The claw had penetrated at least an inch deep and while the other four hadn’t penetrated as far, they were all bleeding—a lot.
Aiming the sonics of my left arm at Art, who’d begun to get up from the floor,I fumbled with a can that hung on my utility belt, pulled it out, and sprayed, covered the wounds with foam.
Vaughn threw a bolt of lightning at Art and he convulsed, going down for good as a crack of thunder echoed in the room.
“What was that?” Stephanie stared down at her arm. Except for the blood still dripping from the uniform, the bleeding appeared to have stopped.
“A coagulant and local anesthetic. The first Rocket developed it with another hero back in the 80s. I rediscovered the design this summer.”
Stephanie glanced over at Zola who lay at her feet and then over to Art. “We should go.”
“Yeah,” Vaughn stepped over Zola’s body. “I zapped that guy, but he’s not dead. You can see he’s breathing, but if he’s like people we know, he’s got a healing factor. He might not be out long—”
Red laser beams lanced out of the darkness, hitting my suit. They didn’t penetrate. Though the suit threw up messages about the damage to my HUD, I bathed our attacker in sonics.
The beams stopped for a second, fired again, hitting the ceiling and then stopped entirely as Vaughn threw bolts of lightning, hitting him with the second, creating the sound of thunder and a smell of ozone.
Only as the man fell to the floor did I recognized him as Ronnie, Russell Hardwick’s bodyguard for the night.
Haley’s voice came over the speakers in my helmet. “We’re here.”
Turning away, Stephanie said, “Let’s go.”
Vaughn and I didn’t argue, following her down the hall. I watched behind us out of the corner of my eye, which thanks to my helmet showed that no one was following us.
Vaughn glanced back. “I hope I didn’t hurt Ronnie too bad, but damn, I had no idea he was a super. I should have guessed though. From what we saw while fighting the Cabal, it looks like a bunch of Uncle Russ’ inner circle are descended from people who used to work for Red Lightning.”
I opened my view of the office to find Russell Hardwick standing by the doorway looking out into Higher Grounds’ lobby. Ryan stood just behind him and to the right.
“Did you hear the thunder?” Hardwick turned toward Ryan who shrunk back as electricity arced across Russell Hardwick’s hand.
Ryan only nodded.
“They got Ronnie,” Hardwick said. “It’s got to be the Heroes’ League.”
Ryan looked up at him. “Do you know who it is then? The League’s got a weather guy. Everyone thinks he’s got to be Red Lightning’s descendant.”
Hardwick shook his head. “I used to think so. I used to think I knew who it was, but then I found out differently. Whoever that guy in the League is, I don’t think he’s family. Red Lightning threw lightning, but he didn’t control weather. Storm King isn’t one of us and that means that I won’t feel bad if I find out that he’s dead.”
I let go of the video and left the volume on a low level in case he said anything interesting.
As I did, we stepped out of the front doors of the Hardwick Industries building, passing Emmy’s desk on the way. Ahead of us floated the League jet, coated in a layer of blackness that absorbed any light that touched it, making it invisible except that the lights in the parking lot behind it made it visible in outline.
A door opened in the side of the jet, creating a glowing human-sized hole in the darkness. Stephanie stepped inside, helped by Tara. Vaughn stepped forward toward the steps, grabbing the railing as Tara poked her head out to say, “Rocket?”
It was easy to understand why she felt she needed to ask the question. I stood in front of the jet looking at the lab building. “Take Hologram to the hospital. I can fly home. I need to take a look at what’s going on in there.”
Vaughn stopped. “Yeah. I’ll stay for that. I’m not going to leave you alone. Buddy system, you know.”
Frowning, I considered arguing with him, but I couldn’t say he was wrong.
Then Tara stepped out. “I think I need to stay for that.”
Given Tara’s relationship with the True, that didn’t seem like the best possible idea. “Are you sure—” I began, but I didn’t even get to finish.
Tara stepped out. “I need to see this too.”
Haley followed her. “Shift can take Hologram to the team doctor. Railgun, you stay with him and then the two of you can come back and pick us up.”
“Night Cat, Ronin, neither of you have to stay. Storm King and I can take a quick look and then fly home.”
Haley didn’t reply to me. She jumped out, landing next to Tara. Then she started talking. “I stayed home when you went to space. I’ve been waiting around every day while you come here. Now, when you’re about to go check in on the True—who destroyed the human race on other worlds—which means the two of you might not be able to handle it by yourselves, I want to go.”
I stood there, considering whether or not I wanted to get into an argument in front of a building that might contain an unstoppable enemy army. From the jet, Marcus got up from his seat and walked toward the front. Even though he made his superhero form faceless, I caught the hint of a frown.
Over the communicators, Marcus said, “This is Shift taking over the jet. Ronin and Night Cat are staying while we fly Hologram to the doctor.”
In the background, Sydney said, “We love being left out.”
Kayla’s comm name (Control) appeared before she spoke. “That’s a change of plans.”
From the jet, but not over the comm, I heard Stephanie say, “Can we just go before I start bleeding again?”
The door shut and the jet vanished into the darkness.