So you’d think that after having all Friday to work on it, I would have had the arm completely ready to go. Unfortunately projects that are even marginally complicated don’t go like that. What happens is that you put things together, discover a problem, take them apart and put them together again. After that, you attach them to the suit for the first time, discover another thing you’ve done wrong, take it apart, and put it together again.
It was maddening, but I found it fun at the same time.
On a practical level, what it meant was that I left the arm in pieces when I went home for supper, and I didn’t want to work on it that night. On Saturday, I worked on it for a few more hours, but then I went to Cassie’s graduation open house and when I came home, I found that Grandpa and Grandma Klein had arrived from Minnesota so I couldn’t leave the house on Saturday night. Sunday morning I went to church with everyone else. Sunday afternoon I managed to get to Jaclyn and Daniel’s open houses as well as having my own.
All of which meant I got a lot of time with relatives, friends, and people who knew me from school, but not a lot of time to work. I’d planned on working on things on Sunday night, but I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted then either.
The reason why went like this:
Late during my own open house, I went inside to grab more food from the kitchen table (the party was in the back yard). I was putting some kind of wrap on my plate when Chris Cannon came up to me. He looked around, probably making sure that we were the only people in the room, and said, “I’ve got something to show you. We probably ought to do it tonight. When’s the earliest time you can get away?”
“I don’t know. Nine maybe? Ten? My grandparents are here from Minnesota for the open house and graduation.”
“I’ll send you an address via email. Go there tonight, and I’ll let you in. It’s related to… everything going on, you know.”
I wanted to ask for more details, but I didn’t get the chance. One of my uncles stepped in through the screen door, and started asking me what I planned to do next year.
I couldn’t leave when the open house ended either. Relatives from both sides of my family stuck around. Even though my parents had been blocked, I couldn’t assume anyone else had, so I ended up staying until 9:30 pm.
That’s when most people left, allowing me to sneak out.
I grabbed the stealth suit on the way out, putting the helmet, pants and a backup jacket (one of many) in the backpack that hid the rocketpack. Then I strapped the guitar to the side of the backpack. I walked out to Veterans Memorial park, changed in the forest and flew to the address Chris provided me.
It felt good to be in the air again. It felt like it had been a while, and it probably had. We’d stopped patrols after that guy had shot at Haley and I.
On the bright side, the stealth suit was all black, so I wasn’t very visible at night.
The GPS led me to a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. All corrugated metal, it stood next to farmers’ fields, and a two other buildings that looked just like it. The sign next to it said “G’s Auto Parts.”
Chris’ email told me to land at the back door, and I did.
Moments later, he opened it.
“Full uniform? Were you expecting an ambush?”
“Not from you, and honestly, I wish I were in full uniform. That would solve a lot of problems.”
“Yeah, right.” He stepped back, and I walked into the warehouse, shutting the door behind me.
Dim light showed rows of auto parts on wooden pallets, and parked forklifts.
Chris pointed at the freight elevator in the corner. Once we were inside, he tapped out a series of numbers into a keypad and the elevator descended.
“We’re heading to the subbasement,” he said.
“So, what’s there?”
The elevator stopped, and the doors opened.
In a space almost as large as the warehouse above, I saw a place a lot like Man-machine’s lab under his house only bigger. Different types of half-finished powered armor stood next to sheets of metal, coiled cables in different colors, tools, computers, circuit boards, and a variety of machines.
“Wow. What is this?”
Chris looked around the room. “You know how your grandfather was famous for designing gadgets for half the heroes out there? I think my grandfather did something similar only in reverse.”
I remembered that Cannon’s former student had provided powered armor to the Maniacs, and if the paralysis gun in the Ball was any indicator, devices for Ray’s team, and Syndicate L as well.
The guy hadn’t just been learning how to construct devices. He’d been learning how to run an underground manufacturing business.
“How’d you find out about this?”
“I went up for visiting day at Grandpa’s prison, and he asked about you. I mentioned that we were working on a project together, and he said I might want to check out the basement of his warehouse if I needed materials. When I used his passcode for the home lab, I got down here.”
“So he just wants us to use his stuff.”
“I guess. That’s what I’ve been doing. You know how he did things in a standardized way so that parts from one of his suits could be swapped in for another of a similar size? Well, I finished his final design for the Man-machine armor just by swapping in parts he’d put together himself. It was a lot easier than what we did when we put together my armor.”
I looked around, thinking about what I could do with the materials.
We spent the next two hours exploring.
I got back into the air around 11:30 pm. Even though I didn’t plan to do anything about it, I listened to police band radio. Lee and Isaac Lim had both told me not to appear in costume.
Police band turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. I turned it on to hear Lt. Van Kley say, “– yes, they’re gone, but the Baymont’s still burning. Get the fire trucks in, and if the National Guard won’t let them past the perimeter, have them call me. I’ll do it myself if I have to.”