I shut down HQ for the night around 11:23 pm, knowing even as I did it that my parents weren’t going to be happy.
We had arrived back at 10:47 pm. In theory, I suppose, I could have been home on time if I’d skipped showering and let everyone else turn things off. Unfortunately just taking off the armor and putting it away took 10 minutes. Short of asking Jaclyn to carry me back to the house at full speed, I couldn’t see any way to be home on time.
Since I was already in the hole, I decided to take a shower. With only one locker room, this meant waiting while Jaclyn, Haley and Cassie used the showers. The guys stood out in the main room with Larry and showered after they walked out.
Given the waiting, I think I did fairly well.
Larry hung around while I turned off the lights.
I turned them off everywhere except for the hangar and the main room, skipping the hangar only because that’s where the Rhinomobile had been parked.
Larry and I stood next to the Rhinomobile, Larry leaning against the tread. We were both out of our armor. It felt good to be in street clothes. The armor gets stuffy after a few hours.
I said, “I’m tempted to just tell my parents. It would make nights like this easier. I’m going to get grounded for nothing tonight and I’m sure this won’t be the last time. My parents’ block won’t work if you just tell them straight out, will it?”
Larry looked uncomfortable, and said, “Can you say it straight out?”
“I don’t think I could have when I was a little kid, but I think I can now. Daniel said blocks degrade over time.”
Larry paused for a moment, took a breath and rested his hand on the top of the tread. “Nick, don’t expect too much out of your parents. I’ve got a feeling their blocks still work.”
Larry pulled himself up and sat on the tread. “Back when the original League was active, Daniel’s dad and I spent a lot of time together. As stupid as it sounds, we were basically sidekicks, him to his dad, the Mentalist, and me to the Rocket. David hated the whole idea of the block. I could see his point. It seemed like the Mentalist had been in the head of everybody we knew. David even dated Suzanne, Red Lightning’s daughter, for a while there. Oh god, that made things interesting…”
“Wait,” I said. “You mean Vaughn’s mom?”
“Well, yeah. She must have figured out that he was a hero three times before they broke up. Freaked out every time and the Mentalist had to erase it every time. After the third time, David’s dad just forbid him to date her anymore, and that time David actually listened.
“He wasn’t happy about it though. As soon as he had the chance, he planned to take all the blocks down.”
“Were they dating when the League was fighting Red Lightning?”
“Nah,” Larry said. “They were both under ten during all that. I wasn’t much older. I only met Giles once or twice before your grandfather blew him up.”
“So why didn’t Mindstryke take down all the blocks?” I said.
Larry sighed. “I’m not totally clear on it myself, but however the Mentalist did it, the block got linked to other things. David said that if he took down blocks, he risked some kind of general personality collapse.”
“Oh,” I said.
“But they’d probably be okay if the block fell apart naturally.”
“Huh,” I said. “I don’t think Vaughn’s mom has a block at all anymore.”
“Yeah?” Larry said. “I don’t know anything about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Nothing they did to her head ever seemed to stick.”
We sat in silence for a moment, both of us lost in our own thoughts.
After that we talked a little more. Then he stepped into the Rhinomobile and it rumbled off.
* * *
The walk home felt cold. Barely illuminated by the streetlights, I saw the remains of our fight on Grandpa’s street — the white goo from Future Knight’s gun, the broken garage door, the window. It could have been worse. If Vaughn had been in the fight, he’d have been flinging lightning around. Imagine the devastation from one of his misses.
I checked the messages on my cell phone. Isaac Lim had left a message congratulating me and letting me know that his superiors were allowing him to contact us again. Martin Magnus had left a message that I should call him back.
I didn’t plan to.
I walked through the door to my house around 11:45.
Dad sat at the kitchen table, a pile of books and notebooks next to his laptop. Mom had to be in bed by now.
He looked up as I stepped in and said, “Hi Nick, how’d it go?”
“How’d what go?” I said.
“Whatever you were doing at Daniel’s house. His dad called around supper time to let us know you wouldn’t be home and that you might be home late.”
Dad pushed his chair back from the table and said, “He did. What were you doing?”
I hesitated. Should I try to tell him? Even if he didn’t like it, I’d still feel better with him knowing.
“Well,” I said, “that’s an interesting question. I got together with Daniel and some friends and we kidnapped the mayor and turned him in to the police.”
“Got together with friends? The DVD night thing?”
“Kind of,” I said. “Except there wasn’t a movie and we almost burned down the mayor’s house.”
“Good. I always thought you ought to get out more. You’re never going to have this kind of free time again in your life. Look at me. It’s Friday night and I’m working.”
He closed the laptop. “Well, not any more, I’m going to bed. You should too.”
I hung up my coat in the closet while he picked up the books and put the computer in its bag.
Obviously the block was in full force. Crazy. I’d spent half the night stopping the mayor from mentally manipulating people and freeing people who he had deluded from his influence.
My own parents were stuck within the block until they worked their own way out.
“Good night, Dad,” I said, and walked up the stairs to my room.