“You’re going to fucking kill him,” Chris said.
“I was going to be careful. I wasn’t going to hit him against the ground as hard.”
Sean descended from the black sky, landing in front of us. He turned his head to look at Jack floating above the street.
“Do you know how many people that guy killed? I was going to make sure he couldn’t do anything.”
Chris looked at him without saying anything. I couldn’t see his face behind his mask, but I could imagine his look of disgust.
“That’s moronic. You just stripped the top layer of his armor. Strip the rest, or better yet, yank out his power source, and leave everything else on. Then he’ll have to carry that stuff around without help.”
Sean’s lip curled. “Yeah? Well, who the hell are you? I’ve never seen you before.”
Sean looked at him a little harder. “Wait, I saw you on TV. You’re the guy who went running with the Ball. How do I know you’re not on his side?”
“I don’t know,” Chris said. “Maybe from the fact that I shot him a few times?”
“Come on, everybody,” I said. “Let’s just calm down. It’d really suck if he got away while we were arguing.”
“Who asked you?” Sean said.
I didn’t reply. I gave the rocketpack some thrust, and flew over to where Jack hung in the air. It didn’t take much to recognize the battery despite the mess of wires, and shredded cables. Grabbing it in both hands, I ripped it off, and dropped it in the street. Meanwhile, my helmet readouts went screwy — a byproduct of Sean’s powers, no doubt. It didn’t surprise me.
Still, the suit’s arms had just as much strength as ever, and that didn’t surprise me either. Grandpa had put in a lot of non-metallic substitutes into the armor. With the Cold War’s constant worry about nuclear weapons, he’d designed later versions of his armor to have as good a chance as possible of working after an electromagnetic pulse.
That, and he’d probably fought villains with magnetic powers before — including, in all probability, Sean’s grandfather.
Landing, I walked the twenty feet off the street, across the strip of grass next to the road, and joined Sean and Chris on the lawn. While walking, I called 911, and let the police know we’d captured Jack.
Even in the shadow of his helmet, I could see a flash of anger in Sean’s expression as he watched me walking back.
“I just called the police,” I said.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because that’s what you do. Also, I didn’t see any point in arguing. You’re right that we had to make sure he was down, and… uh…” I tried to think of what to call Chris, “… this guy was right about how.”
I didn’t think Sean looked like he believed it, but he said, “I think I got too excited. I wasn’t thinking.”
Chris didn’t say anything.
* * *
After the police came, they stripped Jack from what was left of his armor, and took him and the armor away in a Box.
I met up with everybody else back at HQ. By everyone else, I mean everyone — including Jaclyn, Marcus and Rachel. Not that everyone was visible when I stepped out of the tunnel that came from the woods in Veterans Memorial Park.
Daniel, and Travis sat at terminals at the table in the middle of the room. Vaughn stood behind them. I checked the clock in my helmet. It was 1:24 AM.
Marcus came from the direction of the kitchen, carrying a couple 2 liters of pop, and some cups, as I shut the door behind me.
“Hey Nick. We caught some of the footage on channel 10. It looked pretty cool. You’d never know it was Grand Lake. It looked like something from Chicago or New York.”
“You saw it? How much did they catch?”
“They had a helicopter in the air while you were chasing him. I think they must have been zooming in on you. Oh, and there were people filming you with their cameras while you were on the ground.”
“I didn’t even notice it.”
“You looked busy. Who was the guy with the laser?”
“No kidding. Uh… What are you doing here? Last I saw you, you were heading for the post prom party.”
Marcus threw back his head and laughed. “Oh, that got crazy. So I was with Lakisha — you know, my date — and I noticed this guy at the party, and I was pretty sure he was one of the gang members we fought a couple days ago. So, I called your sister because I thought she might be able to identify him, and because she could get in without anybody noticing.”
“He was in the gang, but I think he noticed her. Worse, he wasn’t the only one there, so it all turned into a big fight. Jaclyn and I got pulled into it, and after everything settled down, we came here.”
I popped my helmet off. It felt good to breathe unfiltered air even if HQ’s was a bit musty.
“What about the party? Are you guys going back?”
Marcus shook his head. “After that? No, they sent everybody home. And it’s OK. I mean seriously, it was a party with inflatable slides.”
I nodded. “That’s one of the reasons Haley and I didn’t go. She was worried about her claws coming out at the wrong time.” I paused for a second. “Where is Haley?”
“They took the showers first. If we ever renovate this place, we’ve got to put in another shower room.”
I left him, headed for the lab, and stripped out of my armor. I ended up wearing the flight suit I wore under the armor. It was basically a variation on the stealth suit, and smelled like old sweats at the best of times.
I joined the rest of the guys at the main table. Daniel looked up. “Wondering what happened after you left?”
“How’d you know?”
Daniel pushed his chair back from the table. “Basically, we used wolf pack tactics. Vaughn and I distracted Christine while Cassie, Haley, and Travis attacked. Cassie chopped off the mech’s legs. Haley and Travis ripped it apart.”
“I thought she’d be tougher than that.”
Daniel snorted. “She was tougher than that. It could have gone either way.”
“Oh yeah,” Travis said. He didn’t look up from the screen, but I noticed that his uniform had a rip going up his forearm, and a cut to match it.
“So what are you guys doing?”
Travis looked up from the screen at that. “We’re checking FBI databases on that gang. They don’t have anything to do with the Bloods in Los Angeles. According to the FBI, they’re a gang the Cabal set up to recruit potential juice users.”
I pulled out a chair and sat down. “To join them?”
“Yep. Except now there’s no Cabal, and the FBI developed a better version of the juice,” Travis said. “Think about that.”
“I’m thinking about it.”