After Vaughn and Jaclyn sat down, we started to make a plan.
“At least we know how it’s been done before,” Jaclyn said. “Once we stop his followers and reveal who he’s possessing, he disappears. Hey, do you think we might be able to take the ring if we’re wearing gloves?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “it’s magic. Who knows what the rules are? When one of the Hangmen lassoed me with his noose, it didn’t paralyze me like it was supposed to, but with Evil Beatnik, it might go the other way. The original League surrounded the ring with concrete and bulletproof glass for a reason.”
Marcus nodded, “You know what Evil Beatnik reminds me of? Mr. Mxyzptlk in DC comics. The guy’s kind of like a genie? Superman had to get him to say his name backward to get him to go away. Too bad we can’t do the same thing with Evil Beatnik because he’s got an easier name. It’d be Kintaeb Live. That could almost be an album, you know? Or a band playing live? That’d work.”
Jaclyn gave him a look. “You are such a geek. I’ve never heard of him.”
“I thought everyone knew about Mr. Mxyzptlk,” I said.
“I think I’ve heard of him,” Vaughn said. He didn’t seem sure of it.
Marcus looked around the troup. “Wow. I always thought he was one of Superman’s better known villains.”
“Let’s talk about Evil Beatnik,” Rachel said. “So what does everyone think? Should we make finding Evil Beatnik our first priority, or taking out his followers?”
“I’d say both,” Jaclyn said. “He’s going to use all those other people to distract us. One or two of us ought to keep on searching for him no matter what. The rest of us should try to stop his people.”
“Not that there’s many people,” Vaughn said. “Nobody protests anything here anymore. All he’s got is those supers. He used to have armies of hippies. Heck, didn’t he used to have motorcyle gangs? Can’t do that now. Imagine what he’d get—I’m seeing a bunch of motorcycling emos wearing jackets saying, ‘Born to Mope’.”
“I’m sure there are still real motorcyle gangs,” I said.
“Not like there were,” Vaughn said.
I thought about asking him how he’d know, but didn’t.
Rachel sighed. “We’re getting off track again. Does everybody like Jaclyn’s suggestion?”
“Sure,” I said. “It makes sense.”
“As long as I’m not one of people looking for Evil Beatnik,” Vaughn said. “That’s gonna be boring.”
“It sounds fun to me,” Marcus said.
“We need to decide who then,” Jaclyn said. “Rachel? I think you’d be better than any of us.”
“I thought about it, but what if I am extra vulnerable and I find him first?”
“It ought to be me and Nick,” Marcus said. “Nick’s got the roachbots, and I can sneak into someplace more easily than you’d think.”
“That’s an idea,” I said. “But if you find the Ice Twins’ crew, we go with you, right? Otherwise it’ll be five on three.”
“We’re not going to be stupid about this, Nick,” Rachel said. “We’re only dividing up into groups while we look for people.”
She frowned. “You know, we should have invited Kayla. I keep forgetting she’s part of the team now.”
“Me too,” Jaclyn said.
* * *
Marcus and I got together the next day—Sunday afternoon. We hung out in my room. I pulled out a legal pad and a pen, and sat at my desk. He sat on the bed.
We were listing the places I ought to put roachbots, putting the emphasis on places where teens might be, and where we might see a protest. I’d already written down “government buildings,” and “the park downtown.”
“Schools,” Marcus said.
“It’s summer. No one’s in school.”
I thought a little, and wrote it down. “City pools?”
“That’s a good one. Have you put down the beach? You know how guys drive through the parking lot looking for women?”
“Plus,” Marcus said, “I’ve heard people sneak onto the beach and have parties at night.”
“I’ve heard that too.”
Both of our League phones rang. I pulled mine out of my pocket, and found that the screen showed a circle of yellow. The accompanying text message said. “Dixie Supergirl sighted at Grand Lake State Park. She’s giving away money.”
I clicked the spot on the screen where it said “Call HQ.” Kayla answered.
She didn’t sound happy to hear from me.
“I just read the text. Dixie Supergirl’s giving away money?”
“That’s what it says. She’s throwing money to the crowd. If you want to catch her, you’d better go.”
The phone clicked, and the words, “Call ended” appeared.
I stared at it, and thought about calling her back. She hadn’t been rude exactly, but something was eating her. Even as I thought that, I remembered that we hadn’t invited her to the meeting.
Did she really need to be that short about it? I considered whether it might be Evil Beatnik’s influence. As one of the best female athletes in the school, Kayla was pretty well known, but it never translated into any special popularity. Plus, she tended to be, if anything, a hard worker who did whatever the teacher said—pretty much the exact opposite of what Evil Beatnik wanted.
So maybe she was just annoyed.