I did the only thing I could think of. I ordered the power interface to cut off the power, but on the off chance that the tablet had a bomb inside, I did it while running for the exit and shutting the door behind me.
Theoretically, given the size of the tablet, it might not be much of a bomb, but I knew what Cassie’s gun could do. I remembered the bodies of the frogmen on the roof of a building in Washington D.C. It hadn’t been pretty and if push came down to it, if I had to come up with a species most likely develop a golfball-sized hydrogen bomb (or worse), the Abominators would have been high on my list of candidates.
As nice as it might be to know that my guesses about their technology were correct (if they were) there’d be no way to get away in the time I had.
Still, even the lab suit’s stride put me in the middle of HQ’s main room. Unlike in the past, it felt like an active superhero base now instead of an abandoned one. Between the basketball court-sized room, the giant television screen in the middle of the far wall, the (disarmed) trophies and pictures of battles past, the conference table that stood just ahead of me, and the computer work areas with their own screens.
Turning around, Kayla stared at me, “What did you do?”
She’d come a long way from being Cassie’s nosy best friend. As the Heroes’ League’s first direct employee in this version of the League, she ran the base these days. We’d even upgraded her work clothes from the standard grey Heroes’ League unitard to a green, black, and white uniform. Cassie said that green looked better on her. Given Kayla’s light brown skin, and black hair, I could see that, I guess, but from my point of view, the costume’s real upgrade was the increased armor and hidden weaponry.
I turned back to watch the lab’s door. It didn’t explode. Turning back to Kayla, I said, “Well, since nothing’s blown up, I’m thinking I overreacted.”
She looked from me to the door and back to me, “Should I send a red?”
I shook my head, “It’s fine. Everything is fine. I was just experimenting with some Abominator tech which,“ I looked back at the door, “didn’t blow up. So, that’s good. I’m going to go back there now.”
She stared at me without saying anything for a few seconds, “You’re sure?”
“Pretty sure,” I said. “It took a lot of power to turn it on in the first place. I think if it had stored any appreciable amount of energy, it would have used it all by now.”
Taking a breath, she said, “Okay. Well, you know team practice is about an hour from now. Don’t get too into whatever you’re doing. And warn me if you think we’re going to get blown up.”
Frowning, she turned back to her computer screens. I took a final glance in her direction and started walking back, not even making a full step before Cassie pinged me with her implant. When I opened the connection, she said, What was that?
Taking my next step, I thought back, The tablet. It identified me as “proto-Artificer” when I thought about asking Lee some questions. I think it detected whatever small wisp of power I’d used and tried to warn the user to get away, not knowing that I was the user. My bet is that that’s what was going on instead of the bomb I thought it might be at first.
Even though implants allowed mind to mind communication, I thought I heard her sigh. Alright. Well, I could hear it upstairs in the house. Whatever the Abominators were thinking, they made it loud.
No kidding? I suppose there’s a reason that the Xiniti only found pieces of the godkiller machines. Even a hint of Artificers using their power most likely meant that everyone was about to die, so they might as well be loud.
Cassie laughed. I guess there aren’t any of them around to get scared anymore. I’ll see you at practice. It’s less than an hour away now.
She cut off the connection. I didn’t bother to ask why everyone seemed to think I’d forget practice. I’d make it provided nothing interesting came up. Chances were a lot better now, anyway. I had to rethink my approach to the tablet and I wasn’t going to get done before practice.
As it happened, I didn’t even make it to the lab. Chris walked out of the hangar. Taller than I was by an inch or so these days, he was dressed in slacks and a dark blue button-down shirt. Thinking back to all the flannel shirts I remembered him wearing in high school, it was funny how he’d started dressing professionally once we’d started the business. He even had a briefcase.
He waved at me and, crossing the distance from the hangar, he said, “I know you’ve got practice, but we should have enough time to go over a couple of things. It’s budgeting and project management, mostly.”
He stopped, recognizing the lab suit for what it was, and glanced in the direction of the lab’s closed door, “Did something happen?”
I shook my head, “Not really. An Abominator relic recognized me as related to Artificers, but even though it looked like it might blow up, it didn’t.”
He took a breath, “Whoa. Do you want me to take a look at it while you’re at practice? That sounds interesting and I’m not an Artificer. I might be able to get away with more than you can.”
I thought about it, “You know what? That might work. I guess I’ll bring you up to speed and then we can find out how much paperwork we can get done—“
Even as I said it, I felt a tugging at my consciousness that wasn’t telepathy or my implant. My awareness expanded into another universe or dimension where I felt the vast presence of a full Artificer—Kee.