By the time our food came, anyone who had wanted an autograph had one. There weren’t that many people in the restaurant after all.
A fair number of them pointed phones in our direction. It didn’t make me feel better. It’d be really annoying if one of us accidentally used a real name. We’d probably see it all over the internet in hours.
Daniel’s voice popped into my head. It gets worse. One of them already called a television station, and they’re sending out a reporter.
What? It was all I could do not to say it out loud. Why didn’t you say something?
It’s no big deal, Daniel said. The nearest TV station is half an hour from here. Our food should be here sooner.
Hoping that no one thought to bribe the cooks, I looked over the room again, and didn’t see anything unusual.
No bribes, Daniel said. See the silver haired guy at the back table? He used to be a producer, and called his old station. It’d be quite a scoop to catch us here.
The man sat at a table with a white haired woman. He leaned into his phone, talking furiously. She ate pancakes.
I did not want to be here when the reporters arrived, knowing that we’d have to stay on message and not talk about certain things. Plus, if I had to choose people to face reporters, Daniel would definitely be on it, and Vaughn probably wouldn’t be.
It didn’t matter in the end. Even though noticeably more cars started showing up in the parking lot while we waited, none of them contained television crews. When we walked out the door with our bags of food (most of it floating in the air around Daniel), the new arrivals watched while other people followed us out. They pointed phones and cameras at us, but they didn’t ask us any questions.
We flew away soon after the hatch closed, barely giving us time to strap in.
Haley flew low, but northward, eventually stopping the jet, and letting it float above a farmer’s field in northern Illinois. We ate there. Brown stalks of corn half buried in snow lay in rows around us for as far as we could see.
The food was still warm, and we ate without much talking.
I finished before almost anyone else—mostly because I didn’t have a metabolism that required outrageous amounts of food.
I took the jet up and flew toward Grand Lake, taking my time because I guessed that people would find eating the entire meal inside the jet more convenient than finishing in HQ.
In twenty minutes, they’d finished eating, and I’d submerged the jet in Grand Lake, diving toward the underwater entrance. Moments later, we’d entered the airlock, and when the airlock had finally been pumped dry, I flew the jet into the hangar.
It was only 8:37am, and we had nearly an hour and half to kill before the board arrived. We didn’t do much. Daniel turned on the news because he wanted to see how it was being covered. I checked the Double V boards to see what was going on there.
The short answer: they were aflame.
Not really wanting to see more speculation, praise, or criticism, I caught up on some webcomics (I’d gotten behind on Girl Genius).
I would have taken a shower, but we’d decided to meet the board in costume, and take a shower afterward. I did take off my helmet and gloves though—the helmet because it felt good to breath normal air, and the gloves because I didn’t want to punch my finger through the keyboard.
The board appeared in HQ at 9:33—almost half an hour early.
A shimmering square appeared in the middle of the room. It flashed different backgrounds as people stepped through.
Larry, in his bulky, grey Rhino suit stepped out of his workroom, an underground bunker much like the League’s HQ.
Cassie’s mom, (Ms. Ruiz professionally) stepped out from behind a desk in a bedroom. She wore a tan suit. Between her black hair and light brown skin, she looked nothing like Cassie. When you considered that she shared no DNA with her, that became less surprising.
Dr. Freddie Nation, my adviser in the Stapledon program, stepped off a street corner somewhere. I knew that he lived in San Francisco, so probably from there. He wore a black suit.
The rest of the board appeared all at once—Flick in a yellow bodysuit, but less armored version than normal. She wasn’t wearing her gloves, and a small mask covered the area around her eyes, but not much more of her face.
Mindstryke appeared with her, looking exactly as he had when we’d talked to him, blue costume and all.
Finally, and unsurprisingly, Guardian appeared, wearing a silver costume that didn’t hide powerful muscles.
He’d been the guy who opened the gate. I couldn’t say I was happy to see him either.