Chris glanced over at me. “I thought everybody knew.”
“I told Lee. When everybody went over the plan, I thought that I’d either have to do remotely guided missiles, or ask you. After you said yes, I told Lee, and I must have forgotten to tell everyone else. Sorry.”
With everything else going on, the important thing was that our escape had been taken care of, right? And anyway, back when we’d been dealing with Justice Fiend, the Maniacs, and the Ball, Cassie had been more than a little suspicious of Chris.
She wouldn’t have been the only one, and I didn’t want to deal with it.
Cassie picked a piece of pizza off her plate and said, “So what did Nick have you do?”
“Blow people up. Only not really. Did you see those guys? The ones that jumped in?”
“I was busy retreating, but I saw them.”
“Nick and Larry and I put together this huge mech and it’s covered with missile launchers. As soon as they all landed, I hit them. I could barely see anything, but they all walked away from it. It knocked them over, stunned a bunch of them, but didn’t hurt them.”
“Disappointed?” Cassie asked.
“No, but I could have done with more of them being stunned, you know? A couple of them jumped in my direction, but I got lucky. Larry got them.”
Larry turned away from talking to Lee to say, “My spud gun.”
Cassie raised an eyebrow. “You did not hit them with potatoes.”
Larry shook his head. “No, it was a shell. I don’t know if this happens with you guys, but every so often I find I’ve got to knock a building down from a distance, except I don’t want an explosion. I just want to knock it over, you know? For that kind of thing you want a spud gun, just bigger and semi-automatic. Works for these guys too.”
Chris said, “Yeah, they got knocked in a completely new direction after they got hit. Never got near me. We did move a couple times though. Larry shot at them while I moved, and I hammered them while he moved. Then we left.”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “They’d have ripped our armor off, and might have killed us otherwise. Didn’t want to stick around for that.”
Cassie nodded. “I wouldn’t have.”
The doorbell rang up at Grandpa’s house, carried down to HQ over the speakers.
I checked the monitor next to the one Marcus had been watching Hurra Torpedo on, and clicked the mouse.
The camera showed a guy standing on the porch, carrying two grocery bags and wearing a shirt that said “Szechuan Garden Take Out and Delivery.”
“The food’s here.”
Turning away from the screen, I said, “Who’s going to get it?”
It was good question. I still wore the stealth suit (which doubled as my flight suit when I was in the Rocket suit), and Larry wore a grey jumpsuit that couldn’t be confused with normal clothes.
Travis, Marcus, Vaughn, and Daniel were still in full costume except for masks. Jaclyn, Haley, and Rachel were still in the showers.
That left Cassie (who’d showered first), Lee and Chris as being the only people in street clothes.
Taking it in, Cassie turned to Travis, “I guess I’m paying. Do you have the money?”
He gave her the bills.
“Come on,” she said to Chris. “With this much food, there ought to be at least two of us.”
She pointed past the trophy cases toward the back. “Elevator’s over there.”
* * *
We spent the next couple hours rehashing what had happened.
We got to hear Lee’s blow by blow account of the fight with Prime, Travis’ and Haley’s stories about being in the field, quietly taking out anyone who tried to sneak through the grass.
“I ran out of poison in my claws,” Haley said, “and I didn’t want to bite.”
Sitting next to her on the floor, I said, “What did you do?”
“I hit them as quietly as I could. After a little while it got easier. They weren’t paying attention to the field any more.”
Vaughn looked up from his plate. “I thought I saw you or Travis a couple times after I blasted everybody. You know, when a bunch of the gang members tried to escape into the field?”
“There were so many of them,” she said. “You might have seen me. I jumped a couple times.”
“Me too,” Travis said.
Jaclyn, her empty plate already in the trash, said, “Lee, what’s next?”
Lee shrugged. “It depends. We took out Prime, and broke a lot of bones. They’ve got to decide who’s in charge now, and I don’t see the gangs running out to support them. All their powered people just got taken out. If they go after us, the regulars will be going in by themselves, and that’s still bad, but we can figure out a way to deal with them even if it means arming you with Cassie’s sword, and changing your codename to Blender.”
Jaclyn shook her head. “God, I hope not.”
Sitting just behind us in a chair, Larry said, “Lee, no bloodbaths.”
Lee ate a piece of shrimp and noodles before replying, “Don’t worry about it. That’s not in the plan. Right now, the plan is watch quietly. The Executioner’s going to be moving soon, and that’s the enemy I’m worried about.”
“Lee,” I said, “it’s a little off topic, but why did you want me to take Prime’s head? Was it the regeneration thing?”
Lee laughed. “Yeah. I’ve had bad experiences, mostly with magical regeneration or aliens. With those guys, the severed parts have been known to crawl back and attach themselves. With ordinary regeneration, it’s sometimes good enough that they can put the head back on the body if they do it quickly. Hell, I chopped a guy’s head off once only to fight him again after his body regrew. Someone got him to a doctor or something. That’s why you’ve got to separate the pieces long enough that they get cold. Then they usually stay dead.”
I nodded, and said, “Ok.”
I’d seen Lee kill Prime, and I’d personally played a role in making sure he’d stay dead. I didn’t feel good about it, but I didn’t quite feel bad.
On the other side of the circle, Cassie stopped eating, and said, “When my dad’s head got blown apart, my mom had his body cremated. She didn’t want the body to grow a head back that wasn’t him.”
No one said anything.
I wondered if I should go back to eating or try to say something comforting, but if I did, what?
The computer beeped.
I got up and checked the screen. The program transcribing the roachbot’s feed from Russell Hardwick’s house had found a keyword.
I opened the document and read the transcription. The word “Impregnator” had been highlighted several times in the text.
“Everybody,” I said, “this is bad. Sometime in the past two days, Hardwick’s Power Impregnator disappeared.”