

And that’s when I knew for sure what she was doing. She was trying to force them to move. Knowing the sensitivity of Haley’s hearing, she’d hear the sonics when used as part of a sonar system. Whoever this guy was, he probably would too.

In the distance, on the other side of the building, two police cars sat in the otherwise empty parking lot.

As Chris swung around the far end of the building, he spoke into his comm. “They must have snuck away before we got here or even after. I mean, you know what Night Cat and Night Wolf are like.”

Calm but with a tone that made me think of steel, Tara’s voice came over the comm again. “Don’t make assumptions. Watch.”

In fairness to Chris, Travis and Haley could have gotten away before we reached the building and we wouldn’t have seen them—if they had nothing to do inside.

Whoever these people were, they came out of a door in the back—both of them. The first one stopped with the door halfway open, staring out into the dark. Tall and muscular, he wore a dark uniform that from what HUD’s computer enhanced vision showed barely reflected light. It did less well against sonar.

Keeping my voice low and my comm on, I said. “They’re coming out the back.”

13 thoughts on “Jekyll Or Hyde: Part 1”

  1. Hmm, I think Chris needs his own code name. This is the second time he has been the number two of a pair. First Man Machine, now Rocket. I think he can stand on his own.

    1. agreed. Either differentiate the suit, or, just make the person in the suit, “Rocket” and also give Chris and Nick their own new personas, as rocket “sidekicks”

  2. Typos

    “I’m betting its
    “I’m betting it’s

    Kyla’s gone home.”
    Kayla’s gone home.”

    after she nearly been
    after she had nearly been

  3. Which one is Tara? And who was Kayla, again? Having a ‘cast of thousands’ of supers and related characters is wonderful, but even as an interested and (reasonably) attentive reader, I LOSE TRACK. I forget who some of the older and less-used characters are and what significance they have, and sometimes I fail to recognise a character you refer to by ‘civilian’ name, when you’ve previously more frequently used their ‘hero’ name.

    So, obviously, I LOVED the little narrative ‘subtitles’ you included in Nick’s thoughts that identified and synopsised (?) Chris and Sydney; it was beautifully done and read very naturally. It’s always difficult to convincingly write a first-person narrator describing/explaining things that the *character* already knows (or should know), but of which the *readers* need to be informed or reminded — and you did it extremely well here.

    Now if only you could find a way to do it more often!

    Of course, you could always throw up your hands and resort to the classic Legion of Super Heroes approach: The first time any given Legionnaire appeared in an issue, a little label in the margin/border of the panel identified them by hero and civilian name, and sometimes by power. Yeah, so much for reader immersion in the story… but once you learned who the umpteen Legionnaires *were*, you stopped noticing the squibs. Honestly.

    But though classic, that approach is also extremely *undignified*… especially for a non-comicbook novel! But an exhaustive list of characters, posted on the site, *would* be immensely helpful to me as a reader (and potentially to other readers) — even if it only listed the basic name, super-name and how Nick knows (of) the character. Maybe power as well. It would be an undertaking, as your books are densely populated by significant characters… but that might also be considered the best justification for such a request.

    1. First, a short reminder:

      Kayla is Cassie’s friend who figured out that they were the Heroes’ League back in the first novel. She’s since acted as their coordinator/dispatcher, helping run patrols from back in HQ and doing things people in the middle of combat don’t have time to do.

      Tara is the person who’s interning with the Heroes’ League. She’s a combination of two different factions of the True. She first appeared in Infinity City. Her father died in the novel that began with “Doom”—the one where aliens attempted to blow up cities and eventually landed in New York (where Nick ran into the birthing chamber for the first time).

      My philosophy with character introductions is to do it if they haven’t been around for a while. Both Tara and Kayla have appeared during this book, so I thought I could get away without giving a reminder.

      I’m guessing that’s not true.

  4. Crazy idea here, but would their name (in hyperlink blue) that links to a chapter where they are prominently shown be quicker or easisr? Maybe not, huh? I was thinking of The Battle of Grand Lake for Kayla, and Infinity City for Tara.
    Anyway, just a silly thought, but maybe it could work quicker than building synopses of characters? I’m not sure.

    1. For better or worse, every page has the names of the characters that appear and people can click on them to see all of the places they appeared in the story. Also, the tag cloud off to the right has the most regularly used names.

      That said, I’ve often thought a wiki would be a good idea, but it would be a lot of work that I don’t want to do.

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