It might not be fair to either Gifford or Hunter, but I’d never particularly liked either of them. Gifford and Gordon came from a legacy hero family, the kind that lived in private compounds and didn’t interact much with normal people. Hunter’s mother was a legacy superhero, celebrity, and superhero stage mom (from what I’d seen).
She had a reality TV show about her life in Hollywood called, “Diva!” To judge from the online commercials, Hunter and Gifford appeared sometimes.
Also, and here’s where the unfairness came in, Gifford was interested in Haley. It hadn’t caused problems because she wasn’t interested in him, but it didn’t make me like him more.
Daniel nodded at them, answering before I could, “We had a few questions we needed to ask Bullet. We’re working on a case that touches on his time as part of the Brew City Protectors.”
Gifford nodded, “Something about Armory? I heard that the Feds brought him in. Bullet’s been worried about him. It’s got to be weird when a friend goes bad.”
Hunter shrugged, “I’m not sure how friendly they are now, but everything Armory’s been doing would make Bullet look bad. It’s good that the Feds have him.”
Giving Hunter a glance and a frown, Gifford said, “Anyway, you guys want a tour? It’s not every day we see people from Stapledon and it’d be great if we could work together sometime.”
Turning her head to look at the two of them and glancing back at Stephanie, Tara shook her head, face expressionless, “We have to go.”
Gifford hadn’t been around when Tara took down the guys in Gordon’s Stapledon friend group, but he’d had to have heard about it. He took a step back as her eyes fell on him.
Waving them away, Stephanie said, “Let them go. They’re in the middle of something and you know how to contact them if you want to.”
Gifford and Hunter looked at each other and Gifford shrugged, “Alright, I know how it goes. Tell Night Cat, I said ‘hi’.”
Taking a step after Gifford, Hunter turned to us, “I know you didn’t have the best experience with our group when we were all at school, but there’s been a leadership change. We’ve got a vote now.”
The two of them walked ahead of us and into the rooms with exercise equipment. To say that we didn’t have the “best experience” was an understatement. They’d used a report I’d had our jet’s AI make to overthrow a country.
With them gone though, we were “alone” with Stephanie for some value of alone. Between superpowers, magic, psychic clairvoyance, and cameras, I assumed that someone had to be watching.
“It’s been a while,” I said. “I’m kind of surprised to see you here at all. Are you and Gordon… um… a thing again?”
Though she wore armor, the fact that she wasn’t wearing a helmet made her eye roll obvious. “No,” she shook her head. “I’m off that train forever. Thanks for asking. I’m here because I can do some good in the world and even if I’m not ‘with’ Gordon, I have friends here. Plus, Hunter’s right. There was a leadership change after The Thing That Eats came to Grand Lake. Noticing that we’d put some kind of eldritch horror in charge of a country caused people around here to do a little rethinking.”
She smiled at me, “Congratulations. That’s your work even if you weren’t trying to do it.”
I thought about it, “I guess that’s a good thing.”
Her eyes darted down the hall behind us and then ahead, “Let’s see if we can’t get you out of here without any more interruptions and recruitment attempts. As you’ve noticed, everyone around here is extremely excited about the group and wants to show off the base. It gets to feel like we’re part of a multi-level marketing scheme sometimes. It even feels a little like a startup sometimes—one with big corporate backers.”
She smiled and gave my armor a tap, “You know what I mean.”
She pointed down the hall, “Let’s get moving that way.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” I said.
In my head, I thought, Daniel, could you connect everyone?
He knew what I meant, pulling in Yoselin and Tara, but not Stephanie. I’d put something together. Stephanie’s getting us out of here because she knows something. I’d pull her into this, but I’m thinking that if anyone’s listening in on her, she’s got a system to misdirect them.
I felt agreement from Daniel, I wouldn’t be able to blend a five-way conversation into her surface thoughts without another telepath noticing.
Yoselin asked, What are you picking up from her surface thoughts?
Nothing, Daniel said, but she’s a techie like you and Nick. She might have a psi-blocker in her suit.
While I didn’t sense distrust from Yoselin, I did sense watchfulness—which made it less surprising that her next question was, Can we trust her?
I thought back, I think so. We worked together in bringing down a company. It was a startup with big corporate backers that was doing work for the Nine. When she told me it felt like a startup, that was a message.