We pushed our way back to the van, leaving and undoubtedly violating laws about staying at the scene of a crime in the process. I wasn’t sure how many heard the first part of the conversation, but there were a lot of people at the end.
Of course, that was when Kid Biohack was there. Back when it was Alden and Jillian talking, it wouldn’t have appeared to be anything more than normal conversation since he’d been out of costume.
Still, someone might have listened to all of it. In that case, the police would be very interested in anything Jillian would have to say.
I made a mental note to share any information we got from her. I’d have called them and asked them for advice as to what we should ask, but then they would have illegally collaborated with a vigilante in gathering evidence—which had more legal implications than I was probably aware of.
I pulled out of the theater’s parking lot, hearing sirens in the distance. I wanted desperately to find out how the fight was going and also to know where the police were heading. Someone might have taken down the van’s license plate and called it in.
I’d never considered the possibility that I might have a normal person (or in this case, people) inside the van when I wanted to swap the van’s color and license plate. I’d have to make the van shift its dashboard into “superhero” mode to get access to changing color and everything.
By the time I did that, I might as well turn the van into a cat mecha. The “shifted” version of the dashboard would give away everything that mattered.
Rather than get on the highway, I took side roads back, not the smallest, least used roads, but roads that I’d describe as used, but not loved. We rode past old strip malls with bright signs advertising “Payday Loans,” convenience stores, vacuum repair, and taquerias.
As we drove further north, the neighborhoods began to gentrify. The liquor stores began to advertise craft beer. Old brick factories were no longer empty but instead housed small grocery stores, coffee shops, and specialty stores.
I recognized a lingerie shop that I’d once forced a guy named Tomahawk to hit.
That seemed like a long time ago now.
Within a mile, the gentrified neighborhoods went away. No more factories that had been converted into cute shops or apartment buildings. These factories were still used as factories or warehouses. Even in the dark, lit only by streetlights, they still looked dirty, bland, and nearly abandoned.
In short, my rusty, white van fit in perfectly with the odd mixture of cars, trucks, and the occasional motorcycle on the street. My van could easily be a delivery van, a carpenter, a plumber, or any of a dozen small businesses.
I turned on the radio to a local rock station. Electric guitars cut through the silence and sounded better.
Talking over the radio, Jeremy asked, “What is this? The ‘Worst of Grand Lake’ tour?”
“No,” I checked the rearview mirror, seeing him behind me along with Jillian (who was staring out the window) and Courtney (who was looking at Jillian and biting her lip). “I heard sirens and thought it might be better to take side roads home in case someone sent the cops after Jillian.”
At that, Jillian started crying, and not a little sniff or a small sob, but a wail followed by deep, wracking sobs, the kind you might make if you were worried about your boyfriend, who was a supervillain, and fighting his best friend, a superhero, when suddenly some idiot made you realize that you might go to jail.
Haley raised her eyebrow. I didn’t respond.
Jillian stopped crying long enough to say, “I was lying. I went along with them once.”
Haley turned around, but she didn’t speak before Jeremy. He said, “Them?”
“Alden’s team.” She held up her head to meet Jeremy’s eyes. Her face was wet with tears. “I have powers, and strong ones,” she added in what was nearly her normal voice.
“If I take power juice, I can copy people’s powers, but not everybody’s—only people who are energy manipulators somehow. Like Alden, he’s inhumanly fast, but it’s not because he’s strong or fast naturally. He does something that makes him move faster than the timestream somehow.”
She paused, adding, “It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I can do it too. Whenever I copy someone’s power, I glow. I’m sure that means something, but I haven’t figured out how to use the glow.”
She was the second speedster—the glowing one. That made sense now. Well, partly. It still didn’t explain why Haley didn’t recognize Jillian’s scent from the crime scene we’d visited. It might be that her copying process changed her on a deep enough level that she smelled like someone else.
“I went along with them when they robbed an armored car. I didn’t do anything. You don’t think they’d put me in jail for that, would you?”
Thanks to Stapledon classes, I was pretty sure they would. If she had a good lawyer and a sympathetic prosecutor, she might be able to avoid being charged if she turned everyone in.
“There are four of them—Alden, an ex-military guy who’s their leader, a woman with energy powers, and this woman in eagle themed powered armor.”