I read the transcript and then played back the entire recorded conversation for everybody. Russell Hardwick stood in his home office, pacing the hardwood floor, cursing, and talking on his cell phone.
“The Impregnator disappeared? How did that happen? And why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
From there it devolved into shouting at the person on the other end, and Hardwick never did say where he’d kept it, or anything useful.
I paused the recording when he hung up the phone, sat down behind his desk, and started working on the computer.
I wished that I’d placed the bot so that it could see the screen, but its video recording capabilities needed work before they’d get many details anyhow.
As I turned off the screen, Marcus said, “Who do you think has it?”
“Ray,” Jaclyn said. “It has to be Ray. You and Nick showed us the video where Hardwick proved Ray had potential. Nick, what were his father’s powers?”
“No idea,” I said. “I couldn’t find anything specific.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lee said. “If it’s Ray, he’s not just doing it for himself. He’s out to get every ounce of profit he can get out if it. He’s got ties to Syndicate L, right? They’d be interested. And then there’s what’s left of Prime’s people. It’d be a great bargaining chip if he wanted their cooperation, or maybe the city’s gangs. Yeah, I think he might want that. No matter how good he is, he’s not going to be wild about taking all of you on with four or five unpowered people. Especially after tonight.”
He glanced upward toward Russell Hardwick’s frozen image.
“No,” Lee continued. “He’s going to need help if he’s going to take you out. See, here’s what he does… He targets a hero, watches him till he finds out who his friends and relatives are, and targets them until he’s had enough, and decides to finish off the hero. That’s a lot harder with a team. Start killing one guy’s relatives, and suddenly the whole team is looking for you. Ray and his people have killed teams, but it’s harder. You need more help. I can’t say for sure he’ll be going after gangs or Prime’s people, but he’s got options.”
“But he doesn’t know who we are,” Travis said.
I didn’t know why, but his statement felt wrong.
“I think he does,” Rachel said. “Or he guesses.” She’d been talking with Jaclyn, and stood next to her, a little to the left of where Travis stood next to Lee.
“I’ve been thinking about it since Christmas. After he shot the FBI agents and left, we showed up immediately, just by coincidence. And hasn’t he been attending those Christmas parties for years?”
Travis said, “Not every year.”
“But someone did,” Haley said. “Ray or Gina or the other guy. I can’t remember his name.”
“Right,” Rachel said, “but think about it. He must have noticed that Travis is nearly seven feet tall and that you’re barely over five feet. If he’s seen any footage of us, he’s noticed that Night Wolf and Night Cat are just as different. And then there’s Jaclyn and Marcus. The D’Onofrio family’s many things, but it’s not exactly diverse. There were only three black people in the whole room — Jaclyn, Marcus, and Marcus’ mom. If he’s been thinking, he’s noticed that we’re mostly teenagers, and that Jaclyn and Marcus are teenagers and that Accelerando’s got the same powers as C… “
“You really think he noticed all that?” Vaughn asked. “I wasn’t there, but it sounds like a lot to take in.”
“He had months in prison to think about it.”
“Then we need to tell our parents,” Haley said.
“Except they’re blocked.” I said, but not very loudly.
“I know they’re blocked, but we can tell them something even if it’s not exactly right. Last time Isaac had agents watch over them. He can do that again.”
“Probably,” I said, but I didn’t point out that his best people wouldn’t be there. They’d be fighting aliens. It didn’t seem like the right moment. “We ought to call him though. Probably immediately.”
“Yeah,” Lee said. “That’s a good idea. And after that, we need to start looking for Ray.”