The days between Prime getting back to us, and actually meeting him were a blur. A weird blur. Those of us who didn’t have exams, planned and drilled with Lee. I worked on the suit, the roachbots, and talked through some ideas with Chris, and Larry.
I’d called Larry when Lee told us to think about people who might help, and it was lucky I had.
When I told him the time to meet at Man-Machine’s underground factory, he told me, “You saved me from working for the Feds this weeked. Just told them I was busy.”
We were going to do more than talk through ideas.
Hours later, Larry, a big guy even without the Rhino armor, walked down the rows of frames, engines and powered armor parts, staring. Almost every row had three levels. We could outfit a small army.
“Your grandpa and I always suspected Man-machine had to have some place like this. He just had too much stuff, never seemed to run out. Trash his new suit and he’d come back with an improved version the next day.”
Chris smiled nervously at him. “What would you have done if you had known?”
“Blown it to hell probably, but those are the breaks if you choose this lifestyle. I guess it’s good we didn’t.”
“Lifestyle?” Chris stopped smiling. “I haven’t chosen it. It feels like it fell on me.”
Larry shook his head. “You had choices. You didn’t ever have to put on that armor the two of you worked on. Could have stayed home instead of trying to take down the Maniacs. Whatever reasons you had to stay away, you didn’t. You put the armor on, and you’re here now.
“Look at me,” Larry stopped walking. “You know how I got started in this? I found some of your,” he pointed at Chris, “grandfather’s armor after one of his quick getaways, and I fixed it up. I met the Rocket after that. Been at it ever since, one way or another.”
He checked his watch, and looked at the two of us. “Well, if we’re going to get done what we need to, we’d better start welding.”
* * *
In the versions of the old west that I’d seen on television, people handled duels by walking down some dusty Main Street, and pulling out their guns.
If you cared about whether innocent bystanders got hurt, or didn’t want to be interrupted by SWAT teams, you needed to find someplace more private.
Lee and Prime had arranged the time and location between themselves over the week.
That’s how we ended up meeting Prime and his people in the middle of a grassy field twenty miles outside Grand Lake. We stood behind an old barn next to a dirt road that people probably went down sometimes, but I hadn’t seen any cars yet.
Well, other than ours and Prime’s people’s.
If there had ever been a farmhouse to go along with the barn, it had long ago disappeared. All grayish wood with flecks of red, the barn looked like it might fall in soon itself.
It had a working light behind the barn, the sole light I could see besides the stars and moon.
Aside from one cloud, the sky was clear.
Not everyone came with us. On the League’s side, we had Lee, Jaclyn, Cassie, Rachel, Marcus and I.
On Prime’s side stood all the people I remembered from our fight with the Cabal — the big guy, the weirdly thin, long-legged woman, the man with burning hands, and the guy who absorbed energy — plus a whole lot more. Maybe one hundred more.
I lost count after the first fifty.