“Yeah?” He pulled the tab, and opened the can, barely seeming to care.
That annoyed me, because it wasn’t as if I’d volunteered the information. He’d asked. I didn’t see any reason to start a conversation with him. If anything, I’d be willing to go out of my way to avoid it.
I pressed the down button on the elevator. If nothing else, I could leave.
“Have you been telling stories about me?”
“Telling stories about me. Making me look bad.”
“I’ve barely seen you, much less talked to anybody about you. Anyway, if I wanted to make you look bad, I wouldn’t need to lie. You’ve actually treated people I know badly. That’s your fault.”
As I said that, a part of me knew that this was not one of those occasions where honesty would help. In fact, it was probably a really bad idea.
“Yeah, like what?”
“That time you tried to beat me up with Jody and Dayton.”
“You threw a snowball into Dayton’s car.”
“Which does not justify beating up anybody, and three on one is kind of cowardly.”
“You fucked up my leg. I’ve still got a limp!”
He did. Not normally, but after today’s exercise, it was obvious. I had mixed feelings about that most of the time. I mean, I’d done permanent damage to his knee. In the moment though, I said, “Which I’d never have done if your friends weren’t holding me down so you could kick me.”
We stared at each other.
The elevator door opened. I stepped forward. He could argue with himself if he wanted to.
The doors shut before I reached them.
“What are you going to do about that?”
Sean smiled at me, more pleased with himself than he deserved to be.
That brought the situation home. I stood facing Sean without any armor, not even the stealth suit, armed only with a book, and not one of Banks’ larger books either.
The question was, did Sean intend to hurt me, or had he given any thought to what he’d do next at all?
Near him, the vending machine shook. I doubted that he even realized he was doing it.
Through my growing fear, I found myself analyzing what I could do. The vending machine sat in an alcove built into the wall at my left, Sean’s right. If I punched him, I could probably take him down before he backed up enough to put the vending machine into play.
This was so much like chess only he was thinking zero moves ahead—unless he knew something I didn’t.
Also, was I really going to attack? He hadn’t attacked me, and shutting the doors was more of an implied threat than a direct threat.
“See? Without the armor, you’re not much.”
As I tried to come up with a reply, I felt (and heard) a gust of wind. For a second, I thought Vaughn might have heard us. Then I realized Izzy stood with us in the hall.
She reminded me somehow of the Dixie Supergirl identity she’d used when she’d been under Evil Beatnik’s control. It might have been her ponytail and her pajamas even though the pajamas didn’t look much like the Dixie Supergirl costume. The costume had been covered with the Confederate flag. Her pajamas were a t-shirt with the words (and pictures of) “Peace, Love, Giraffes” and blue, plaid pants.
Both the costume and t-shirt left her arms bare. Even though they weren’t weirdly sinewy like some bodybuilders’ muscles, they were solid.
She’d also drawn herself up to her full height. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Sean stepped back. I didn’t blame him.
Even though her voice wasn’t loud, it didn’t quite sound human. The tones were richer, and stranger.
Remembering how she’d taken him out this summer, I wondered if he’d recognized her yet. There couldn’t be a lot of women taller than he was. Plus, she’d taken him out with her voice.
“I—” He said.
She talked over him. “I could hear you. What was the point of that? Do you think that just because you have powers and he doesn’t, you can do anything you want?”
It didn’t end there. Travis appeared. I had no idea where he’d come from, but he stood there in jeans and no shirt, giving a very good view of his muscles.
Other doors in the hall opened, and a few kids stepped out. I didn’t recognize all of them, but enough.
“What’s going on?” Travis asked.
If that wasn’t enough, Isaac Lim stepped out from the stairway along with Flick, a woman on the Midwest Defenders’ team.
She wore her costume, a yellow bodysuit with massive gauntlets around her hands.
“Sean,” Isaac said, “we have to talk.”