Chris replied before I did. “The police saw some guy that looks it could be Haley’s or Travis’ relative—like when you got burned—except not in alien armor.”
Sydney’s mouth twisted. “I remember those guys. But not an invasion, right?”
Shrugging, Chris said, “They only saw one and no spaceships.”
Deciding they ought to know, I added, “I’m betting it’s from the Abominator birthing chamber where I work. It’s not the first creature created in the thing that’s been used lately.”
“Okay,” Sydney said. “I’ll go.”
“You don’t have to. You just got done washing up.” She was literally still dripping with water. There were dark spots on her shirt and a few on her pants.
With a curl to her lip that reminded me of her brother Sean, she said, “I want to. There’s no point to all the training we do if we don’t use it.”
She stopped and looked out of the lab into the main area of HQ. “The only problem is that Kayla’s gone home.”
Glancing over at Chris, I asked, “Do we need Kayla?”
He looked over at Sydney and then back at me. “We’re trying some things Tara recommended. So now we always have someone back at base to coordinate. We generally tried to do that in the past, but now we’re not making any exceptions.”
Then he added, “It’s okay, though. Tara said that she’d do it if Kayla wasn’t around. I’ll text her.”
It made sense that Tara would look through how we did things and try to improve our system as part of her internship. There was no way to deny that having Kayla or someone like her around to coordinate things back in HQ helped. She was different from how she’d been before she figured out who we were. All the same, it felt weird to have her involvement required.
It didn’t take long before Chris and I were in the air. Sydney ran and jumped below us, making better time than I would have expected.
It felt more like summer than fall. My HUD showed the outside temperature as 73 degrees and even though it was after 11 pm, I could still see people sitting outside at a few downtown restaurants and bars.
It felt nice to be in the air again. I’d flown in exercises during the summer at Stapledon but not much since getting back to Grand Lake. It could have been any night out with the team except that it wasn’t. Tonight I wasn’t with Daniel, Cassie, Vaughn, or Haley. I was with Chris, grandson of my grandfather’s nemesis Man-Machine, and Sydney, younger sister of Sean, a high school classmate that I’d fought both with and against.
Sean and I had had a better relationship since I’d arranged that she’d be healed after she had nearly been burned to death.
As we neared the downtown headquarters of Hardwick Industries, Tara’s voice came over our communicators. “Rocket and R2, please release some bots so that I can get a better look at the scene.”
Not all changes were bad. We could have used bots and a coordinator in the early days of our version of the League.
“Railgun stay in the front. R2 make a circle in the air above the main building. Rocket hover on the other side. Get as low as you think you can and stay out of sight. Tell me if you see something.”
R2 turned out to be Chris’ codename while wearing the Rocket suit. “Like R2D2?” I’d asked.
“No one thought about that until afterward.” The Rocket suit’s helmet had formed around his head. “They just didn’t want to call me ‘Rocket.’ It’d be confusing when you came back. You’re the Rocket.”
I thought about that as I hung on the other side of the building, noting the empty helipad where Vaughn and I waited during the week. Several stories high, the main building on the downtown Hardwick Industries campus was much longer than it was tall.
Even with the stealth suit’s night vision and the feeds from the bots I didn’t see much. In a sense, it didn’t surprise me. Haley and even Travis seemed to have a talent for stealth that went beyond anything they could have learned.
Tara said, “It’s Control again. R2 take another swing around the building and make it as slow as you can. Make sure you’re leaning on the sonics for your night vision.”
And that’s when I knew for sure what she was doing. She was trying to force them to move. Knowing the sensitivity of Haley’s hearing, she’d hear the sonics when used as part of a sonar system. Whoever this guy was, he probably would too.
In the distance, on the other side of the building, two police cars sat in the otherwise empty parking lot.
As Chris swung around the far end of the building, he spoke into his comm. “They must have snuck away before we got here or even after. I mean, you know what Night Cat and Night Wolf are like.”
Calm but with a tone that made me think of steel, Tara’s voice came over the comm again. “Don’t make assumptions. Watch.”
In fairness to Chris, Travis and Haley could have gotten away before we reached the building and we wouldn’t have seen them—if they had nothing to do inside.
Whoever these people were, they came out of a door in the back—both of them. The first one stopped with the door halfway open, staring out into the dark. Tall and muscular, he wore a dark uniform that from what HUD’s computer enhanced vision showed barely reflected light. It did less well against sonar.
Keeping my voice low and my comm on, I said. “They’re coming out the back.”