I held the phone up to my ear and said, “Hi. What’s the bad news?”
Lim gave a small chuckle, “It’s good to know you’re paying attention. That’s what all of us involved in teaching you have been aiming for, but you’re right. It’s not good news. It also isn’t terrible news, but it’s bad in what it represents.”
He let out a breath, “You’ve been temporarily locked out of the government databases that we share with the Defenders and other big names in the community. Officially, you’ll find that it’s temporary, an inconvenience as they recertify the group as eligible. Unofficially, Major Justice called in some favors and he’s trying to make it permanent until he and others in the community think you’re worthy of it.
“He doesn’t have enough power to make all of that happen at once, but he’s got enough to shut off your access for a few days and hope that whatever he’s got planned makes it permanent. Do you know what that might be?”
Next to me, Haley, who’d without doubt heard all of that, went motionless, watching me and waiting for the next shoe to drop.
“Yes and no. I’ve run a few simulations based on Hal’s observations. It looks like he’s going to attack in the next day or two. Whatever he’s going to do, he’ll be trying to make us look dangerous and out of control.”
“Exactly,” Lim said. “I don’t know any details, but that’s the line he’s been taking for the last month. You can bet he’ll stick to it—especially since there have been a few explosions, deaths, and even disappearances in Grand Lake recently.”
“Disappearances? Did I miss something?” I looked over at Haley and she shrugged.
“Your and Haley’s parents,” Lim said. “They disappeared when the police arrived and haven’t showed up anywhere since. I know you had them call in so that the police know they’re alive, but the fact that they weren’t at the scene of the crime was noted by conspiracy theorists online. On the bright side, none of them are saying they’re your parents, but people who like Major Justice are accusing you kidnapped them.”
“That’s crazy,” I looked over at Haley and we both shook our heads.
“It is,” Lim said, “but they’re trying to argue it’s to cover up something about the deaths. They’re also trying to connect it to the Mentalist showing up out of nowhere, but even people who like that idea think it sounds half-baked. I have seen remarks about Jewish conspiracies in the conversation though, so no matter how crazy it is, somebody will believe it.”
I stared at the phone and let out a sigh, “Wow. I wouldn’t have guessed at any of that.”
“Yeah,” Lim said, “don’t underestimate the power of a few deaths at the hands of heroes who aren’t known for killing. More heroes have killed supervillains than anyone would like to admit, but most of the time it’s ambiguous as to whether the hero killed them or even if they died. These deaths were obvious. There were too many bodies to ignore. I’m sure they deserved it and I think most people are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but no one can ignore it.”
Haley’s face tightened and for a moment I thought she might cry. Then she took a deep breath, followed by a couple more.
Lim would have said something by now if he knew about Travis—which meant that hadn’t gotten out.
“I didn’t see a way around it,” I said, taking Haley’s hand and giving it a squeeze.
Lim’s tenor voice carried over the phone, “I’m sure you did the right thing. You can’t control how people choose to use it. If it weren’t that, it would be something else. I should probably go soon, but there’s something I should mention. The military has teams of superpowered fighters. Some of them are special forces that are even more special than usual. Others are ex-supervillains hoping to work off their debt to society. Think of the Probationers, but these guys are even more expendable. There are signs when they’re getting mobilized. I’m not going to go into it, but I’m on a list of people who get notified when they’re about to move out.”
He paused. It didn’t take much to guess what he was about to say next, “They’re on their way to Grand Lake. I don’t know the mission, but I think we can both make some good guesses.”
Haley looked up at me and withdrew her hand, “We need to wake everyone up.”
“Was that Night Cat,” Lim asked. “She’s right. I don’t know when they’ll reach you, but it could be any time, and if the military doesn’t know exactly where HQ is, I’ll be very surprised.”
“Wow,” I said, “that’s a lot worse than I expected when I picked up the phone.”
Lim laughed, “Yeah. Me too, but that’s what I was saying when I read my email this morning. As for you, watch out. Stay safe. If you get an official notification that your access rights to the databases have been suspended, try to look surprised. I’ll talk to you later, but for now, I have to go.”