Chris came over fifteen minutes later, and parked in Grandpa’s driveway. I still had about an hour before I had to really worry about people showing up, and unintentionally revealing the person behind the mask. I thought Chris could be trusted, but I wasn’t about to out people without permission.
We ended up talking in the living room. It didn’t have much more than a thirty year old brown couch, and an old TV set. The family had taken all the furniture and decorations that anyone liked after Grandpa died.
Standing while Chris sat on the couch, I explained that people in armored suits and mechs had broken Ray and his team out. “Which means they’re either with Syndicate L somehow, or they’re connected with someone who buys mechs from the same people.”
Like the guy Man-machine had taught — the guy who’d made the Ball, the Maniacs’ powered armor, and probably the paralysis guns Ray and Syndicate L used.
“That’s my theory anyway,” I told Chris. “I’m thinking we should finish the last Man-machine suit. The big one. Speed, and a laser will only last so long against those guys.”
Chris sat on the couch. “That’ll be good if I get a chance to get into armor, but what if they get me at school? I’m not going to have it with me in study hall.”
“Yeah. Uh… Well, we’ve got Heroes League suit technology that you could wear under your clothes. That’d stop bullets at least. I wear it all the time myself. Not much head protection, but you can carry a mask of the same material for emergencies.”
“That would help. Do you really think I’ll need heavy armor?”
“I don’t know. I’ve kind of got an ulterior motive here. I’m thinking I might need the backup.”
Chris took a breath and thought for a second. “Yeah. I read about Ray and those Executioner guys when you captured them. The paper said they’re responsible for hundreds of deaths. And Syndicate L’s with them too?”
“That and the remains of the Cabal’s enforcers, plus the descendants of people who worked for Red Lightning, and about half of Justice Fist.”
“Geez. Do you go around looking for psychos to piss off?”
“I don’t try to piss anyone off.”
A car rolled into the driveway. I didn’t see it because it went up the driveway before I could turn toward the window, but it sounded like Daniel’s.
A voice in my head said, “Good guess.”
Daniel stepped through the door a moment later. “Hey, Nick.”
“I didn’t expect to see you.”
“Because it’s Shabbat? We’re observant, but not crazy. If lives are in danger, you do what you have to.”
He turned to Chris, “You must be Chris Cannon. I’m Daniel Cohen, also known as the Mystic.”
So, whatever standards Daniel had, Chris passed them.
Chris said. “You know who my grandfather is.”
“Sure. So, are you and Nick going to work together?”
Chris didn’t say anything at first, but then said, “I think so. I’m not planning to turn cape, but I’ll help.”
Daniel smiled and said to Chris, “The two of you could do a powered armor barn raising. Nick’s two suits down.”
Chris looked over at me. “What are you using now?”
“The stealth suit. It’ll be okay. I’ve got a guitar that shoots lasers –”
Chris raised an eyebrow.
“– and I’ve got some backup plans I’m working on. I’m not going to get either version of the Rocket suit fixed any time soon, but I can mass produce the roachbots.”
Chris looked over at Daniel, and then back to me. “What’s a roachbot?”
“Think predator drone, but teeny,” I said. “I mostly use them for bugging houses.”
“With teeny, tiny bullets?” Chris asked.
“Not for bugging houses, but they do have shaped charges. I realized if I had enough, I could send them into crevices, and do targeted demolitions.”
“That could be pretty cool.”
“I hope so, because I don’t have time for much else.” I stopped for a second, a thought nagging at me. “How far do you think your Grandfather’s heavy suit is from being done? I remember it as being half finished, but then we removed the boots.”
“Closer than that. You remember how I said I liked messing with Grandpa’s stuff? I’ve been working on it.”
“What were you planning on using it for?”
“Nothing. I got curious if I could make it work.”
I thought about that for a second. Then… “What’s it got on it?”
We talked about that for a while, but Daniel said, “Unless Chris is planning to stay for the team meeting, he probably ought to leave soon.”
Chris got up. “Right, I’ll go.”
Lee arrived exactly at 1 pm. We were all there. Normally, Marcus or Vaughn might have been late, but they weren’t.
Today Lee appeared as we saw him at the studio — a twenty or thirty year old Asian man with shoulder length hair. He wore jeans and a leather jacket instead of a martial arts uniform though.
It felt a little weird. Normally when we got together with him, he called us to attention, and we started class. I wasn’t sure how the rules went here. Everyone stood or sat next to the table eating hamburgers, and drinking pop. Cassie had put an order on the League credit card along the way.
Daniel’s dad had provided us with cards with $200 limits for day-to-day operations.
Lee may have have caught my hesitancy about how to start the meeting. He grabbed a cheeseburger out of one of the bags.
He unwrapped it, took a bite, and started waving everybody to sit down.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been down here with this many people. I think the last time might have been when Cassie was one — the League’s last, unofficial mission. Did they ever tell you about Dr. Mind? One of Captain Commando’s enemies. I think the guy wanted to make some kind of clone army, but in the end, we handed him his ass. Good times.”
Lee finished the burger, and walked a few steps away from the table, standing between it and the wall screen.
He crumpled up the wrapper, and threw it in the trash. “So, you’ve got four different forces that might go after you,” he said. “I dealt with a similar situation back a few years when I was living in Constantinople. We can’t really use the same tactics, but I had a good time. I infiltrated each group and gave them secret information about each other. In the end, they all somehow became convinced that they were full of traitors, and decimated themselves from within.”