“But we’re not going to,” Alex said. “Raptor’s not going to take on Syndicate L by himself. He’s got to stay here and direct the people who are still left, and, you know, most of them got the short end of the stick when it comes to powers, so what good are they?”
“Well,” I said, “they’re experienced for one. Powers don’t do much good if you don’t know how to use them.”
“Come on,” Alex said. “You’re experienced. You guys made national news a bunch of times. The Grey Giant, that conspiracy, the Executioner… That’s more than any of the no-names Raptor will be using. I don’t see why you’re being such a wuss about this.”
“I didn’t plan to get involved in any of that. Most of those guys attacked us first.”
Alex dismissed it with a wave of his hand.
“Yeah, but you won. No help from your parents at all. No interference. No supervision. No one telling you to wait.”
“Well actually,” I said, “Daniel’s dad did help us a little and the rest of our parents don’t have powers at all, and, I mean honestly, they mostly don’t know what we’re doing.”
“How did you arrange that?” Jenny asked.
“We didn’t. Our grandparents placed some kind of block in our parents’ brains so they wouldn’t notice.”
“That’s so cool.” Alex said.
Brooke’s nose wrinkled as if she’d smelled something unusually bad. “That’s… wrong.”
“Are you joking?” Jenny turned her head toward me, waiting for a reply.
“I wish,” I said. “I wouldn’t have done it.”
“OK,” Alex said, “let’s reel it in. Carlos is in trouble and who knows, maybe other people too. How are we going to get him back?”
I didn’t say anything since the obvious answer was, “Let the grown-ups deal with it.” I knew I didn’t want to be responsible for the mistake that killed a kid. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to be responsible through inaction either.
Brooke thought for a second. “If we could capture one of them, I could get a picture of the location out of his head. Then we could portal in.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Alex said, “What about the guy you portaled out?”
“I dropped him next to the tar pits, but I’m sure he didn’t stay there.”
“If the Defenders capture anyone while they secure the development where you live,” I said, “Brooke might get it out of them.”
“If they don’t turn them over the police first,” Alex said.
“I don’t think there are any telepaths among the people still home,” Jenny said. “We could volunteer Brooke.”
“They’d see through that.” Alex said.
No one said anything.
Something on Alex’ utility belt began to beep. “Already? I just put the thing on and the Defenders’ phone begins ringing.” He pulled it off the belt and looked at it.
Then he held it out for everyone to see.
A text message on the phone said, “Alex. Help.”
As we looked at it, it beeped. Alex turned it toward himself and clicked. Then he showed it to us again. It said, “Video. Now.”
Jenny grabbed the TV’s remote control and started flipping channels. “He probably means the general communications account.”
The screen changed to a picture of a nondescript conference room — long table, white walls, chairs. Scared looking people stood against the wall — nine of them, three women, two men, and four kids, one of which was Carlos. The taller of the two men had a big bruise on his cheek.
An obviously electronically distorted voice said, “– Raptor, we’ve left each other alone, but some recent incidents have left us with no choice but try for a more formal arrangement. We’re willing to give these people back to you as a gesture of good will, provided you leave us alone.”
Raptor’s picture in the lower right corner showed him looking impassive. “You know we can’t do that. I’m grateful for the gesture, but I can’t promise anything. Where can we pick them up?”
The voice laughed. “Nice try, but you know we can’t leave it at that. If you can’t promise anything now, I’ll call you back in a little while, and, I’m hoping that by then you’ll have something you can promise.”
The picture cut off, leaving Raptor with a sour look on the lower half of his face, one small portrait against a background of gray. Then that disappeared too.
“I can’t believe it. That’s all I need to portal in,” Brooke said.
Alex laughed. “They can be so dumb.” He eyed the rest of us, pulled his long coat off the table and put it on. “Let’s go in.”
“Wait,” I said, “shouldn’t we at least tell Raptor what we’ve got?”
“He’s not going to listen, but, fuck it, go ahead if you don’t believe me.”
Alex did something with the remote and suddenly I was facing Raptor on the screen.
“Now what?” He stood in a conference room with half a dozen costumed men and women.
“I’m the Rocket. Look, we can really help you out. Portal’s got a way to drop us right into the room where they’re being held.”
Raptor took a deep breath. “Kid, I’ve seen the news reports out of Grand Lake. I’ve seen what you’ve done, but this is LA, and I don’t want anyone starting a fight in the middle of a room full of hostages. You got it?”
“Yeah,” I said.
He cut off the connection before I even finished.
“See?” Alex said.
Jenny pulled on her mask and split into two. “We’re not really going to jump into the middle of the room, are we?”
Brooke rolled her eyes. “No. I was going to open a small portal and scout around first. Maybe we can place a few of you outside the building for backup?”
Jenny nodded. “I’ll need to get into the armory.”
“That sounds good,” Alex said. “Nick, you’re coming, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess I am.”