Stepping a little faster, I said, “Just a second, I feel like I should say something to her.”
Behind me (by then), Daniel said, “I don’t know. She seems kind of worked up—”
Okay, I heard that, but I didn’t really hear it. So when I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Hey, we met this summer. I’m the Rocket—”
I didn’t get to finish my sentence.
As someone with a suit of powered armor that could hit speeds faster than three hundred miles per hour, and a “jet” fast enough to fly into space, I had an idea of what speed felt like, and this felt fast.
She grabbed me, and the hall turned into a blur of beige carpet, and white walls.
When I could see details again, I found myself stumbling to find my footing in a conference room—not a big conference room either. We stood in one of the normal sized ones—a room just large enough to hold a table with twelve chairs.
She let go of me, and we looked at each other.
Whatever part of my brain should have been handling possible threats hadn’t yet engaged. The part of my brain assigned to figuring out how the world worked, however, found it interesting that the speed hadn’t ripped my flesh from my bones, and argued that her toughness might be the result of force fields instead of being physically tough (and that the field extended to protect people she was carrying). Depending on the properties of the field, that could explain her ability to amplify sound.
“How did you recognize me?”
I couldn’t decide at first whether the emotion in Izzy’s voice sounded more like fear or anger. I hoped for fear because if she were angry she could kill me without thinking.
“When you were all with Evil Beatnik, I tracked you back to the apartment. Sorry. You were after us. That’s how I handle things like that.”
She didn’t say anything, frowning. Then she said, “This never ends.”
I tried to think about how to respond. She was obviously upset, and it didn’t take much to guess that being mind controlled by Evil Beatnik last summer might have been traumatic. Being influenced to break things and hurt people on his behalf, and knowing that if he ever showed up, you’d do it all over again couldn’t leave a person happy.
It made me wish I knew what my dad would do. His skills as a therapist seemed more relevant to the situation than anything I knew about being a superhero.
The next thing she said sounded calmer, but only by a little. “Please don’t tell anybody. I know what I said to Bullet back there, but as long as I’m doing something I can respect, I want to be here.”
“I don’t think anyone can hold being influenced by Evil Beatnik against you. It’s not your fault at all. Not even legally, I’m pretty sure.”
“I don’t care about that. You know what my grandfather was. I don’t ever want to be associated with him. He was horrible.”
I had the feeling that if I pushed there might be a story behind what she’d said, but it didn’t seem like the right time.
“I won’t tell anybody. The Heroes League knows, of course, but we keep secrets.” I thought about that for a second. “I’d give you examples, but kind of goes against the whole point, I guess. No, wait. We also know the identities of everyone else on the team, but we haven’t mentioned them to anyone because it’s not their fault either.”
She’d smiled a little when I said the bit about examples, and said, “I haven’t seen any of them since then. When we were free, I flew away. I keep expecting to see one of them on the news, and not in a good way. They’re psychotic.”
Daniel’s voice sounded in my mind, It sounds like you’re wrapping up in there. Agent Lim wants to talk to you so you’ll probably want to hurry.
“Do you think we ought to go?” I asked.
Izzy nodded. “Yes. I still haven’t gotten my room key. Oh, and I’m sorry about dragging you away like that. I was still freaking out after everything, then out of nowhere here comes the worst experience of my life back all over again.”
“No problem. I didn’t know it was that bad.”
“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t.”
She opened the door.
“’I wouldn’t’ why?”
“You’re the League. You were protected against him somehow.”
“No. We had records about him, but mostly I got lucky.”
I followed her out, reminded of how much taller she was. When I was in the Rocket suit, she stood a little taller than I did. Without it, I was probably six inches shorter.
She got one step out of the door, and stopped. When I stepped around her, I saw Isaac Lim walking down the hall with Daniel, Cassie, Jaclyn, and Vaughn.
Even though none of them were in costume, it felt official. It might have been Lim’s blue suit.
“Everybody,” he said, “let’s step back into the conference room.”
“You too,” he told Izzy.