“Great,” Alex said. “Let’s put a plan together and get in there. It looks like simple get in, get out sort of mission to me. Anybody else?”
Brooke shook her head. “I don’t know… Something’s not right. Why do they think they can take on the Defenders?”
“You think it’s more than just the hostages?” Jenny said.
“How often do hostages work against people with powers?” Brooke said.
Alex shook his head. “Give the area a quick scan and if there isn’t anything, we go in. We’ve got to move before they change rooms.”
Brooke gave him an irritated look, but opened up a gate the size of a quarter. After a moment, she said, “There are six of them in the room and more outside the door. None of them look especially tough…”
“Then let’s move in,” Alex said.
“Wait,” I said, “Can’t Brooke just portal them out?”
“After the car, I’m too tired. The larger the portal, the harder it gets. I can’t take the group all at once, and, if I did them one by one Syndicate L could move at least one of them before I finished.”
“Okay,” I said.
“That’s why we’re going to pop in, and make them pay attention to us instead of the hostages,” Alex said.
“Brooke,” I said, “are you going to have the energy to get us all back here?”
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could.”
“Do we have a backup plan just in case?”
They had one.
* * *
Dropping straight into the room turned out to be the best idea, given how tired Brooke was. Having a bunch of Jennys appear in the hallway outside would have been a good idea, but not realistic.
From back in the Junior Defenders’ room, I watched Jenny step out of the portal already firing her Defenders stun pistol, splitting into twenty of herself moments after her feet hit the floor. Caught in a crossfire of beams, the Syndicate L goons didn’t have a chance. They fell to the floor instantly. Then she ran out the door and into the hall, splitting more and firing away.
I came through after Alex just as one of the Jennys still in the conference room said, “We’ve taken the hall and the room. Easy.”
Brooke stepped through after me, keeping the portal open.
She’d changed into costume and was again completely covered in silver from head to toe — including her hair. I sighed. Xiniti battle armor that her dad had managed to get through personal connections to one of the nastier races in space. It stunk that the version he’d provided her had no weapons.
Carlos ran to Alex and hugged his leg.
Carlos wore Spongebob Squarepants pajamas.
“Hey dude,” Alex said. “We’ve got you. Everybody… start moving through the portal. We don’t have long before they send more people.”
As the people started stepping through, Alex asked Carlos, “Where’s your mom?”
“Home. Uncle Ric was driving me home.”
One of the men, dark haired and wearing a suit, but no tie, said, “Come on Carlos, he told us to hurry.”
The rest of the people had already left. I could see them waiting on the other side.
“I want to go with Paladin.”
“Carlos,” his uncle said, “you need to listen to me.”
Alex turned to Ric, “Start on through, I’ll walk with him.”
Ric didn’t say anything, but walked through the portal, never taking his eye off Carlos, and stopping just on the other side to wait.
The Jenny standing nearest the portal said, “We really do have to move. I’m looking down the hall and they’re coming again.”
“Right behind you, kid.” Alex gestured toward the portal.
Carlos didn’t go anywhere. Instead, he watched the door. “Is it the armored guys?”
“I don’t know,” Jenny said. Then she paused, and said, “Paladin, everybody, go!”
As she said it, the building started to hum loudly. It reminded me of the sound of amplifiers before a rock concert when no one’s playing anything, but it’s obvious that the amps are on. You can feel it in your chest.
According to Daniel, people have invented devices that disrupt most psychic disciplines, teleportation included. Apparently Syndicate L had fitted the building with that one at the very least.
Brooke’s gate broke apart into hundreds of shattered pieces and disappeared.
Her eyes widened.
Alex reached out toward her, “Are you okay?”
“Give me a second.”
Well, at least everybody but Carlos had gotten out. Better that we had to take care of one person than nine.
The hall echoed with the sound of gunfire and the blast of a grenade.
I couldn’t see her expression because her mask hid her face, but Jenny’s body stiffened. “I hate it when I get killed.”
Far too late to do anything about it, everything became obvious. It was a trap. Needing to see the place you’re teleporting to was pretty common among teleporters. Syndicate L had to realize they were dealing with one, so they had sent their demands over video. It didn’t take much to guess that the pranks had to be connected to the Defenders, so they had kidnapped people in front of the Defender’s development. All Syndicate L had needed to do was set up a situation which would cause us to teleport in. Then they’d be in a position to make sure we couldn’t teleport out.
I unslung the guitar from my back. I felt sure I’d get the chance to use it this time.