“I’ve got a new direction though,” I said. “Rachel said I discovered this myself somehow, so I’m thinking that what I should really be doing is whatever I’d be doing normally if I didn’t know.”
Haley nodded slowly. “That sounds good. What do you think you’d be doing normally?”
“Tonight? Well, I was going to work on a new Rocket suit which is kind of the same thing as the suit I’m making for Cassie at the base level. It should solve the problem where I can’t carry around a decently powerful suit—once I figure out how to make it lighter anyhow. Anyway, I’m sure I’d be working on Cassie’s version even if Rachel never visited Infinity City, or those alternate universe versions of us never showed up.”
For a moment, Haley’s pupils began to widen into slits. She blinked, her mouth tightening, and they became normal.
“I hope so.” She said, ignoring what had happened.
More than a year into dating her, I knew better than to draw her attention to it.
I said, “Me too.”
She glanced toward the locker room. “I should take a shower.” She went quiet for a moment, and then said, “We’re going to the Chinese buffet on State after this. Do you want to come along?”
I thought about that. “Do you think they’d want me?”
“They’re fine with you. For real.” Her expression hinted at some frustration.
“I’m sure they’re not expecting me, though. Besides we are doing something tomorrow night, and if I do figure out the St. Louis thing, it’ll probably be while I’m working in the lab or doing research.”
Haley considered that, and said, “OK, but you should go out with us sometime.”
“I will,” I said, and not long after that, she went to the showers.
It was a relief—not to get rid of Haley, but going would have been several kinds of awkward. Beyond Sydney probably wishing Haley were still going out with her brother, Camille tended to flirt with everybody—including me. She didn’t mean anything by it, but it still opened up more potential for embarrassment than I wanted.
Plus they were both attractive, and that wouldn’t make the situation less awkward.
But anyway, they left. Haley smiled at me. Sydney said a quiet, “Bye.” Camille tapped the armor near my stomach (the bootup sequence still hadn’t finished), and said, “Nice abs.”
I went back to the lab, and pulled down the faceplate. It sealed, and I noticed that the screen said:
I said, “Disassemble.”
Bit by bit, it landed on the floor, reminding me of the sound of hail. I knew that it was entirely off because my feet were cold. The suit had kept them warm.
I walked back out of the lab into HQ’s main room, and put on my shoes and socks. They seemed warm and dry enough. That taken care of, I sat down at the conference table, opened a computer, and implemented the newer version of the bootup algorithm. It took a couple hours, but it worked. I tested it remotely at first, but once it worked, I tried it.
It took four minutes, twenty-six seconds.
It was amazing.
Once I got the armor off, I sat down in the chair, relieved, and thinking through my next step. To get it ready for Cassie, I needed to add weapons, and one other thing. Even though I didn’t intend to include a rocket pack, I had worked out some small jets that would boost her ability to jump. I also knew of one weapon I intended to add whether she wanted it or not—a stun gun.
Grandpa had created a design for the Defenders, but the League hadn’t used it, so it wouldn’t be associated with Captain Commando or the League.
Was I going to do it tonight though? I checked the time, and noticed that it was after ten. No, I decided. I’d start something big later. Now, I’d start research that I could leave halfway through if I found I was getting tired.
Admittedly, the research was a little selfish, but it would be useful for everybody—including Cassie.
I tried to figure out if there were a way to create a ceramic with the same level of protection Grandpa’s had, but lighter—say forty to sixty percent lighter. So maybe that was crazily overambitious, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.
I spent the next hour reviewing Grandpa’s ceramics, and coming up with ideas. After deciding one of them might work, I decided to stop. Implementing it would have taken all night.
I did decide to do one thing before I left though. Unlike most people, I had access to something that might be able to tell me if it would work before I wasted my time.
I opened up a connection to the League jet, more specifically to the jet’s AI—an alien battle computer Grandpa had recovered and installed in the jet.
It texted me back immediately.
I described the ceramic, its creation process, and finished by asking, “Do you think this could work? Wait, I know you’re not made for engineering. Are you aware of similar materials used in creating spaceships or armor?”
[Yes. Similar materials have been used by spacefaring races before. I assume you’re wondering if it will work.]
[It most definitely will, but you shouldn’t waste your time. A business called “St. Louis Industrial Materials” appears to be ordering the necessary substances to manufacture a similar ceramic. You should order some.]