The next day was Sunday. After my family went to church, and had dinner, I decided that I was going to go to HQ to get some serious work done on the anti-paralysis device. I had a working prototype. I just had to put out a copy for all of us, plus spares. Except then I realized I ought to make copies for anyone who planned to help us, plus if I managed to pump out more roachbots, it wouldn’t hurt.
That’s what I thought at about 1:30, but then I remembered that Keith and Courtney’s graduation open houses were that afternoon between two and four, and that I’d RSVP’ed. Worse, I couldn’t just skip it because Haley had been invited too.
I borrowed my dad’s Saturn Vue, and picked Haley up. By two, we were there. Keith lived on the south side of Grand Lake in a subdivision built in the 1960’s.
Clouds covered half the sky, but not all of it. It felt hot, but not unbearably so, a good day for an open house, all things considered.
They’d set up a few card tables on the front lawn, and covered them with food. Around thirty people stood or sat on chairs, talking in front of the one story, white, ranch style house. I recognized people from my school as well as Keith’s uncle. He stood next to a man just as tall with the same hook nose, and whiter hair — probably Keith’s dad.
Keith’s uncle looked less scared than I remembered him. I wondered if he was still making power juice as a hobby.
With cars parked on both sides of the street, Haley and I had walked halfway down the block.
Keith noticed us as we stepped onto the driveway next to the card table with the cakes and balloons. The next one over showed pictures of the graduates.
“Hey Nick, good to see you here. Haley, you too.”
Courtney walked up as we replied.
She looked good, almost like she had at prom. She wasn’t wearing the dress obviously — she wore shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt with the Chicago Defenders logo on her chest. She’d either manipulated her body with power juice or lost weight. That or she’d been using juice so much that she’d lost weight anyway. I had no way of knowing. Whatever the cause, she wasn’t noticeably overweight anymore.
I wondered if Keith was using it too. I hadn’t heard about any sightings of him, and after taking the juice, he would have been hard to miss.
We talked for a little while, mostly about the fight at the golf course, and the dead body at the Heroes League.
“It’s like New York,” Keith said. “Or maybe the Sixties here… Grand Lake was a center for supers when the League was around.”
“They’re around now,” I said.
“Yeah,” Keith said. “But the current group’s brand new. The old League was legendary. It almost makes me wish I were going to college here.”
He’d applied to the University of Chicago, mostly to be near the Defenders, I suspected.
They moved on when the next person from school showed up.
Haley and I talked with other people from my school for half an hour, and then found ourselves alone on the edge of the yard.
“You want to go?” I asked.
“Sure. Vaughn’s starts at three anyway.”
And I thought, “Vaughn’s?”
“Nick, did you forget?”
“Not entirely. I bought a present for him. It’s back at my house. I just forgot that it was today.”
We went back to the car, and drove to Vaughn’s, stopping by my house on the way, noticing that Rachel’s car was gone. Was she going too?
As we rode, Haley commented, “Courtney reeked of power juice. It was all I could do not to ask her if she was okay.”
“What about Keith?”
“A little. His uncle smelled slightly of it, but like a lot of other chemicals too.”
“He is a chemist, and I suppose the materials might smell different than the finished product.”
“I know. I hope they’re getting it from him. Weren’t they on the Cabal’s list?”
“They were on the list as possible recruits, but I’m sure they haven’t been recruited. Well, I hope.”
We arrived at Vaughn’s house. It looked as big as usual. They’d left the gates open, so we didn’t need a keycard. Cars filled the driveway, and parked on the lawn. Someone had set up a huge tent next to the swimming pool.
There were a lot of people. It seemed like Vaughn had invited half the senior class, plus other friends, and relatives. I didn’t know how many people there were. It had to number in the low hundreds.
They were in the pool, the house, and I saw a few hitting balls on the tennis court. No one seemed to be on the helicopter pad behind the house, but it was less interesting without a helicopter.
For all I knew, we might not even be seeing everyone. Some might have gone over the dune behind the house to walk along the beach by Lake Michigan.
I parked on the lawn next to the other cars, and we walked across the lawn toward the tent.
Haley took in the scene. “I didn’t know Vaughn’s house was this big. Have you been here before?”
“Once, last fall. My dad brought him back here after he, well… you know what.”
It seemed like a long time ago, and somewhere in the meantime Vaughn had gone from being this messed up guy I barely knew to a friend. When had that happened?
The tent held too many things to focus on — a bar, bartenders, a large “Wall of Vaughn” with pictures from birth through to his senior pictures (blown up to nearly life size), several punch bowls, tables of food, and far too many people.
“I can’t believe it,” Haley muttered.
Following her gaze, I noticed Vaughn’s parents talking with Russell Hardwick, his wife and Sean Drucker’s dad. Lucas stood near them, talking with two people I thought might be Vaughn’s older sisters.
Sean, Dayton, Julie, and Sean’s sister Sydney were talking with Vaughn, and some other people from school as they filled their trays with barbecue.