“Are you getting anything?” I asked Daniel.
We stood about twenty feet to the side of the main table where everyone else sat, quietly talking.
“Almost,” Daniel said. “I’ll pull you in when I’ve got it.”
The grownups hadn’t been gone for long.
My vision blurred. Superimposed upon the League HQ’s main room, I saw the lab with it’s collection of machines and spare Rocket suit parts. Larry (his helmet off) fiddled with the controls of one of Grandpa’s more advanced fabrication machines. Daniel’s dad and C, Jaclyn’s grandfather, faced each other next to the counter on the left side of the room.
I’d left a lot of tools and a spare right arm on the counter while doing maintenance on the suit earlier.
I hoped they wouldn’t touch anything.
“– I don’t like this plan at all,” Daniel’s dad said. “You don’t tell teenagers that it’s okay to kill people. You don’t send them up against trained soldiers. This isn’t the League you remember.”
Jaclyn’s grandfather leaned against the counter. His arm pushed a wrench into the soldering iron and some of the smaller tools.
“Whoops.” He pulled his arm back. “If the boy’s grandfather were alive, I’d never have heard the end of that.”
The tools floated back to almost the same position they’d been in.
“Thank you. Do you remember,” Jaclyn’s grandfather asked, “what your father was doing at their age?”
“He was lying about his age so the army would take him.”
“We’re not at war,” Daniel’s dad said.
“We’re always at war. The venue changes.”
“I’ve heard that line before. It makes it far too easy to justify –”
“It’s a good line. It’s a true line.”
“There’s a difference between trying to stop Hitler and whatever’s going on here. Equating the two lets you guys set up things like the block. I spent my childhood with half of my friends practically lobotomized and you didn’t even stop when they got married. You had my dad block their spouses too.”
Jaclyn’s grandfather barely raised his voice in response. “I didn’t do it. The League did it. We did it, and it’s the only reason you’re around to complain. We weren’t fighting good men, David. We were fighting killers. Men who would go after wives and children. The block meant our kids never noticed our hours, our strange disappearances, or any hints about what we were. It freed them to have normal lives. It freed us from worrying about them. It freed you to experiment with your powers and not worry if your friends would ask questions.”
“I’d have rather had the questions.”
“Not at the expense of your life.”
Daniel’s dad stood quietly. “Let’s get back to the main topic,” he said after a moment.
Then he turned toward us, concentrating. The room disappeared, leaving the two of us standing next to each other in HQ’s main room.
“I didn’t know he could do that,” Daniel said.
The night felt colder than before. Daniel, his father and I stood in the forest. Clouds covered the stars. I wondered if it might snow.
Larry and the rest would be arriving at the Mayor’s soon.
“So,” Daniel’s dad said, “the two of you were witness to our little disagreement. It’s OK. I’m not angry.”
“I shouldn’t have been,” Daniel said.
“I’m glad you know it. Live it next time.”
A few seconds passed. A crow cawed.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “More than thirty years later, C still makes me feel like I’m tagging along with my dad.”
He checked his watch. “Nine o’clock. Let’s go.”
We rose into the air, flying above the treetops, and crossing the blocks of residential houses on the outside of the city. The mayor’s house stood near the top of a hill on the edge of downtown with a few other Victorian houses built by the city’s leading families of the period.
Tonight it stood out.
Soldiers stood on the lawn. Police cars, trucks and two tanks were on the street. They’d also blocked off the roads around the house. Around the corner, I could see a “box,” one of the bulky trucks specifically used for holding supers. I didn’t know much about military tactics, but it didn’t look quite right to me. What exactly did they plan to do with the tanks?
A block away, I heard Mindstryke’s voice in my head.
Let’s land and talk.
We landed on the street in front of some more old Victorians. I hoped we weren’t too obvious.
“It seems like overkill,” I said. “Calling in the National Guard and all those police over us? It’s not as if they know you and the Rhino are involved.”
“Blame Vengeance,” Daniel’s dad said. “He and the Hangmen attacked the second the Elementals left. They’re taking no chances.”
I asked, “How did they fight him off?”
To the degree that I could see his face through the mask, Daniel’s dad looked thoughtful. “I don’t know.”
Next to me, Daniel seemed to be spacing out. I guess concentrating would be the kinder way to put it. His eyes pointed at nothing, his mouth hung partly open.
“Hey,” Daniel said, “I’ve found Vaughn.”