Dupes: Part 5

Haley and I listened until they finished the meeting, but they didn’t have any more bombshells. Not that anything could trump the bit where Russell Hardwick had scanned the relevant bits of Red Lightning’s version of the working Impregnator plans and was handing them out to his people.

Probably at that point, people more competent than we were would have tracked down the engineers Hardwick had assigned the job, deleted their files, recovered the original journal, and scared them away from even trying to reconstruct them.

We didn’t have the slightest clue where we would have started on that. Plus they’d probably already had the plans for a couple days, so they likely understood the concepts behind the process, which would make the destruction of the plans more of an inconvenience than anything else.

At least that’s how it would have worked for me.

One other reason we didn’t go directly into action was that Haley and I’d already put off doing something together. We’d planned on going out on Friday night, but I’d ended up meeting with the FBI agents, and then one of her family’s restaurants had been short staffed so her dad scheduled her to cover the busiest parts of both Friday and Saturday night.

So what we actually did was go to a park, and go for a walk. We talked about the fact that I’d be graduating soon, and where I’d be going, and where she was hoping to apply…

All the while, I had a vague sense that I ought to be doing something, but I wasn’t sure what, and I didn’t want her to feel like I’d just dropped the date so that I could run off and play superhero. So, I didn’t.

Maybe she would have been interested, but to be honest, it felt like all I’d done lately was school, training, and running around in costume. I couldn’t think of the last video game I’d played, and the last book I’d been reading, Brin’s Kiln People, sat half finished on my desk.

I decided to enjoy myself, and hoped Hardwick’s engineers wouldn’t get the Impregnator going that afternoon.

* * *

Haley dropped me off at home around 4:00, and drove home to get ready for work. My parents ordered out pizza, and except for when Dad asked Rachel if she’d gotten a summer job yet, it was a good meal.

Rachel and I ended up talking a little in the upstairs hallway next to my room.

I stood in the doorway. “I bet Haley’s dad could find something for you.”

“And I could log more ‘hanging-around-with-the-ex-boyfriend’ time with Travis. That sounds fun. Besides Nick, you know I don’t need a job. Even split with everybody, I still got two thousand dollars off the bounty for Christine Maniac, and that doesn’t even count the money from Grandpa Vander Sloot or my scholarships. School’s paid for. If I need a little extra cash, I’ll find somebody on the FBI’s list and catch them.”

She had a point.

Lying in my room after that, I stopped reading to wonder if Chris knew how to pick up his share of the bounty on Jack Maniac. Or if Sean did.

I added it to the growing list of things I ought to address with Sean if I ran into him in costume.

I’d added another while walking with Haley. I’d been reminded somehow of my grandfather speculating about what caused Red Lightning to go bad. He’d theorized at different times that it might have been the Impregnator, a combination of the Impregnator and something in Giles Hardwick’s mental makeup, or possibly the combination of Power Elixir and the Impregnator.

They’d fought someone that night, and Giles had used it. He’d undoubtedly had it in his system when he sat down in the chair.

Grandpa had wondered for years afterward if waiting another day would have made the difference.

Given that Vaughn had never used power juice, and that so far he hadn’t shown any sign of wanting to take over the world, Grandpa’s theory had one point in its favor.

If they really were going to have the Impregnator ready in a week, I didn’t have time to waste. I needed to go find Sean and tell him to dry out and get the remnants of the juice out of his system before getting treated.

I couldn’t say I really wanted to help him, but in a purely practical sense, Grand Lake didn’t need a group of megalomaniacs running around.

I might have gone right then, except that Daniel and I usually did something on Saturday night, and I knew he’d be dropping by around seven.

He did — almost exactly at seven.

My mom let him in, and I heard him walk up the stairs after he asked her how she was doing.

Daniel did stuff like that. It was like he was seventeen going on forty. On the bright side, he was one of those friends that parents always seemed to approve of.

When he did come up, I told him about the meeting the night before, and what Haley and I had done during the afternoon, skipping the parts that were none of his business. He probably caught a few of those from my thoughts anyway.

“Let’s do it tonight,” he said. “I’m sure you’re not going to want to talk to him any more tomorrow than you are today, and I bet I can find him faster than you would alone.”

“I’d kind of imagined doing something like hanging out, or playing video games, or… something that might actually be fun.”

“I’m sure we won’t end up looking for him all night.”

“Did you ever notice that once we get into costume we end up staying in costume? Once I put the Rocket suit on, we’re pretty much doomed to run into the latest bunch of psychotics who decided that they need to murder half the city.”

“Let’s go, Nick. You know you’ve already decided I’m right.”

I could have argued with him, but what was the point?

5 thoughts on “Dupes: Part 5”

  1. “And I could log more hanging around with the ex-boyfriend time with Travis…”

    This sentence took me a couple of read-throughs to understand. It might work better as:

    “And I could log more ‘hanging-around-with-the-ex-boyfriend-time’ with Travis…”

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