I punched the distress call.
Above us, scattered lights began to blink slowly red.
I looked up. “I didn’t know that happened.”
“Me neither,” Daniel said. “It looks like we’ve got a lot of dead bulbs.”
With that we got another round of phone calls — except we got one less. In addition to Vaughn, Jaclyn didn’t call back.
“Is there any way to triangulate where she is from her… ” Daniel stopped for a second, “What do you call these things?”
“I’ve called them homing devices, but it’s not really the best name. Anyway, the only way to track them is if someone sets up a distress call — and she hasn’t.”
I stared at the screen of the command console in front of me, flipping through the cameras at the tunnel entrances. I didn’t see her.
The phrase “picking us off one by one” started to run through my head.
“Can you stop that?” Daniel asked. “It’s hard enough concentrating as is.”
Having a best friend who could read my mind seemed like a lot more fun when we were little kids.
I ignored him and kept on flipping from camera to camera, finally moving the whole display to the big screen so that I could watch all of them at once.
Next to me, Daniel closed his eyes. “The largest probability of danger comes from the downtown office,” he said.
“What,” I said, “is the old League mainframe going to wake up and take over the world?”
“I don’t need sarcasm right now.”
“It’s just that almost nothing in the downtown office actually works,” I said.
“I don’t get details,” Daniel said. “You know that.”
Something started beeping.
Leaving the camera display on the big screen, I checked the dashboard of the security program. Jaclyn and her grandfather had just been scanned at the downtown office.
Looking up at the main screen, I could see them running down the tunnel holding hands, Jaclyn leading, her grandfather carrying his cane. Bizarrely, both of them were in costume. It had to have been a long time for him. He started having problems with macular degeneration fifteen years ago. Near blindness and the ability to run at high speed didn’t go well together.
“Is it really them?” Daniel stared up at their picture.
“The retinal scans check out,” I said, ” and they’re moving at upwards of two hundred miles per hour.”
Off to the side, the door to the hangar opened and Jaclyn and her grandfather walked out.
It is really them, Daniel told me.
“They’re behind us,” Jaclyn said. “Not right behind us, but too close.”
I turned back to the console and changed the security settings to high, wishing that I’d set a higher priority on checking out the security systems.
Steel doors clanked into place in the tunnels.
“There,” Daniel said.
I looked up at the screen. Two of the Elementals stood in front of the downtown office. Both wore classically styled Mediterranean clothes. The guy was tall and skinny. The girl had dark hair in a pageboy haircut, and 60’s style, catseye glasses that somehow clashed with her costume. Both wore clothing from classical Greece — which had to be pretty cold in November.
Then the guy sank into the ground, coming up again inside the offices. As he did, I could see a shadowy, but bulkier form around him. The girl dissolved into a gust of wind, the door shaking as she poured through the cracks.
“Crap,” I said. HQ’s defenses wouldn’t do much against them.
“They appeared in the middle of my living room,” Jaclyn said, “told me I was terrorist, and they were going to bring me in.”
It didn’t take telepathy to catch her anger.
“The mayor’s been messing with their heads,” Daniel said.
“Oh. Takes one to know one.”
“What was that supposed to mean?” Daniel turned toward her.
“Nothing. He’s a telepath too. That’s all. Relax,” she said.
Jaclyn’s grandfather cleared his throat. We all turned toward him. Looking at him, I’d never have guessed he was in his nineties. I’d have guessed sixties, and, even then I’d have thought he looked young for his age. Blindness aside, he was in good physical shape. He had wrinkles and gray hair, but you could still see the muscles under his costume.
“Focus,” he said. “Who can take them out?”
“I’m the only one,” Daniel said. “They’ll phase out of anybody else’s way.”
“Wrong,” Jaclyn said. “Anyone can hit the guy. He doesn’t phase out. He just phases into the ground.”
“Good,” her grandfather said, “here’s your plan. When they get closer, Jaclyn, you go into the tunnel and distract them until Nick is finished getting his armor on, then lead them back here. Daniel, you take them out the first chance you get whether Nick’s back or not.”
“What if I don’t get the armor on fast enough?” I asked.
“Hurry,” he said.
I ran for the lab.
As I left, I heard Jaclyn say, “What if they get past me?”
I didn’t hear the answer.
By the time I got back, Jaclyn was already in the tunnels. I ran down the side of the main room and through the door to the hangar. Jaclyn’s grandfather stood next to it.
“She didn’t want me too close to the action,” he said.
Daniel (now in costume) stood next to the open tunnel entrance and racks of replacement parts. The League jet loomed behind him.
You and Jaclyn are supposed to keep them busy while I mindream them.
He looked scared.
I could hear wind, running, and very solid punch, followed by the sound of rock scraping concrete, and bellow of pain. Jaclyn ran out, skidding to a stop and turned on a dime to stand next to me.
“I got a punch in,” she said. “He’s not happy.”