As I ran, I tried to think who the people I’d seen might be. The tall woman with green skin came first. I’d seen an alert about her from the FBI. She was called Rogue Croc—which I guess was a reference to a film in addition to the fact that she’d been recruited into the army and been activated by their version of the power impregnator before “going rogue.” Also, she’d grown up in a village of Cabal descendants, so she wasn’t going down easy.
My implant returned that the woman with the staff was called Magicka and that she’d been around since the 1920s, mostly fighting members of the Mask family. As of my internship with the Motor City Heroes, Mateo/Blue Mask was a friend who had no chance to get here in time to help.
I ran through the tunnel, seeing light on the floor ahead of me as the door leading to the forest opened. I reached it and the rockets took me straight up into the air, still trying to remember the name of the man with the suit and cane.
Even as I turned, aiming toward my parents’ house, I noted that Jaclyn, Marcus, and I had been given our own channel—with a slow blink next to the list of users that meant the add user interface was open and more people might still be added.
Jaclyn said, “I’m going straight to the house and standing in front of it. Any better ideas?”
“That was my plan,” I had seconds to come up with a better one.
Amy’s name appeared on the channel—good. We had no one more qualified to deal with magic or anyone else. Her voice came over the comm, “I’m better, but not at my best. Shift and I are behind you.”
The cameras showed that our opponents had moved one house down the sidewalk. The street was empty. All the children had either decided November was too cold to play outside or they were still in school.
I barely had time to take that in and then I was at my parents’ house. I flipped over in the air and landed on the walkway to our front door.
“Hey there,” I said, wishing I’d said something with a better chance of striking fear in the hearts of evildoers. “You haven’t noticed yet, but we’ve got you surrounded. I mean… Unless you’re not here to murder people?”
Captain Clone, or so I was naming him in my head, walked a little bit ahead of his group with Rogue Croc a little behind and to his right. Magicka stood immediately behind him and Mystery Cane Guy stood off to the left of Magicka, making them into a supervillain diamond that happened to be walking across my family’s lawn.
Captain Clone grinned, “No, you’ve got it right. We are here to murder people.”
He moved his hand toward the gun on his utility belt, “Let’s get to it.”
Mystery Cane Guy reached out and grabbed his forearm, “Wait a moment.”
His voice had the tone I recognized from when both Kals and Julie used their abilities. If that weren’t enough of a hint, my suit’s internal buzzer hummed as he talked.
Captain Clone’s grimace showed teeth, but he let go of the gun.
Letting go of Captain Clone’s arm, Mystery Cane Guy said, “You’ve no reason to know me, but you can call me Number Eight.”
Judging from the way that all three of the others looked at him as he spoke, I knew he was important regardless of his vocal abilities and that combined with the name he’d given… “Number Eight. As in Eight out of Nine? No relation to Seven of Nine.”
Number Eight paused for a moment before replying, “Number Seven isn’t a relative, but is one of the Nine’s ruling council just like I am.”
It struck me that I might have learned two things. The first and most important was that if this guy was on the Nine’s ruling council, maybe the Dominators were a division of the Nine and this guy was the head Dominator. I didn’t know where exactly Magnus fit into that since it sounded like he ran the Dominators, but it wasn’t impossible that he might be Number One.
The other thing I’d learned was much less important. Number Eight was not a Star Trek fan.
Rogue Croc smirked. Maybe she was.
Number Eight tapped his cane, “I’ve been speaking to a mutual friend of ours—Martin Magnus. He thought I should give you one more chance to hand Steve Vander Sloot over to us before a fight starts. Like you, our friend is all about minimizing the damage. We don’t know who might get hurt if we have to go in.”
I used my implant to text my Mom, “Get out of the back door with Uncle Steve once the fighting starts.”
Her return text appeared in my HUD, “Grandpa left us a panic room.”
I didn’t know about any panic room, but I didn’t have time to discuss it. Watching Number Eight, I said, “I like the idea of minimizing damage. Are you sure you have to go after Steve? If he stole anything, we might be able to get it back.”
As Number Eight began to reply, I saw movement between the houses across the street. Jaclyn talked into the task group channel, “We’re all in position. Shift and Bloodmaiden are in the air.”
I couldn’t see them, but I also knew Amy could turn people invisible if she wanted to.
I started listening to Number Eight again as he said, “Simply returning anything he may have taken isn’t acceptable. We need what’s in his mind. We’d accept yours if you were willing to trade yourself for him.”