“Army?” I said.
“I might be exaggerating, but he’s been running anyone he thinks he can trust through the Impregnator — including kids like Sean’s little sister. She’s what, fourteen? She’s not even done growing.”
Haley took a step closer to Lucas and me, and said, “Sydney?” The claws on her feet dug a little deeper into the roof. “What gives him the right to do that?”
Lucas threw up his hands. “You don’t understand this. I don’t know how things were for you, but for Red Lightning’s descendants and that the people that worked for him, it’s been pretty bad. We’ve been living in fear for forty years, worrying that the Cabal will move on us. So now they’re almost gone, and my dad wants to end them. Trouble is, even in our families, there aren’t that many people with the potential for powers. That’s why he’s pulling in Sydney, and anyone else that tests positive.”
Haley didn’t look sympathetic. “It’s still wrong.”
“Look, I know, but the way he sees it, Prime’s coming here with what he’s got left, and Dad needs to use every advantage he can find. If they’ve got the improved version of power juice, we’ve got our full, permanent powers.”
I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but I asked the obvious question. “Did your dad take juice before getting into the machine?”
“No one did. I told everybody, and Sean must have said something because some people already knew. The problem is that it may not matter. The original Rocket might have been right about it being the mixture of power juice and the impregnator, but not for the right reason. You know that I’m a doctor, right? I’ve been using my dad’s connections to keep tabs on those Cabal supers we captured a few weeks ago. I even got some tissue and blood samples, and I don’t like what I’m seeing.”
“The stuff stays in the system much longer than a week. You know the guy who lost a leg? They haven’t given him any more juice, and the leg’s almost grown back. Now, the guy who generates heat, he hasn’t been able to do anything without juice, but all the people with physical abilities? They’re fading slowly, but they’re still there. My theory is that if you take juice for a long time, like they have, the effects will linger. The question is, how long do you have to have been taking it for that to work? I took it for a few weeks, Sean for a little longer, but our parents have been using it for years.”
He stopped, took a breath, and continued. “I don’t feel any different mentally, but would I notice? And Dad’s been acting aggressive lately, but he’s always been aggressive. He’s been the driving force behind our family businesses for years. If whatever went wrong with my grandfather takes time to develop, it might hit all of us slowly, before we even notice. If it requires years of using power juice, half of our parents are on the way to madness and they don’t even know it yet.”
“A dozen Red Lightnings?” Cassie shook her head. “This sounds worse all the time.”
“More like twenty,” Lucas said. “and I might be one of them.”
“You still seem sane,” I said.
Lucas smiled a little. “So anyway, about coordinating… I wouldn’t go through Sean, but if you call me, or just about anyone but Jody, it could work out. Don’t be surprised if we’re busy though. It sounds like we’ll be doing a lot of training.”
We worked through some details, and Lucas left, flying into the night sky.
After we got back to HQ, Cassie left Haley and I alone, and we did what we’d been planning to do. Lee’s band was playing at one of Haley’s family’s restaurants, and we went to hear him.
Like most of their restaurants, it had been named “D’Onofrio’s,” served Italian, and split the building between fine dining and a bar. Lee’s band was playing in the bar.
Even without a Jazz band, the room would have been filled with noise and light. TV’s hung in the corners and over the bar along the side of the room. People stood and talked around the tables. The booths on the wall opposite the bar had TV’s hanging above each table.
We got a booth close to the front, but no alcohol. Even if we’d had fake ID’s proving that we were both 21, too many people recognized Haley for it to work. For example, one of Haley’s cousins was managing the bar.
We ordered pop to drink, and split an order of nachos.
I turned off the sound on the TV (there didn’t seem to be any way to turn the TV off), and changed the channel to CNN.
Haley and I talked, and watched Lee’s band.
Of course, technically no one named Lee played in the band. A tall, black man named Ben Montgomery played piano for the group except I knew he was Lee — to a degree. It felt easier to think of him as Ben.
Ben was a phenomenal pianist. His fingers blurred as he played his solo, and everyone watched.
Though fun, that alone wouldn’t have made the evening worth mentioning. Two events made the evening memorable.
The first was when Haley took a break from talking about normal life to whisper, “Remember when Red Lightning’s journal with the Impregnator plans disappeared from the cave? Lucas was the one who took them. I recognized his smell.”
I didn’t have anything more to say but, “Wow.”
The other event didn’t even happen in the bar. It happened on CNN. They showed footage of how Ray Malone’s trial had been interrupted by people in powered armor. They blasted a wall out of the courthouse, grabbing Ray and the other two members of the team.
The powered armor looked exactly like the armor worn by Syndicate L’s people when I’d visited Los Angeles. Worse, they were supported by two mechs like the one I’d seen in California.