Even though I didn’t expect any problems here, I still found myself telling the jet, “Be ready for action. You’ll be better at projecting scenarios we might have to respond to than I am. Warn us if you realize one of them is happening.
“Also, and this is probably paranoid of me, but could you monitor the media for any signs of being manipulated by the Nine in their coverage of our activities? I don’t know what to ask you to look for, but maybe similar wording or similar negative perspectives? Maybe even attempting to create a certain perspective on us that could then be turned negative? I don’t know anything about propaganda or public relations, but I feel like that’s the Nine’s most effective weapon right now.”
Hal broadcast his response on the League’s private channel for the current group. [I’m familiar with a variety of techniques of psychological manipulation on a societal level, especially as used in relation to warfare. I know what to look for. Would you like to respond in kind? I’m familiar with how your species uses your worldwide communication system and I’m more than capable of redirecting conversations in virtually every social network.]
“Uh,” I thought back to when he’d told me about how he was studying human behavior by trolling Internet forums across the world. “Go ahead and do what you can to help us, but try not to make the world’s overall mood angrier. If you can figure out a way to make people sympathetic to us, I’m all for that.”
[My skills in manipulating your species’ psychology have increased greatly due to my research. I think you’ll find the results to your liking.]
The words appeared in my HUD and I only said, “Great, you have my permission.”
Then I followed Jaclyn out as she turned back to look at me and shook her head. I didn’t need to ask what she thought of trusting Hal because I knew I thought the same thing. Hal was probably fine, but if it wasn’t, we’d be facing it, all of its AI buddies, and everyone it could manipulate into attacking us.
I decided to wait to solve that problem until I had a hint that it existed.
In the meantime, Jaclyn and I jumped out of the hatch, landing on the green tennis court, its white lines faded by sunlight. With Daniel, Izzy, and Cassie, we walked to the hallway where Isaac waited for us.
He waved us forward, adding, “Glad you’re here. Follow the hall down to the big room. You can’t miss it. I know I told you this was a supervillain base, but it’s not the high end of bases. The only two things it does well are store objects and protect anything inside. You’re just going to have to trust me on this because we disabled the defenses so you could land. We’re reenabling them while you’re here.”
We followed his advice. He wasn’t wrong about the base either. It wasn’t the high end. Much like the Nine’s base that we’d left less than an hour ago, it had grey, unpainted, concrete walls and metal doors. That wasn’t so strange. When I thought back, most of the “supervillain bases” I’d been in had been homes or office buildings. The one movie quality supervillain base I’d been in had been Rook’s.
As Isaac had said, we couldn’t miss the big room.
If I hadn’t been in the Nine’s office building earlier that day, it would have been the largest room I’d ever seen. As it was, it was maybe one floor of their basement—possibly two since it did have a high ceiling. Of course, the important question wasn’t what the room looked like, but what was in it.
Boxes. There were a lot of boxes—not the truck used to hold supervillains, but wooden crates, all of them stacked on top of each other like legos, many of the piles close to hitting the ceiling.
If it reminded me of anything, it reminded me of the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant after they found it in Raiders of the Lost Ark—except this was more like the version in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where it felt smaller and a little disappointing.
Still, it was big, and I couldn’t see its end.
Agent Lim walked around the group of us, leading us through a small, twisty, aisle between the piles of crates, “This way. We’ve got an open area near the back of the room.”
The aisle twisted and turned, never staying straight for long, and sometimes becoming so narrow that I had to move sideways.
After looking up at the top of one of the piles as we squeezed through one of the small sections, Jaclyn asked, “How do you even move anything in here?”
“Anti-gravity,” Lim said, pushing through into a wider aisle. “The previous owner also stored things here. We can make the gravity low enough that everything’s easy to move. The only hard part is making sure the piles are still stable after gravity goes back to normal.”
After a few more minutes of squeezing through difficult corners and trying not to accidentally tip over a pile of who knows what, we made it to an open area near the far wall where at least nine crates had been opened—maybe more behind the closest crates.
It was all there, piles of leather-covered books, old glass vials, and beakers, a flag with the Cabal’s eagle symbol in the middle, overflowing drawers pulled from a wooden desk that I didn’t see, and piles of scrolls stacked on top of each other.
Daniel turned to look at me and I heard his voice inside my brain, There’s something in here that relates to you. It’s hard to look at just like Lee’s hard to find in the future. Even though I can’t see it, I still know that it’s important. I wish I knew what it was.