As the Rocket suit’s systems registered and passed their tests, I thought about the black and blue marks on my body. The Rocket suit’s medical technology was more about immediate first aid than internal diagnosis.
The Xiniti implant on the other hand was all about being internal. It had detected and healed my sword wound. Even if it had wanted to fill me full of cybernetics, it seemed to have just closed the wounds, internal and external.
I hadn’t thought to check on that. It felt like it happened much longer ago than a day.
“Hey,” I asked it, “do you know anything about the black and blue marks on my body?”
The implant gave me access to reports of similar deaths and damage in Xiniti and Alliance territory. I looked for a pattern and found one. The majority of deaths were near Abominator or Artificer ruins or relics that had been taken from those ruins.
The implant also made a 3D representation of my naked body appear in my mind with the damaged spots labeled. The stab wound made a guest appearance with the note that it was nearly healed, not the same, and only included for completeness.
The black and blue marks were labeled “phase-based energy wounds.” Wondering what that meant caused the explanation to appear in my mind. The energy came from another dimension. Only a trickle had made it through to this one or I’d have been more hurt.
The image of my body also included a spot in my head—which was concerning. It might also explain the headache. I hoped that I hadn’t lost anything. My implant classified the damage as minimal, but the human brain was complicated—one reason I hadn’t let the implant loose on it.
I still understood how the Rocket suit worked and felt my connection to Daniel.
With the suit’s reassembly finished, complete with a full load of bots of every kind, I didn’t have time for self-diagnosis. We were in the middle of what might be a defining moment or even a last stand.
All the same, I felt a flutter of anxiety inside as I stepped out of the lab to find everyone still talking.
I walked toward the group, noting that Haley’s and my parents were talking together and watching the group from off to the side at the tables in the break room area.
I caught my dad looking off in my direction and waved at him. He smiled back, but something in his eyes or the way the smile faded made me think I saw a little fear around the edges. I wondered if they’d seen me fall?
Everyone had been around me and there had been furniture and cubicles in his line of sight.
I’d sometimes wondered if he’d have preferred a more athletic, conventionally manly son—the kind of person he’d been as a teenager. I’d seen his football trophies and uniform in a box once.
What he’d ended up with was a kid whose high school activities were inventing things and fighting supervillains. If he’d known back then, he might have asked me to stop. As of now, all he could do was watch and hope I didn’t die.
Knowing him, he’d be happy as long as I was, but if he wished my life were less dangerous, I couldn’t argue. I walked up to the group. Everyone was still talking, but they’d separated loosely into Team Hidden and Team Visible—Team Visible being Vaughn, Cassie, Jaclyn, Amy, and me.
Team Hidden was basically everyone else. Arguably, you might say there was a third team called Team Backup, but really, they were just more Team Hidden.
Everyone looked at me as I stepped up to the groups.
“Ready?” Vaughn asked.
My gut said no, but I said, “Yes, more or less.”
Amy held out a thin, red crystal, “Yours, if you want it.”
I looked down, watching it in the palm of her black gauntlet, “What is it?”
Holding it higher, she said, “The invisibility charm I mentioned before. Adam says Team Hidden won’t need them. He can hide them himself. So, now Team Visible can turn invisible if things go bad.”
I took the crystal and put it in my pouch.
“If you need it,” Amy said, “crush it and throw the powder on yourself. You have to use the whole thing. You can’t break it in half and use the other half later.”
I nodded, “How long does it last?”
“Not long,” Amy said. “Half an hour, maybe.”
“Okay,” I said, “is there anything new I should know about the plan? Are we still walking out into the arms of a vastly superior force?”
Jaclyn grinned, “That’s still exactly the plan.”
“Aright,” I said, “then I guess we’d better get going.”