“By the way,” Ray asked, “what did happen to Shirley?”
“Prime’s people got her. We’d been using her to redirect them away from us, and they must have sent over someone who wasn’t vulnerable to vocal suggestion. He slit her throat.”
“Huh. Was he deaf?”
“We never found out. It happened ten years ago when Julie couldn’t have been more than eight. I’ve done what I could to make her life better of course. Her mother died for our cause. I take care of my people.”
Ray nodded slowly. “Glad you care about them. I think we’ll get along. Mind if we talk about my people now? I know that we’re hidden, but I can’t say I like our sleeping arrangements. We want to be able to go where we want to, when we want to.”
Hardwick said, “You’re escaped convicts. If people see you, you’ll be caught again, and I’ll go to jail with you.”
Ray flicked his hand as if waving the discussion away. “We’ve always been on the run. Let’s assume that we can handle it. Yeah, we did get caught here, but it’s not a mistake we’ll make twice. In fact, I’ve got a list of materials that we’ll need. You help get us those, and it’ll make it a lot easier for us to train your kids, avoid capture, everything…”
He handed Hardwick a piece of paper. “I don’t suppose I need to tell you to burn this when you’re done with it, and I’d advise you not to buy through easily traceable channels.”
Hardwick’s face went expressionless as he read the list.
“We’ll get it to you.”
“Good. Then, assuming we get to move someplace nicer as soon as you get the gear, I consider the meeting over. Unless you’ve got something for me?”
At that, Hardwick grinned. I don’t know what Ray thought, but if Hardwick had grinned that way at me, I’d have been worried.
He pulled out three small bottles with eyedropper caps. “I’d like you to try something. Your father worked for Red Lightning, and I’d like to see what, if anything, you inherited from him.”
Ray squinted at the bottles as Hardwick shook them up.
Then he unscrewed a cap, and said, “Hold out your arm.”
“I’ve always thought powers were overrated,” Ray said, “but I’ve got to admit I’m curious.”
“The first one I’ll put on you represents your potential for physical powers, the second mental, and the third energy manipulation. If the dot turns red, the powers manifest externally. If blue, internally. If purple, both.”
Ray placed his arm on the desk next to Hardwick’s laptop, and Hardwick put a drop from each jar on Ray’s arm.
All three turned dark purple.
Hardwick didn’t say anything for a few seconds.
“Now that opens up some possibilities,” Hardwick said. “I have access to the government’s version of the Power Elixir — they’re calling it Power Juice these days. I’ve also got something the government doesn’t — the ability to make the change permanent. You might consider making that part of your payment package.”
Ray stared at his arm. “God damn. I’ve got something to think about, don’t I?”
“I’d say so. We’ll want to check the rest of your team as well, I think.”
“Yeah, worth a shot. Don’t think any of the rest have parents who worked with Red Lightning though.”
Hardwick said, “We’ll see. Here in Grand Lake, it seems like half the city is hiding powers. Now, let’s talk about how this fits in with your fee.”
Marcus and I kept on watching for little while longer, but after checking the transcript, I realized that it was going to be all haggling for rest of the conversation.
I searched on a few more keywords, and didn’t get anything especially interesting, but the computer wasn’t done transcribing them anyway. I decided to try again later, and browsed the internet for a little while, checking out the Double V online forums.
Their Grand Lake Heroes League forum didn’t have anything we didn’t.
Thirty minutes later, everyone showed up for what felt like the hundredth team meeting of the week. Travis started it off with, “I’ve got a lead, people. I tracked down that kid from Haley’s school who’s working with Prime. If we keep watching him, I think we’ve got a good chance of finding the local leadership and going straight to the top from there.”