Sean looked over the oncoming crowd a little nervously, and asked me, “What are we supposed to do now?”
“No idea,” I said.
Then I turned on the loudspeaker.
They were halfway across the lawn, and the growing darkness gave the group a “Night of the Living Dead” feel. Not that they were really zombies, but a crowd of people walking toward you isn’t a normal situation.
“Hey everybody. Please let the police and the boxes get through first. All these guys look like they’re unconscious, but we really don’t know for sure. It’d be a bad thing if one of them eviscerated you or something.”
I don’t know if they really listened to me or not, but they did get out of the way when the trucks crossed the lawn.
Haley stepped behind me as I talked, and held her hands over her ears. Better than human hearing and loudspeakers don’t mix.
Vaughn and Daniel landed next to me.
Meanwhile, Jody moaned and tried to get up.
Dayton stood over him. “You took a big hit. Why don’t you just stay on the ground till the paramedics get here?”
“Yeah.” Jody took a gasping breath.
“You did good,” Sean said. “I could barely see you when you were moving.”
I didn’t say anything. Jody really hadn’t done all that well. Sure he’d moved his fists quickly, but he’d stood directly in front of Skewer and stayed there. If he’d moved his body, jumping in and out of range, Skewer couldn’t have touched him.
For a few seconds after that no one said anything.
Dayton addressed the group of us. “I’d just like to say how much of a thrill it is to be standing next to you. I hope we didn’t get in your way.”
Sean said, “Don’t worry about it, Dayton, we helped.”
I had a hard time talking. What he said felt far from any reality I recognized. If they hadn’t shown up, Daniel would have been able to take Spike and Skewer out as soon as he’d arrived — provided we’d managed to contain them.
I felt Daniel’s mental presence.
Daniel: Nick, just let it be. You don’t want to give him any reason to guess who you are. He already suspects Vaughn.
Me: You’ve passed that along to Vaughn?
Daniel: That’s why he’s quiet.
From just behind me, Haley said, “I’ve got to go.”
Jaclyn watched as the police men started to put Spike and Skewer on to stretchers. “I’ve still got homework.”
“Don’t go,” Cassie said, “we’ve all got to meet at HQ for debriefing. Everybody.”
Eying Sean, she said, “Well, all of us.”
Me: We should be discussing this mind to mind.
Daniel: I know!
Sean looked over at Jaclyn. “Homework? What school do you go to?”
“One that gives homework.”
“I get it. The secret identity. No problem.”
He paused. “I don’t believe in secret identities myself.”
The arrival of all the reporters saved us the bother of a reply.
I gave my version of events several times. I usually avoided talking to reporters altogether, but, Sean didn’t look like he was leaving at all, and who knew what he’d say?
* * *
We all ended up in HQ afterward. Everyone slumped in their seats. I don’t know how the others felt, but I felt tired.
Cassie stood up at the main table. “Hey, everybody! After every game my soccer coach used to have us talk about what the team thought went right, and what could have gone better. I think we should too.”
Daniel sat up, nodding. “According to my dad, the Defenders do the same thing.”
Jaclyn sighed. “When I said I had homework, I wasn’t just trying to get rid of Sean. I’ve got fifty pages to finish and a book report to write. Can we keep this short?”
Cassie said, “When is it due?”
“And you’re already started?”
Vaughn raised his hand. “I shouldn’t be out all that late either. My mom’s going to kill me once she sees the news. I don’t want to make it worse by being late. I mean, it’s not like she’s been zombified like your parents. She knows what I’m doing.”
“Zombified?” Haley sounded irritated.
“Well,” Vaughn said, “you know what I mean. The whole ‘I was being a superhero, forget everything’ and they’re like ‘yes, master?’ Do you have any idea how much you could be getting away with?”
“Whoa,” Cassie waved her right hand. “We’re getting totally off topic. Nick, what do you think we did right?”
“I don’t know. We won, and even though we didn’t have everybody I think that’s the closest we’ve ever come to having almost everybody there at the beginning of the fight.”
“Great. What else did we do right?”
Vaughn shrugged. “I missed half the fight, but I took out what’s his name… Paycheck? I took him down, and Haley got that other guy. I saw that.”
Haley said, “Even though you couldn’t stop them, the rest of you did a good job with Spike and Skewer. They didn’t get away. Cassie, and all of you really, kept on fighting even after Cold Cash froze your legs.”
“And how many times did that happen? I couldn’t believe it.” Jaclyn shook her head.
“We’ll call that something that didn’t work,” Cassie said. “What else didn’t work?”
“Communication,” I said. “I didn’t know Jaclyn was going to pick up the van, and dump it in the yard. She didn’t know I was hanging on to the back. I think I need to design the next version of our League tracking devices.”
Daniel sighed. “I was later than everybody else. Sorry.”
Cassie said, “Whatever, Travis and Marcus didn’t even show up, and, you finally took down Spike and Skewer. None of us could.”
“What do we do about Sean?” Haley asked. “Is he going to start showing up everywhere now?”
“I was wondering how he got power juice this soon,” I said. “He didn’t seem to know anything when Keith tested everyone.”
Daniel smiled a little. “I caught some of that from Sean’s head. You know how Sean’s grandparents were with Vaughn’s grandfather? Sean’s dad got a hold of some power juice and kept it around. Somehow he heard about the government’s version and had some of that made up. Now he’s got a few vats in the house.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Vaughn said. “A whole bunch of my grandfather’s people stayed on after everything fell apart. Sean’s dad still works at one of my family’s companies.”