Making a mental note to ask Amy if we could do something about him teleporting into HQ whenever he wanted, I stood up. I wasn’t the only one. Jaclyn, Haley, and Izzy had beaten me to it. Izzy was already in the air, hovering above her seat.
Tiger hadn’t done much when Adam first appeared in HQ, but this time, he’d made it to his feet and was already walking around the table.
He wasn’t growling, but watched as Adam walked toward the group, sometimes glancing over at Jaclyn as if wondering what she wanted him to do.
Jaclyn held out her palm and the dog didn’t go any further forward until she did. She only walked a few steps, joining Haley and I as we stepped away from the table and stood there. Seconds later, the entire group had left their seats to stand next to us.
He’d seen the group before, most of us anyway. Kayla and Chris hadn’t gone to Stapledon weekends, so there was no way he’d know them. Aside from them, Kals and Katuk grew up on other planets. Adam’s eyes did linger on them a moment longer than the rest of us.
Looking from one side of the group to another, he said, “Wow. You got the whole group together for this. That makes me feel important. Since you’re all in street clothes, I’m going to guess that you’re not here to fight me, right?”
He smiled, but he didn’t stop glancing around the group. People in Stapledon knew that I made costumes that changed form.
Vaughn grinned at him, “Not unless you want to. We do have a question or two that we want answered before we go through with this.”
Adam met Vaughn’s eyes and said to the group, “Questions make sense. I expected a few. Before we start, I’ve got one of my own, though. Where did you get that dog? I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Aside from being the size of a horse, Tiger’s curly, orange, black, and white, striped fur didn’t match any dog breed from Earth.
Jaclyn shook her head, “He’s my dog and I’m not going to say how we got him. It’s private.”
Adam looked at Jaclyn and then over to the dog. Tiger eyes followed Adam’s movement as he got closer, showing the same kind of intense interest that an ordinary dog might show a squirrel.
With big dogs, that can lead to a dead squirrel.
Adam seemed to understand that. He looked at the dog again, asking, “Is he okay?”
“He’s fine,” Jaclyn said, reaching out to stroke the dog’s side. “He very smart, very big, and very interested in you right now, but don’t worry, he also listens.”
Daniel stepped out from the crowd. Kals followed him with Katuk managing to stay a little bit ahead of her at all times. His grey skin and large, black eyes even more obvious now that he’d left the group.
Adam stared, finally recognizing what Katuk was, “You’ve got a Xiniti on your team? When did that happen?”
“We don’t,” Daniel stopped in front of Adam. “He and his friend are just visiting, but, his friend is the one who needs to ask the questions. If we’re going to trust you to help us fight the Nine, we need to know that you’re not one of their puppets. She’ll ask questions. I’ll read your mind as you respond. If you’ve got one of Nick’s buzzers that block sound based powers, you’ll want to turn it off for now. I’ll know if you don’t.”
Adam froze. He looked at Kals and then over at Julie who stood in next to Camille and Sydney in the main group of us.
Pointing at Kals, he said, “She’s got voice powers. I know you’ve got Julie. What’s going on here? Who is she?”
Bits of shadow moved around him. I didn’t know whether that meant he was going to fight or disappear, but neither one would make our lives better.
Kals spoke first, “I’m from the Human Ascendancy. I don’t know if you’re aware that the Dominators are the ruling class of the humans that the Abominators modified, but they are. I was raised to be one of them, but my family broke away. The Dominators here have turned into their own organization. They still use our methods and skills.
“I can test to see if they have any hooks in you.”
Adam looked over at me, “You don’t need to test me for this. I’ve kept a buzzer on me at all times for more than five years now.”
Kals shook her head, “That doesn’t mean anything. You know who made the first devices like your buzzers? We did. We needed a way to prevent other motivators from modifying our servants.”
“Motivators?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
“Dominators by another name,” I said. “You can trust her, but you,” I told Kals, “kind of sound like a supervillain right now.”
“Sorry,” she shrugged. “You might say I went to school for it. Now I’m using my training for good.”
Looking toward Haley and me, he said, “This is the only way you’ll trust me? Because I’ve been trying to avoid handing my brain over to a Dominator for years.”
From my left, Cassie said, “Yes. We know we can trust her. We don’t know we can trust you.”
“Fine, then,” he stuck his hand into the collar of his shirt and pulled out a necklace. A grey, metal version of my earlier buzzer designs hung from it.