There were other people to ask, or so I learned on Sunday night. Haley wasn’t mad exactly, but she wasn’t happy either.
“There’s me, and Marcus, and Kayla too. She’s staff, but she’s still part of the team.”
We were in League HQ, but not the main room. After getting back around seven, I’d gone to the lab to recheck the modifications I’d made to the main Rocket suit over the summer, and then start looking over our power impregnator.
Someday soon, I’d have to modify the spare suits, but not tonight.
At least that was my plan until Haley called. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to work uninterrupted, but I wanted to see her, so I said it was fine if she came over.
That’s what led us to this point. She sat on the stool next to mine, frowning a little, both of us sitting next to a table amid the lab’s machines and dismantled rocket suits.
I put down the Rocket suit’s arm, and stopped testing it.
“I’m sorry. I was just thinking about the people at Stapledon. I think I got a little… over-focused?”
Haley sunk a little on the stool. “I don’t like it that you didn’t even think about me.”
I tried to think what the right thing to say would be. I’d already said I was sorry. Saying it again seemed redundant. If I was going to say it again, I’d have to say it differently.
I considered how I might say it. The words did not come.
“Nick?” Haley looked up at me.
“I was just trying to think of a good way to fix the problem. I don’t want her to get in trouble, and it sounds like Lee’s more worried about the power juice than the power impregnator. It just makes sense. Plus, better that she gets powers from us. What if Syndicate L gets an impregnator and sells access to it? She’d owe them.”
Haley’s brow furrowed. “I know it makes sense. I just feel left out.”
“I didn’t mean to leave you out.”
She sighed. “I think I’d have felt better if I hadn’t heard from Sydney that you were hanging around with Courtney a lot.”
“Huh?” I tried to figure out how Sydney would know, and then remembered—Sydney was Sean’s sister, and Sean went to Grand Lake University too. He lived on a different floor of the same dorm as I did.
“Oh,” I said. “I told you I’d been talking with her. You don’t think I’d—”
“No, I don’t. I’d know.” She said, her voice low.
She would, too. She’d easily be able to smell Courtney on me if Courtney and I had been doing more than talking. Plus, with Haley’s hearing, she could skip the polygraph machine, and listen for my heart rate while we talked.
“Good,” I said. “That’s a relief.”
“Nick, I’m worried. I feel like I’ve barely seen or heard from you all last week.”
I started to say, “I won’t have Stapledon next weekend,” but I didn’t get more than two words into it when she said, “I’m not done. One girl at my high school got dumped by her boyfriend on Friday–just a week after he left. He was at college too.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’m not going to dump you.”
I could have touched her then, but I wasn’t sure if I should. It seemed like I might have been wrong earlier when I thought she wasn’t angry. Sure, she might be more strongly scared, but she might be a little angry.
The fact that she was strong enough to rip my arm off if surprised might have factored into my decision too—not that she would. Well, not intentionally.
Instead, I talked. “I bet whoever got dumped was further away from her boyfriend. We don’t have to deal with distance at least. You can come over any time.”
Haley shrugged. “I don’t know, but I think you’re right.”
Her tone seemed a little happier.
* * *
Aside from my distance learning “criminology” class on Monday night, I barely had any reason to think about the stranger parts of my life. I did my readings, worked on my homework, and even had time to get to the lab on Wednesday night to reassemble the power impregnator.
Looking it over showed it wouldn’t take much to bring it into working order.
If I wanted to be cautious though, I’d need to get samples of Courtney’s blood and tissue to see how it reacted to a jolt.
Vaughn hadn’t worried about that, but since our machine had essentially been preset to work with him, it hadn’t been as important.
After I got back to campus, and parked the van in the parking garage, I noticed that Courtney had left a text message on my phone.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of the van, I decided to check what it was.
It said, “Call me.”
I sent back, “Now?” It was nearly ten.
Instead of a reply, my phone rang.
“Nick,” Courtney said, “you remember my… legal problem?”
“Yeah,” I said. If she meant what I thought she did, I’d been working on it for the last couple hours.
“I discovered a way out, and I need a favor.”