“No. There’s no way I’m doing that,” I said.
“That was a joke. I wasn’t suggesting you let Mindstryke take over, but you need to listen to the guy. No one thinks about it when they start, but managing your image is a major piece of the job.”
Guardian pulled a couple pieces of pepperoni pizza onto a plate.
Flick leaned in toward the table and smiled briefly. “He’s right. Some of you have heard about what happened when I joined the Defenders. I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past two years is how to handle myself in public.”
I hadn’t heard, but didn’t get a chance to ask.
She looked over at Daniel’s dad and then Guardian, “You’re not planning on having him speak very long, are you?”
Daniel’s dad said, “Nothing long. Just a short explanation of why we’ve got the mayor.”
Cassie looked up from her own plate of pizza and said, “Nothing against the Rocket, but I’ve heard his explanation for why we needed to go get the mayor and it’s not short.”
“I won’t have to go over all that stuff with Magnus for the press,” I said.
“You’d better not,” Cassie said. “And if you feel the urge to talk about how the roachbots work, resist it.”
Water, standing on the far end of the table next to Marcus said, “Who’s Magnus?”
Marcus said, “Don’t worry about it.” Turning to the rest of us, he said, “I’ll tell him later.”
Flick turned toward me and said, “Roachbots? As in cockroaches?”
* * *
Grand Lake’s police department operated out of an old building downtown. From the 1920’s up to the early 1970’s, it used to be Fleischmann’s department store, but the store moved to a mall in the suburbs. The building dated from the late 1800’s, but any interesting architectural features had been removed by renovations in the 1980’s. Now it looked like a tall, featureless, brick building.
Oddly, the 2002 renovation for the police department’s relocation included adding in Victorian style lights and circular signs with the word “Police” in large letters.
I ran in front of the Rhinomobile with Jaclyn and her grandfather. Marcus, Daniel and Daniel’s father flew just above us. Everyone else rode inside.
Ahead of us, the police had blocked off traffic so we could take the Rhinomobile directly in front of the main entrance.
“Watch out for the curb,” Jaclyn said.
“I’ve been stepping over curbs since before you were born,” I heard her grandfather say.
News crews stood on both sides of me, but police kept the path from the Rhinomobile to the entrance clear. In front of the door, stood the FBI agents that had tried to catch us earlier — Agent Brown and her people wearing copies of Grandpa’s 40’s era armor. The group included a new member, another guy in the standard navy blue FBI super uniform. This guy, however, had a silver helmet. So… Fed telepath? Check.
A skinny guy in a green karate uniform stood off to the side of them. I recognized him. It had to be PsyKick, the telepath from the Michigan Heroes Alliance. I’d always thought he had one of the cheesier codenames imaginable. It was like he sat down one day and asked himself, “I’m a martial artist and a telepath. What will I call myself? Ooooh. Psy… Kick! Isn’t that clever?”
He glared at me.
Annoyed Michigan Heroes Alliance guy? Check.
Daniel landed next to me. You need to think a little more quietly, he suggested.
A silver rectangle appeared in front of us. Flick, Dreadnought and Guardian stepped out of it and the doorway disappeared.
If I’d had any worry that this would end up in a gigantic melee, that would have ended it. Dreadnought and the Guardian had to be on the A-list of powered supers. Guardian had been turned into some kind of super-soldier by a race of energy beings. I didn’t know Dreadnought’s origin, but I knew that (appropriately, given her name) she could throw battleships.
Between the two of them, I felt fairly sure the police and the Feds felt motivated to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Behind me, I could hear the door of the Rhinomobile open. I turned to watch the rest of the team jump out — Larry, Water, Travis, Haley, Cassie and Vaughn (slings and all).
After them, the bodies of the mayor and all six of the heroes who had fought us floated out.
Cameras flashed while reporters shouted questions.
Now, Nick, Daniel’s dad told me.
So this was it, my moment in the spotlight.
“Attention, everybody! Hey!” I said, giving the sonics enough volume for me to shout over the crowd.
Everybody stopped talking and looked at me expectantly.
I suddenly wished I had three by five cards or had taken Daniel’s dad up on his offer. What was I supposed to say again?
The mayor, Daniel said.
Thanks, I sent back.
Don’t thank me. Talk.
“The mayor was a telepath,” I said. “He left commands buried in people across the state and nation. We don’t yet know all the people, but it definitely included government officials, police and the supers we’re bringing in now. We’ve got a bunch of telepaths here to probe him for information so… um… you can all expect to know more pretty soon.
Well, I thought, leaving off the ‘okay’ would have sounded a little more professional.
I didn’t really have a chance to think about it though.
Nancy Gonzalez, the anchor for Channel 10, started shouting at me. “Can you tell us how the fire got started?”
I tried to think about whether I should answer or not.
Haley took my hand. “Rocket, we’re supposed to go in now.”
From my other side, Larry, massive in his own powered armor, said, “She’s right. Let’s get on in.”