Flipping through the people I could remember from work, I couldn’t think of any that had even hinted that they might be Feds or in any way on my side. To be fair, that was probably a mark of competence.
That in turn reminded me of Stephanie. I needed to show her this video. Even though I wasn’t quite sure she was trustworthy, we were in this together now and she deserved some warning if they somehow caught on to her.
You could make an argument that she might be better off not knowing given Zola and Art’s senses, but I couldn’t quite make myself believe it. At core, the more a person knew, the better they could adjust their actions to match their situation.
“Nick?” Isaac Lim waved at me from the screen. “What are you thinking about?”
“I have to tell Stephanie. If they get a hint that she’s more than she seems, she needs every chance to survive and to avoid letting it happen.”
Lim nodded. “I agree. I’m not wild about it, but she needs to know and from everything I know about her, she’ll make it work. She did well at Stapledon. She deserved better than to intern at the Michigan Heroes Alliance. They’re not a bad group, but she could have interned with a Defenders unit. I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess it’s her ex-boyfriend’s doing. His family’s more influential than hers.”
Soon after that, he hung up and I started organizing the recordings we’d made. They’d been stored in the implant while I worked and had to be converted into Earth formats. Hal could do that as he watched and transcribed them. After contacting Stephanie and arranging a meeting, I did homework in my lab. Homework didn’t stop for breakthroughs.
A couple hours later Stephanie walked through the lab’s door. She looked around the room, eyeing pieces of the Rocket suit, buckets filled with the suit’s nanotech building blocks, the 3D printers, and other devices I used while creating bots and new suit materials.
“I didn’t tell you last time, but I like your set up. I hope to have one like it someday.” She bent down to look at a laser that assembled itself from a mixture of ceramics and electronics that passed for denim.
Frozen in place from an error, it demanded attention and time I didn’t have right now.
I closed a couple books and pushed myself off my stool. “It’s not all mine. I inherited the basics and access to the money to pay for it from my grandfather.”
She looked up and smiled. “That would be nice. We should collaborate sometime. I spend so much time hiding my brain hacks. It would be easier to have my uniform mold itself into the right shape or have the upper layer slide out of the way. I have to hide them under a flap or on the inside of a jacket. If my work ever made the news, they’d probably call me the Flasher.”
“We could probably work out a trade. I’m not sure when I’d use your work, but being able to flash a symbol that makes someone stand in place and do nothing would be useful.”
She nodded. “I know, right? You can’t guess how many times I’ve had to use it during this mission alone. The trick is to make one that will make people forget what it was they saw just before they saw the symbol. That’s when it becomes useful. If you loop someone and they still remember they saw you in Sandy’s office, you might as well have been caught. If you leave them wondering why they’re standing alone in Sandy’s office, that’s better.”
I was about to ask her if her example was based on a real event when Haley and Tara walked in, Tara towering over Haley, both of them still in costume. Neither was out of breath, but their faces shone with sweat.
“We were out on patrol when we got your message,” Haley said.
Tara smiled, “Haley showed me how to use your grappling guns for swinging. It’s amazing.”
Stephanie looked down at the guns on Tara and Haley’s belts. “What? Like Spider-man? That’s too high. I’d fall and end up road pizza.”
Tara shook her head. “There’s a trick to it, but you could learn it.”
Stephanie frowned, and opened her mouth to say, “Believe me, I can’t,” but she didn’t get to finish because Haley started talking at the same time she did.
“What did you say you had to show us?”
“This,” and I played them my recording, the same one I’d shown Lim earlier. I’d cued it up on my computer. When it was over, Stephanie shook her head. “They had the people who broke into Hardwick Industries write the company memo telling us not to be worried about the break-in? That takes balls.”
Tara’s expression had changed from a grin that now reminded me of Emmy to the blank expression that told me she’d shifted her brain into a different mode. Stepping forward to study Art and Zola on the screen, she said, “They’re not the only ones.”
Glancing from Tara over to me, Haley frowned. “Who are those people?”
Stephanie grinned. “The face of real evil. They’re in the marketing department.”