Friends & Family: Part 2

I looked between Daniel and Tara and then said, “I guess I have to go then. I was thinking I’d want to reload.”

Daniel shook his head, “I don’t think it will matter.”

Tara looked up from her chair at me, “I know I missed half of that conversation, but you know Daniel’s guesses are good.”

Saying, “Yeah,” I turned, and ran out of my lab, leaving the potential repairs and ammunition behind me. To be fair, I still had a second floating repair pod capable of delivering more roachbots, but I would have felt safer already reloaded.

Crossing the main room of the base at more than forty miles per hour, I chose the exit that allowed me to shoot out into the forest. The fake concrete opened above me and I shot up into the air, flying level with the tops of the trees before emerging over the state park and its beach. During the summer there would be campers and tents there, but in November, the campground was empty.

I whipped around aiming toward the city park where I’d fought Prentkos, ramping up to fighting one of the Cabal’s reassigned and maybe mind-controlled soldiers this morning. We’d brought the Cabal to the world’s attention during my senior year of high school, but now I could only wonder if we’d increased the deadliness of any organization that hired the ones that escaped capture.

The Cabal had been overconfident and stuck in a pre-modern mindset with regard to strategy and tactics. Any organization that hired them wouldn’t be.

I didn’t have time to dwell on that thought. Haley and Amy had taken the Wolfmobile, probably camouflaged as a normal car, and must not have driven at the maximum possible speed.

I’d beaten them.

Stopping to hover above the park, I checked out the damage. I’d tried to be careful, but the moment even one Cabal soldier shows up, there will be more damage than you expect. I couldn’t blame the Cabal soldier for everything either. I mean, sure, I could see the damaged fence next to one of the baseball diamonds that the soldier had punched me through.

Near the gate where I’d set goobots as a trap for Prentkos, the sidewalk and cracks expanding outward from bootprints, showing either where the Cabal soldier had landed or where he’d stepped particularly hard. Shriveled strings of goo from the goobots spread out around the trap, most of them on the sidewalk. Prentkos blood had sprayed across the sidewalk as well, some of it more than five feet from where he’d been standing when I shot him. More of it had puddled around the spot.

I wasn’t sure of the exact volume of that blood, but it looked like a lot. He hadn’t died, but he could have if I hadn’t sprayed his wounds shut.

I began to descend. This was what Amy needed. If she could use his blood to find Prentkos, he’d almost have to be with the main group—which was exactly what we needed. Even supervillains wouldn’t leave a wounded man alone, right? I could imagine Lee doing that deliberately, but he wouldn’t be troubled by the idea of killing Prentkos indirectly if it turned out that his team let the guy die.

As I landed, I noticed movement. It wasn’t a car. It was a person and not someone walking their dog. This person was dressed in a silver costume that covered his whole body, not even leaving part of his face open. Black and white lines ran across his body, fading out on the edges as if to hint at the speed of the runner coming toward me.

This was not going to go well. No matter how much I wished it wasn’t true, I knew the guy and had been keeping track of his costume design as much in self-defense as curiosity. It was Jody, member of the new Justice Fist, Sean’s group. Jody’s general anger at the universe he’d been born into sometimes centered on me in particular.

There were people out there in the world who believed superheroes’ lives of service meant that they were good people worthy of automatic respect. I’d always felt that Jody was a solid counter-example. He’d been a bully before getting powers and from my experience he was a bully after.

I stood there, watching his blurry form close the gap between us.

“Blur” was literally his codename.

Unsure of what was coming next, I took a breath, tried to relax and kept my arms loose in case I needed to move quickly. Jody was the kind of person who’d stamp on the blood simply because he knew I needed it.

Jody finally came into focus when he stopped next o me.  I couldn’t see his face through the mask, but I could imagine him sneering as he talked—except then he started talking.

“Rocket,” he nodded at me. “We heard that you had a fight here and I thought I’d check out the scene and maybe learn something.”

Armies of thoughts battled in my head for the chance to become spoken words. The first group wanted to point out that for a guy whose power is speed, he’d arrived well after the fight ended. Another group couldn’t help but notice that he was talking like a normal human being and wasn’t attempting to belittle or insult me at all. Was something wrong?

It was possible, of course, that he’d grown up a little or at least gotten better at faking it.

“There’s not much to learn,” I told him. “I fought a couple of people here and they got away. You can probably find the end of the fight online by now.”

“Already saw it,” he said, spitting the words out in a way that felt more normal to me, continuing with, “Whoa. That’s a lot of blood. I can’t believe you didn’t kill that guy.”

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