When we got back, we set the pizzas on the table, and people spread out around HQ’s main room, eating, and talking, sitting on the floor in little groups.
I sat with Haley, Sydney, and Camille which was weird for a whole lot of reasons. To start, Sydney was the sister of Haley’s ex-boyfriend Sean, who neither Haley nor I got along with. Camille was Sydney and Sean’s half-sister due to their late father having some kind of wandering penis problem.
Eating pizza with them, I found it funny that I hadn’t noticed till we bugged Sean’s house last year. Sydney and Camille looked like sisters—within limits, anyway. Like Sean, Sydney had blond hair, pale skin and blue eyes. Her face reminded me of Sean’s—as much as a girl’s could. As a freshman (freshperson?), she’d always looked a little young to me, but very “in-style.” If her personality were anything like Sean’s, I could imagine her growing into the sort of popular girl who regarded me as a lower form of life.
Camille’s face resembled Sydney’s, but with dark hair, and light brown skin. Her mom’s family had immigrated from the Philippines.
Whatever Sydney might be like in the future, she and Haley were laughing about something then—which was cool. Sydney’s dad had only died a couple months ago. She could probably use the distraction. At the same time, I’d begun to wonder if sitting with Haley’s friends had been a mistake. They were gossiping about people I didn’t even know.
And also, honestly, Camille, Sydney and Haley were all good looking in their own ways, and even if I’d long ago grown comfortable with Haley… Well… It felt weird.
Camille glanced from Sydney and Haley to me. Was I supposed to make small talk now? My stomach felt really empty. I picked up a piece of pizza from my plate.
“I never had a hint you were the Rocket.” Camille spoke calmly, her voice a little deeper than Haley or Sydney’s.
“That’s the idea,” I said.
“I wish it had been our idea. Sean decided that Mr. Beacham was the greatest teacher ever, so we didn’t hide our names.”
She put down her paper plate on what Daniel and I sometimes jokingly called “the Starplate,” a ten foot wide circle of greenish-grey metal that lay on top of the carpet. It rose a foot off the floor.
“I wouldn’t do that,” I said.
She’d begun to push herself off the floor, toward the metal. “Do what?”
“Try to sit on that. It moves things to alternate universes, but only what’s on the metal.If you’re half on, half off, not all of you will go.”
She sat down, and hesitated before picking her plate up. “It’s not on, is it?”
“Kind of. It’s plugged into our systems. If someone appears on it, it’ll notify us. I’ve been messing around with it lately, but I don’t totally understand it…”
She looked over it. “Where did you get it?”
“I don’t know. The original League found it in Dr. Madness’ lair back in the late 50’s, but Grandpa didn’t think he’d made it, and he’d seen a lot of Dr. Madness’ designs. We’ve got one of the chairs from his War Machine, and some of his gear–the stuff he actually used to drive people crazy. Really, the original League kept anything they didn’t feel comfortable turning over to the police.”
Gesturing to the pile of boxes, the captured weapons in trophy cases that were scattered around the room and hanging on the walls, she smiled and said, “They didn’t have much confidence in the police at all.”
“I guess not.”
“Does all of it work?”
“No, but you never know what you might need, so a lot of them can be made useful.”
“Really?” She pointed at a gun hanging on the wall, wide barreled and decorated with surreal, almost obscene combinations of the Roman symbols for Mars and Venus. “How about that one?”
“Oh, that works. It’s a little embarrassing really.” As I said that, I realised that Haley and Sydney had stopped talking and started listening themselves.
“And…” Haley said, drawing the word out into two syllables.
“OK. Do you remember Ice Queen? She was a mad scientist with some kind of coldness theme? Active in the 60’s and 70’s? Anyway, she went to feminist consciousness raising meetings, and I guess she got really excited about them. Normal women who got excited about women’s rights went off and demonstrated, and tried to change the world, or something. She somehow got it in her head that the only way to make the government see the female perspective was to transform all the men into women. That’s what it does. I don’t know what its real name is, but I call it the Boy/Girl Gun.”
Haley stared at the gun for a little while, and then looked back at me. “I am so glad the people who made that movie have no idea what’s really down here.”