My mom had been depressed and unwilling to talk about the fact that Rachel and I were following in our grandparents’ footsteps for months after her block had fallen. Of course, part of the process had included being kidnapped by Ray and the Cabal and freeing herself so that she couldn’t be used as a hostage against Rachel and me.
Linking mental manipulation with traumatic events couldn’t be good for someone. Life as a superhero was filled with traumatic events and Major Justice had to live with that.
Realizing that I had an expert on the call, I said, “Kals, if you can see this, what do you think of Major Justice?”
She paused for a moment, but when she started, the words came out in a torrent, “It’s hard to say from here. Oh shit—he’s been overshaped and Arete is letting him stew. I don’t think he has any idea what he’s seeing. Never mind what I said earlier. He might have been trained by someone from the Human Ascendancy, but he’s either half-trained or his teacher was a fool.”
“Overshaped,” Jaclyn said, glancing back toward the crowd of supers. They seemed fine—for now.
“Sorry,” Kals said, “My implant went for the closest word it could find. It’s technical. He’s been given too many commands and they’re fighting with each other. I don’t know if any of you are tempted to test out trigger words on the group, but don’t. If he recognizes one, you’ve got no way to predict what he’ll do.”
Daniel’s icon lit up, “My dad’s seen that in the Dominators’ victims. They’re unpredictably violent. We haven’t been able fix it—but Preserver did once.”
“Great,” I said, “that’s a point in favor of ‘professional courtesy’.”
Leaning on her spear, Amy nodded, “It’s just the smart choice. They’ll owe you a favor later. Use it well and you might get more out of it than you expect. The past Bloodmaidens have suggestions for later. We don’t have time to hear them now.”
“We don’t,” Jaclyn stepped away from the group, “I’ll tell them.”
The rest of the group followed her, stepping over the mingled dirt, rocks, and bits of road. Behind me, Sean said to Dayton, “I think we missed part of that conversation.”
I turned back to say, “Sorry, there were people listening in. I’m giving your comms access to our channel for this event. You’ll see it as Team Obvious.”
“Thanks,” Sean said, “but no need, the fighting’s over, right?”
Part of me wanted to assume that he was being an idiot, but I could see the corner of his mouth curl up. Dayton laughed. Jody snickered.
I played along, “Just a courtesy. It probably won’t matter at all.”
Amy, Cassie, and Vaughn laughed too. Izzy didn’t say anything. Small movements of her head made me suspect that she was listening all around us—or at least to whatever caught her interest.
That was probably a good thing.
I sent a message to Kayla through my implant over the League’s general channel, “Control, I gave Justice Fist access to the Team Obvious channel. Could you give them more if it becomes necessary? I might be too busy.”
Kayla said, “I noticed. Don’t worry about it.”
“Great,” I said and added, “One more thing. Could you ask Paladin to come here? I know he might be busy, but I think we might need him.”
Kayla didn’t answer, Alex did, “Ronin already called me in. Portal, Flame Legion, and I are halfway there already. We’re at a rest area in Nebraska right now.”
“Wow,” I made a mental note to thank Tara. “I don’t know why she called you in, but we’re going to need you.”
Alex snorted, “I was already watching when we got the zombie alert for Grand Lake. That’s bad, but it’s something I can handle.”
“Cool,” I said and would have asked what he knew about healing people damaged by the Dominators except that’s when Jaclyn started talking to Arete.
“We’ll do it,” she said. “We’re not going to pretend it didn’t happen, but we won’t broadcast the most incriminating footage the way we were planning to.”
Arete’s smile reminded me of his modeling and acting work. He could be cast as a Greek god. With a flash of white teeth, he said, “That’s all we can ask of you. Thank you. We’ll always remember that you chose discretion. Don’t forget that we owe you one.”
Giving a nod, Jaclyn said, “We won’t forget,” and looked as if she were about to say something else except that Major Justice interrupted her.
He’d stopped clenching his fist, but his stare still seemed to be looking at someplace far behind any of us, “There’s a danger in saying nothing. It means that this… continues.”
Glancing over at Arete, Major Justice said, “There’s something wrong with me—“
At that, the smile on Arete’s face faded, completely disappearing as Major Justice continued, “—and it’s him. I…”