I wore the full Rocket armor. Pulling the stealth suit out of my closet at home would have been faster, but according to Grandpa and the reports, Dixie Superman had been tough. Flying into a fight with Dixie Supergirl in less than full gear sounded stupid.
And how much did I want to bet that more of her group was in the crowd?
After running to HQ, plus five minutes worth of pulling the armor on, and a twenty second flight to Grand Lake State Park (with Marcus gliding behind me, shifted into the form of a pair of wings), we were too late.
Not completely too late because she wasn’t gone, but it would have been better if we’d all arrived and attacked simultaneously.
As it was, thunderclouds hung over the beach as we arrived, lightning flashing again and again at Dixie Supergirl, and mostly missing. Even with lightning moving at the speed of light, she could still move faster than Vaughn could aim.
The crowd on the beach had already run to their cars. Some still watched from the parking lot. The smarter ones had left, but ended up stuck in a huge clot of cars around the ranger station at the entrance to the park. The rangers directed traffic, but with a two lane road, and several hundred cars, nobody would be leaving as quickly as they wanted to.
Back at the beach, green bills lay on the sand, sometimes taking to the air as the wind blew.
I flew, crossing the parking lot in time to see one of the lightning bolts hit Dixie Supergirl. She had been turning to fly away, but when lightning engulfed her body every limb jerked uncontrollably, and she fell.
I changed course. Dixie Superman had been practically invulnerable, and it was a good bet his replacement would be too, but that didn’t mean she had to be.
Below me, a purple blur sprayed sand across the beach. Jaclyn must have thought the same thing.
Unfortunately for both of us, Dixie Supergirl shook off the lightning before we could reach her.
She straightened up, and twisted her body, aiming herself in a new direction—toward me.
I barely had time to react as a red, white, and blue blur resolved into an up-close-and-personal view of the Stars and Bars.
The next thing I knew I was flying in the opposite direction—though not precisely opposite. The rockets were on, so I was going backwards and up. I flipped forward and aimed myself toward her.
I intended to anyhow. It didn’t work out.
She’d already flown away with Marcus flying after her, but flapping wings had no chance of catching up.
Someday, he and I would have to find out if I could design a faster way for him to fly.
Jaclyn jumped, and for a moment I thought she might succeed, but Dixie Supergirl saw her, zig-zagged, and passed around her. Still, it was an incredible leap—two hundred feet almost straight up.
She landed in the water.
Knowing she could swim, I opened up, setting the rockets to maximum speed. I hit three hundred, then four hundred miles per hour, and it still wasn’t fast enough.
Dixie Supergirl had disappeared into the sky. Not that it mattered—I knew she wasn’t really gone.
It brought home the truth of what one of the Ice Twins had said. Any one of the originals on their side had given the first Heroes League problems. Fighting all of them was going to be a challenge.
Sure, they weren’t as competent as the people they replaced, but neither were we.
* * *
By the time I got back to HQ, and took off the Rocket suit, News 10 had already made it to the scene and started interviewing the spectators.
Marcus had turned the big screen in the main room on, so by the time I stepped out of the lab in my normal clothes, I got to see some bull-necked twenty-something in a white t-shirt shout, “Dude, I got nearly five hundred bucks! It was totally worth it.”
The reporter moved on the next person, a freckled woman with sun-bleached, blond hair.
“How well did the Heroes League handle it?” The reporter asked.
“Didn’t get here on time. Couldn’t catch them. Couldn’t do anything. They’re useless.”
Rachel, Jaclyn, and Marcus were watching. Vaughn had to get back to something, so he wasn’t there.
I sat down at the table, logged into a computer, and checked my League email and voicemail.
I had voicemail—a lot of it.
Two of the more recent calls came from names I felt sure I didn’t want to hear from but I couldn’t ignore. The computer listed one caller as Lucas Hardwick, and as George Drucker.
Despite wanting to avoid yet another conversation about Lucas and Rachel not having sex, I listened to Lucas’ message. I plugged the earphones from my iPod into the computer first though. No need to make it a group experience.
“Rocket, I meant to talk to you after the movie, but things happened. Anyway, I’ve been talking to my dad about the film that we watched. The second one. The one about the very special Rocket suit extension, and the Justice Fist cameo. My dad’s lawyers think they’ve got a way around the parody issue. If you want in, talk to me about it. We’ll be going after them either way.”
I’d almost forgotten that with everything else going on. I’d have to bring it up to the group and then the Heroes League’s board if I cared enough. I wasn’t sure I did.
I moved on to “George Drucker’s” message, not expecting anything good could come of it. I knew two things about George Drucker. First, that he was dead. Second, that he was Sean and Sydney’s father. I wasn’t seriously expecting a phone call from a zombie though. George had only been dead for a few months. They probably hadn’t taken his name off the account yet.
One mouse click later, Sean’s voice filled my headphones. “Hey Rocket, you lost to a girl. See you soon.”