“Knowing what happened to me today? Did something go viral?” I thought through what I’d done. Fighting Major Justice had that potential, but I hoped that was the end of it.
Stephanie laughed, “No. The Grey Giant showed up in LA today. He stole an armored truck full of money. Your tiff with Major Justice got attention, but Major Justice is B-list at best. He gets less attention from criticizing you in the press than you’d think—even if it’s more than he normally gets.”
Thinking about the Grey Giant, I shook my head. He hadn’t been dead when we left Renewal Island so it made sense that he’d be out there somewhere. At least he wasn’t here.
“I,” Stephanie continued, “set up a notification to alert me any time you all get mentioned online. And don’t think it’s because I’m obsessed with you or something. I set it up after you visited our humble headquarters. Your team has an annoying tendency to stand in front of oncoming trains and I wanted some warning in case my investigation turned out to be one of them.”
“That never happens,” I said. “Who are you working for?”
“This time?” She let out a sigh, “Officially? Me.”
She paused, “I can’t trust any big group. Even if all of the supers are clean, one of the staff members might be working for the Nine. I’m loosely affiliated with the Michigan Heroes’ Alliance. They know where I am but not what I’m doing. The only people who do know are Red Bolt and Future Knight. They’re getting regular reports in case something happens. I know they’re a couple of dorks, but I can trust them. I used your designs to make them anti-voice tech.”
I wasn’t sure they’d be my first choice as backup, but they’d be extra motivated to avoid being mind-controlled.
“It’s good that you’ve got someone, but they’re not close in case you want to get out,” I began thinking through what we’d need to do to pick her up. Assuming they couldn’t detect the jet when cloaked, it wouldn’t be too hard.
She smirked, “I’ve been thinking about that. I’m thinking they’re about to sic the Coffeeshop Illuminati on you. If they bring me, my plan is to run away the first chance I get or betray them at a dramatically appropriate moment.”
I laughed, “Cool. I hope you save us all. As surprises go, though, we’re in the middle of a couple of different very big somethings, so we’re going to need as much warning as you can get us if we’re about to be attacked.”
Despite her glasses, I could see that she raised an eyebrow as I finished, “You’re in the middle of two more things? Care to share?”
I hesitated, but then said, “One of them is that the Nine seems to be trying to kill somebody here and they might be targeting people we know too. The other one is so big I’m only going to tell you after you get here, assuming that happens.”
She frowned at that, but then said, “None of that sounds good. Are you saying that the Nine is deliberately targeting people because you know them or by accident?”
“We’re thinking it’s because,” I said, wondering if they would go after anyone but Uncle Steve. They hadn’t yet.
She shook her head, “One thing that makes doing something like this easier is knowing that my civilian friends and my family aren’t anywhere near me when I do it. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn. I can’t guarantee I’ll get another chance to call you if they move quickly. This might be your only warning.”
I nodded, “If that’s the way it happens, I guess we’ll deal with it.”
I looked back at the group. Amy was scowling at her drawing of Grand Lake and the glowing dot outside it. Julie and Kals were talking with Katuk accompanying them as they walked away. Daniel was talking into his comm and Haley had turned to look at me.
“If they don’t take me along or something happens, I might have to hit you up for a flight out of here,” Stephanie pursed her lips.
“I’ll be ready,” I said. “We have a lot of people we can send.”
How many would be available to fly the jet was still open, but we’d find somebody.
She gave a wave and we hung up.
Haley walked up as I turned around, asking, “Who was that?”
To my ears, she didn’t sound suspicious, but concerned.
“It’s not exactly good news,” realizing as I said it that it made things much worse. “Stephanie called. We might at any moment have the Coffeeshop Illuminati come out of nowhere and throw in alongside Major Justice. Also, she thinks that the Nine have their hooks into the Coffeeshop Illuminati, but she’s not sure where. She’s worried that they’ll find her soon. So she may also want a quick exit with the jet, but it depends on how things go.”
Haley glanced back at Amy and Daniel and back at me, “How are we supposed to protect our families, fight the Coffeeshop Illuminati, and find out what Magnus is doing?”
Daniel put away his phone, “I just called Izzy and Jaclyn. They’re coming. I think the Coffeeshop Illuminati is a big threat, but we might be able to find the Nine’s hitmen first thanks to Amy. We’ve got a lot of people to work with.”