“I could just stop above the building, engage the gravitics and float down. Then you could walk out.” Haley checked the screens on the instrument panel and then glanced back up toward the windshield.
“I’d like that.” Stephanie’s mouth twisted as she glanced in my direction.
Shrugging, I said, “I was thinking that if anyone was watching upward, we’d have a better chance for the jet to avoid detection if we floated down. I mean, yes, it’s hard to see, but if they know what to look for, they’ll see a jet shaped spot of nothing that turns into a jet in a blacker than black energy shield hovering above the building. If we drop out of it high enough, it won’t notice the jet or any of the three of us unless they’ve got phenomenal senses or exactly the right kind of Abominator tech.”
“Which they might,” Stephanie said.
From further in the back, Sydney piped up. “But they probably don’t. Nick’s right often enough. You should run with it.”
Sydney hadn’t shaped the block of steel she used as armor yet so all she looked like was a blond, seventeen year old in a blue Heroes’ League costume slouching in one of the jet’s seats.
I hadn’t expected her support, but I didn’t mind.
A few chairs down in the same row, Marcus glanced over at her. He had changed into a gray, faceless figure made of a substance that resembled liquid stone.
“We fought people with Abominator tech this summer. Nick’s not always right, but about that? I’d listen.” Then he sighed, sinking a little into his chair but watching Haley fly the jet.
I wondered if he’d really forgiven me for not telling him that his girlfriend was a godlike interdimensional being that had only temporarily taken human form? Of course, he might just be feeling tension because his unstated, proto-relationship with Sydney had been messed up by falling for Tikki, the being’s alias.
That wasn’t all my fault. I’d only discovered what she was when she’d altered the flow of time to save his life—well after they’d started their relationship.
Haley glanced over at Marcus and then Sydney and frowned, saying only, “I guess we’ll stop about a thousand feet above the complex and you can float down.”
“Sounds awesome,” Stephanie muttered, staring out at the dark sky and then the dark waters of lake below.
Looking over at her, Vaughn grinned. “It won’t be that bad.”
“Says someone who can keep himself in the air by thinking.” She crossed her arms over her chest, the mask in her hand hitting the chair.
In the next seat to the right of Stephanie, Tara put her hand on Stephanie’s shoulder. “You’ll be fine. Nick and Vaughn are careful. Back when I lived in Infinity City, I once had to escape from a burning building while hanging on to the legs of a three foot long flying cockroach that only wanted to drop me. Now that was scary, but it worked out. It would have been easier if it hadn’t dropped me off in a neighborhood controlled by intelligent fungus. The fungus turned out to be friendly though, so it’s okay.”
“Thanks. I’ll try to remember that.” Stephanie had known Tara for several years and knew better than to ask more about the rabbit hole of insanity that was life in Infinity City.
Tara grinned, “Please do.”
There were moments where I suspected that Tara was completely aware of how strange her Infinity City stories were and told them to see people’s reactions.
In any case, Tara wore one of my new Heroes’ League costumes. She’d set her color to black and accessorized with a utility belt and one of the small rocket packs. She hung two short sticks and a katana on her utility belt.
With that decided, Haley flew the jet down the coast, Lake Michigan to the left and the shore and cities of the west coast of Michigan to the right. It didn’t take long before Grand Lake and its suburbs were behind us.
After that, most of the lights seemed to come from cottages and houses on the dunes above the beach.
Unlike when I took in the helicopter, it took only a few minutes to reach Hardwick Industries’ and Higher Ground’s labs. The lights of the former hotel’s rooms became visible along with the spotlights around the Hardwick Industries buildings in the clearing.
A few cars and the Hardwick Industries helicopter sat outside the building, the cars in the parking lot, the chopper on the helipad.
“Nick,” Vaughn popped of his seatbelts to join me in looking out the windshield, “do you see what I see?”
“The helicopter, you mean?” Vaughn nodded and I continued, “I wonder who’s there?”
In a low voice, Vaughn said, “It’s got to be my uncle.”
“I hope not. Because if he’s meeting with someone in Sandy’s office, we’re not going to get anything.” I leaned forward in my seat, looking down and trying to contact the bots below with my implant.
The connections came all at once. I zeroed in on the ones I cared about. No one was in Sandy’s office. The light near the door was on, but that was it. In fact, no one was in sight of any of my bugs in either the office or the labs—though the lights in the labs were on.
In fact, the lights in a section of the lab building that I hadn’t thought Higher Ground used were on. That was good in the sense that we didn’t need to scrub the mission, but it was bad in the sense that I hadn’t bugged that section of the building.
I had a gut feeling that we needed to know what was going on in there.